William “Bud” Coley was recognized for being a 50-year member of the American Legion Post 17 during a presentation held on Wednesday, Aug. 25.
Coley’s dedication to the organization began while playing baseball for Post 17 as a student at Gallatin High School, according to his family.
After graduating in 1956, Coley decided to join the United States Navy with his friends Jackie and Billy Wright, Billy Wheeler, Charles McClanahan, Jim Hill, Bobby Womack and Bud Willmore.
The friends took tests at the Naval Recruiting Center in Nashville but were denied because the quota had been met. Not to be dejected, they met with a recruiter with the United States Marine Corps (USMC) instead.
The boys’ parents thought their sons were in Michigan training to be sailors. However, the group was actually at the USMC training camp in Parris Island, S.C. They would eventually go on to become a larger part of USMC brotherhood, Fourth Battalion, Platoon 154.
Coley was eventually sent to Camp Pendleton in California for weapons training before being stationed at the Kaneohe Bay Marine Corps Air Station in Hawaii. There he earned a private first-class rank working in machine duty and as a gym instructor in the Special Services Division.
He also played six-man football for the Marine Championships in 1956 and 1957 and considered re-enlisting but was homesick for Gallatin.
While playing USMC football, Coley earned several honors and was recruited to play football at the University of Hawaii. However, he wanted to get back to the states where Southern Mississippi had offered him a four-year football scholarship.
Coley eventually declined that offer as well after Austin Peay State College (APSC) coach George Fisher asked him to accept a full four-year football scholarship to the school. The move meant his games would be closer to home and allow his parents to be able to watch him play.
During his athletic career, Coley was recognized as the most outstanding lineman on the team in 1959 and 1961. He was also named the most valuable senior athlete in 1962 and honorable mention all-American.
Coley was recruited by Winnipeg, Canada and the Washington Redskins. However, he declined their offers to marry Mary Lynn and to live closer to home.