In a normal year, today would mark the beginning of the South Carolina high school track and field championship weeks.The Covid-19 pandemic has caused a lot of cancellations and for many athletes their last chances of competing in high school. It has also altered the lives of tens of thousands of other athletes around the world. Today (April 20) would have been the 124th running of the Boston Marathon. Never canceled or postponed. What a streak that is! Fortunately, it has been rescheduled for September 14.
Also, today would have been the beginning of the Greenville County Championships week. On the day before the competition actually starts the head coaches of all of the Greenville County schools, both public and private get together for a meeting about the meet and generally have a time of good fellowship.This dinner meeting was started by the first meet director, Jim Mattos, the track coach at Berea High in 1969 so that all of the teams could turn in their entries. This is a tradition that I carried on when I inherited the meet in 1986 from Coach Mattos, my former high school coach. The meet has grown from 12 boys teams to 20 boys and girls teams, from two entries to three entries, medals for the top three places instead of ribbons, a two day meet instead of one, one division instead of two and an extra day for a massive JV competition. The old and the new traditions have become an important part of the longest continually run invitational track meet in South Carolina; a meet that showcases some of the best athletes and performances in the state.
This year would have been the 52nd consecutive boys meet and the 44th consecutive girls meet. It would also mark my 44th straight year as the meet director. Unfortunately, the current worldwide crisis has caused all track meets to be canceled. Certainly we have had some times that we have had to change dates, but we have ALWAYS had the (Greenville) County meet. As most of you know, this meet has been my baby. I have done all that I could to make it a great meet for the athletes, coaches and fans of the schools involved.So the cancellation makes this a hard time for me especially because of some other sad news.
Ed's Ramblings: Is Greenville County the Best? | More of Ed's Ramblings | Meet history: Boys | Girls
Jim Mattos passed away one month ago (March 19). He was 88 and led a quality and honorable life. He was an extremely well respected icon in the Berea community and his passing is a tremendous loss. He was a mentor to thousands of young men and women as a teacher and coach. His life was never about himself but totally about serving others. He had a saying that was representative of his life, "Every day is a holiday and every meal is a banquet." He lived life to the fullest giving to all, all that he had. He always had a kind word, was polite to everyone in all circumstances, and had a personality that would uplift the life of another by simply his presence and his calming words. I have never met a man that had such an incredible impact on others.
Coach Mattos was inducted into the SC Athletic Coaches Hall of Fame and into the Berea High Hall of Fame. Jim was a graduate of Greenville High School where he was a member of their track team. He won the state championship in the mile with a new state meet record that lasted for a decade. He received the first track and field scholarship ever offered by Furman University. He was the Greenville County and South Carolina Teacher of the Year. When he retired from coaching and teaching after 29 years he was elected to the SC House of Representatives to serve the people in the west Greenville area at the state level. He is the reason that I decided to coach track. He is the reason that I decided to take the (Greenville) County meet from him when he offered it to me.
He is why I kept doing the meet and was so determined to make the meet a success. He was the type of man that you always wanted to make him proud of you. And it didn't take much because he would always find the good in every situation. Many of the mannerisms and habits that I had as a coach are the direct result of his influence on me. I have learned a lot from many different people during my career: David Wamer (Greenville Track Club) taught me how to effectively run off a track meet, John Carlisle (former head football coach and athletic director at Eastside) taught me about the politics and finances of high school athletics, Bill Keesling (former head track coach at Furman) taught me the pedagogy of coaching track and cross country.
But, Jim Mattos taught me how to be a man, one that is caring and selfless, one that takes pride in his profession and the school he represents, one that never compromises his own character and integrity but gently holds and teaches others to uphold those same standards. I hope that my career has reflected, to some, many of these same traits. Above all, I hope that my life was at least a small reflection on the tremendous influence he had on me. I hope I made him proud. Here are some links with more information about Coach Mattos' life.
The saddest part of Coach Mattos' passing is that the pandemic did not allow the thousands of people that his life touched to have a proper service to honor his life. There has been no closure, no way to say good bye, no way to say thank you. A service will be planned when this crisis is over.
So it is with a heavy heart that I cancel the Greenville County Track and Field Championships for this year. I will miss the meet. I will miss the dinner with all of my colleagues. But most of all, I will miss having Coach Mattos nearby to share stories and happy times. Next year, we will honor Coach Mattos with 52nd running of the meet.
All of us have a Coach Jim Mattos in our lives. During this time of uncertainty take some time to call them up. Tell them you care for them and that you appreciate their influence on your life.
Stay safe. We will get through this!
James G. "Jim" Mattos - Berea High School 1957 - 1985
James G. "Jim" Mattos, a dedicated educator, coach, legislator and servant to the people of South Carolina, died peacefully at his home in Greenville on March 19, 2020. In his 88 years of life, Jim touched the lives of many from every walk of life. He lived life with a purpose and vigor guided by his own mantra: "Every day is a holiday; every meal, a banquet."
Many will remember Jim for his work as an educator. For three decades, he served as a teacher and athletic coach at Berea High School. In recognition of his commitment to education, Jim was named State Teacher of the Year in 1978. Among his many achievements, one of his proudest was his involvement in the peaceful and meaningful integration of the schools and athletic programs in Greenville County, so that all children could have an equal opportunity to learn and to grow.
As a coach, Jim led the basketball and track teams at Berea High School for 29 years. He then went on to serve as the high school's athletic director for 16 years, retiring in 1992. While at Berea, Jim guided the basketball team to five regional championships and reached the state playoffs seven times. He coached the track team to win eight regional championships. As a testament to his devotion to his students and athletes, Jim was honored as South Carolina State Coach of the Year twice in two different sports: for basketball in 1979 and for track in 1983. In addition, Jim was awarded 12 regional coach of the year awards. In recognition of his service and stewardship, Jim was honored by entry into four separate halls of fame: the South Carolina Coaches Athletic Hall of Fame, the Greenville High School Hall of Fame, the Greenville County School District Hall of Fame, and the Berea High School Hall of Fame. In 1997, Berea High School named the school's basketball gymnasium the "James Mattos Gymnasium" in honor of Jim's service to the students and community at Berea.
Jim went on to achieve an equally accomplished career as a public servant. Upon his retirement from teaching, Jim served the people of his community in the South Carolina House of Representatives from 1984 through 1994. As a legislator, Jim worked tirelessly to protect and advance the livelihood of the people of South Carolina. Jim authored the pioneering State Immunizations Bill, which is credited for saving countless lives, as well as for establishing new standards for healthcare and quality of life for families and citizens that were emulated by state legislatures across the country. For his work in the Legislature, he was awarded multiple State Legislator of the Year awards. After he left the Legislature, he continued his public service as a member of the State Board of Education from 1999 to 2004.
Jim was particularly committed to the mental health and welfare of South Carolina's children. He served for many years as president and chairman of the board and later as an emeritus board member of the Meyer Center, a preschool for children with special needs. In recognition of his dedication to the welfare of children with special needs, in 1992, the South Carolina Department of Health named a cabin at Camp Burnt Gin, a camp for children with physical and chronic disabilities, the "Jim Mattos Cabin" in his honor.
Jim's story begins in Greenville, the community he loved and served for nearly 90 years. A Greenville native, Jim was the son of a Greek immigrant, George, who came to America through Ellis Island as a young man in 1907. His father owned and operated the Indian River Fruit Store for 30 years on Main Street, at the same location where Starbucks on Main now stands.
Jim graduated from Greenville High School in 1950. As a member of the Greenville High track team, Jim set the South Carolina state record for the mile, a record he held for over a decade. Upon graduating, he attended Furman University on the first track scholarship in the university's history. After his graduation from Furman, Jim married his childhood sweetheart, Caroline "Kitty" Mattos, in 1955. Kitty then joined him as he served as a First Lieutenant in the United States Army. Last year, Jim and Kitty celebrated their 64th wedding anniversary. With a dedication to public service that parallels her husband's, Kitty served as the Greenville County Clerk of Court from 1980 to 1993. In fact, Kitty pulled panels for Greenville juries at a time when, as a woman, she could not serve on a jury herself.
Jim's legacy extends beyond his many accomplishments. He loved his family and his community with an acceptance and grace that reflected his love for the Lord. A man of deep and abiding faith, Jim read the Bible each morning and prided himself on having read it completely, not once but twice. Jim was an active member of Earle Street Baptist Church and deeply cherished the support of pastor Stephen Clyborne and the greater Earle Street family. Jim carried his faith with him throughout his life, repeatedly meeting his personal challenge to "pay it forward" by providing for those in need.
Jim is survived by his wife Kitty, his children, Kim Paschal and her husband Pat, Cindy Mattos-DeHart and her husband Glenn, and Todd Mattos, as well as by Jim's four grandchildren: Hogan, Mattos, Matt and his wife Kaylie, and Jake. Jim often told Kitty, "you're the love of my life." He will be remembered as the love of all.
A memorial service will be held at a later date after the coronavirus pandemic has concluded. In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to Friends of Berea High School, 201 Burdine Drive, Greenville, S.C., 29617, or the Meyer Center for Special Children, 1132 Rutherford Road, Greenville, S.C. 29609, in Jim's honor.