University of Central Arkansas coach Richard Martin and Conway High School coach Janet Taylor have been presented with the first Raymond Bright Awards for the 2016-17 school year.
The awards, sponsored by Centennial Bank, are to be presented annually to both a college coach and a high school coach in the City of Conway. The award is named in memory of Raymond Bright, who was one of the most successful and revered coaches in Conway’s history and impacted many lives through his dedication.
A native of Hope, Bright served in the Navy during World War II. He then graduated from Arkansas State Teachers College, now UCA. He began his coaching career at Conway Junior High School in 1949 then continued at Conway High coaching football and track from 1951 to 1958. His Wampus Cat teams won several state championships in track & field. Bright moved across town to UCA to coach track from 1959 to 1965 and then football from 1965 to 1971.
Bright died inn 2008 at age 85. He is a member of the UCA Sports Hall of Fame and the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame.
Martin came to UCA from Lufkin, Texas, in 1971 to play football and run track. Bright was the coach who recruited him. Martin remained in Conway as an assistant coach in football and track at his alma mater. He was named head track coach in 1982. His teams won five AIC titles and he was named AIC coach of the year five times. His women’s cross country team won the Gulf South Conference title in 1998.
He continues to coach the men’s and women’s cross country and track and field programs. Martin was inducted into the UCA Sports Hall of Fame in 2002 and the Arkansas Track & Field Hall of Fame in 2007.
Martin said , “I am proud to get this award. Coach Bright was not only my coach that got me to Conway, but he was also like a father figure to me.”
A Cabot native, Taylor has coached in the Conway School District since 1985 at various levels and in multiple sports. At the junior high level, her girls basketball teams won 140 consecutive games from 1990-1996. At the high school level, she has won eight state championships in four different sports – girls basketball, volleyball, girls golf and boys golf. She currently coaches golf and serves as assistant athletic director.
During her time at Conway High, Taylor coached three of Bright’s grandchildren.
Said Taylor, “I’m so humbled and honored to be the inaugural recipient of the Raymond Bright Award named after the legendary and beloved coach. I am so happy and thrilled for his family and Doretta [his widow] that his legacy can be remembered and honored by this award. It is such a privilege to accept this award on behalf of the Conway School District and the many talented athletes that I have been so blessed and fortunate to coach over the year. That is the reason for all the success we have had at Conway High School and for this award.”
Centennial’s Eric King said, “Coach Bright was a great man and loved Conway. Centennial Bank is honored to be the sponsor of this award, and would like to congratulate coach Martin and coach Taylor for their outstanding commitment to student athletes and our community.”