When John Tatum arrived at Montgomery Academy in 1984, he took over a football program from Spence McCracken that was growing and had great expectations. It was a different problem than other schools. But Montgomery Academy had picked the right man. Over the next 23 years he made the Eagles one of the state’s great examples of class and sportsmanship in high school football. And successful as well.
A football player and track athlete at Robert E. Lee in Montgomery, he attended Troy State University where he played both sports once again. He graduated in 1969 and took a job at Everitt Junior High school as head track and assistant football coach in Panama City, Fl and stayed for 6 years. In 1975 he went to Walker High School in Atlanta as head football coach and track coach for 8 years. After a year at Norcross Ga as an assistant coach he returned to Montgomery and went to MA. It didn’t take long to meet some of those high expectations.
In 1986 the Eagles lost their opening game, then won 11 in a row before losing to a great Sweetwater team in the semifinals. The following year behind 1A Player of the Year Hamp Greene, Montgomery Academy went 14-0 and captured the State Championship by defeating Billingsley 13-6. The Eagle defense was as tough as their coach, giving up 6 points or less in 12 of the 14 games. John Tatum was the state 1A Coach of the Year. The following year the Eagles had a 10-3 campaign making it to the semi finals. In 1997 the MA went 9-3 and in ’98 they had another 11 win season. The defense shut out 4 opponents at the end of the year before a quarterfinal loss to Briarwood. In 2002 the Coach Tatum’s team surprised everyone. The Eagles lost 42-14 to Pike County in the fifth game of the year and had a 3-2 record. But once again the defense toughened up. They would not allow more than 14 points in any game the rest of the season. On November 22, 2002 MA went to Brundidge to meet the same Bulldog team that had crunched them at midseason. But the defense shut down the speedy Dogs and MA won 12-6. The following week the Eagles battled T.R. Miller in another great defensive struggle in the semi finals but lost a heartbreaker 14-12. In his last season in 2006, the team which always had the great kicking game and defense proved it could win with offense. John’s offense averaged over 36 points per game and had an undefeated regular season. MA finished at 12-1, the second greatest season in school history.
Coach Tatum had also served Montgomery Academy as athletic director and the eagles had success in many different sports. He was named the AHSADCA AD of the year in 2005. After retiring he served as a consultant with Learning thru Sports and fittingly coordinated the STAR Sportsmanship Program for the AHSAA. But retirement apparently didn’t suit him and in 2009 he became principal at St. James School in Montgomery. He and his wife Mirenda of 37 years have two children and three grand children.
John Tatum has received many other awards, including coaching in the North south all Star game twice and the Alabama-Miss All Star game in 1988. He is a member of the Robert E. Lee High School Hall of Fame. He was named the Montgomery Advertiser Coach of the Year 8 times. Former player and high school coach Robert Johnson said it best in describing Coach Tatum..”he is the epitome of what a high school coach should be. Tough, but loving. Concerned about the development of each player morally, spiritually, academically, and athletically. He is a man of complete integrity. We at the ALFCA agree. WE ARE PROUD TODAY TO BESTOW OUR LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD UPON COACH JOHN TATUM.