Though I never had the pleasure of working with William Daly Woodyard during his 24-year career with The Carroll News, “Lucky,” as he was better known, had a huge impact on me during the time I knew him.
From covering sports in Carroll County High School’s infancy when he first started at the paper, on up until his retirement years when he could be found at any of his grandchildren’s basketball, football or wrestling events, I never heard Lucky say a bad word about anybody. For most avid sports fans it usually only takes a few seconds before we start questioning a coach’s decision or a player’s ability. That’s just human nature for a sports fan. But except giving an occasional referee an earful, you would never hear Lucky talk bad about anybody.
“He never said one negative word to me,” said Carroll County girls’ basketball coach Marc Motley, who coached several of Woodyard’s granddaughters over the past few years. “He was always supportive, never had a negative thing to say. He just wanted to talk basketball.”
Even after he retired from The Carroll News in 1995 after nearly a quarter of a century of covering sports, news, selling ads and doing what else needed to be done, he still remained one of Carroll County High School’s biggest fans. If there was a football, basketball, volleyball or softball game being played involving the Cavaliers, you could just about always count on seeing Lucky in the stands.
“The normal fan saw him sitting directly across from the scorers’ table two or three rows up with Howard Sturgill,” Motley said. “But me, I saw him at our summer league games in Mount Airy. He would go to North Surry and watch us play in the summer. He would go wherever we were in the summertime. Even this summer when he was sick, he was at Mount Airy watching us in our summer camp. Before he got sick he would show up at open gym and watch us for two hours. We used to make the comment, ‘We can get started. Lucky is here.’”
A four-star athlete at the old Pearisburg High School, Woodyard excelled in football, basketball, baseball and track. And while his love of sports most assuredly began there in Giles County, he quickly fell in love with all things Cavalier. This past spring he was honored twice by the state champion Carroll County softball team, prior to the Regional opener against Chancellor for his unwavering commitment to attending home games in spite of health issues, and again at the team’s softball banquet, where he was recognized as Carroll’s 10th man.
“He really enjoyed watching the softball team and he always wanted to talk about that as well,” Motley said. “For a guy that grew up in Giles, he sure became a Cavalier.”
Howard Sturgill moved to Carroll from Ashe County, N.C. around the same time Woodyard made the move from Giles. The two played on the same H.K. Neff softball squad for years and Sturgill remembers how Woodyard began to develop a passion for golf. They also were side-by-side for many a Carroll County game over the years.
“We have watched many, many games and he was a big supporter of Carroll athletics. We enjoyed it and enjoyed the conversation that goes along with sitting together,” Sturgill said. “The girls’ softball team honored him a couple of times and he was very appreciative of that. Lucky was just pretty laid back and pretty easy going. Carroll County couldn’t have had a better supporter for their athletics. Lucky was a real good friend and very, very dedicated to Carroll County.”
Ina Horton served as publisher of The Carroll News for many years. She remembers Lucky injecting himself into the community from the get-go and as a person who always tried to make a positive impact.
“He was a big part of the community. He was a people person. He liked everybody and he just became their friend,” Horton said. “He was kind hearted. You can’t say that about everybody, but he was. He would do anything he could for somebody he thought was in need.”
CCHS Principal Chuck Thompson has known Lucky most of his life as his late father, Tommy Thompson, was also from Pearisburg. During the 45-50 years he was in Carroll County, Thompson remembers Woodyard as being a huge supporter of Hillsville High School and Carroll County athletics.
“You could count on him being up to date on the team, the kids, and his attendance at ballgames, and certainly his presence will be missed at the games. He had granddaughters that played, but he wasn’t there just for them,” Thompson said. “He was sort of like (the late) Danny Nester in a way that he was a staple there at the ballgames.”
Indeed. In fact, Lucky was a voting member of the Carroll County High School Sports Hall of Fame. I can tell you from personal experience as a voting member of the same committee that Woodyard remembered everybody nominated and had something positive to say about each and every one of them. It was a passion for CCHS sports that he carried with him even in death. At his funeral on Friday, his casket was silver and navy blue.
When I remember Lucky, I will always remember the love we both shared for Carroll County athletics. But that is not the trait I will think of first. I will always think of how he treated people and how he talked to people. We all could learn from Lucky Woodyard. We all could become better people by following his example.