Former ETSU Football Coach, Ernest Hawkins was called home after a truly wonderful and blessed life. He vowed he “never did go to work, just played all his life.” Yet he touched the lives of hundreds of young men.
Ernest came from the humble beginnings of a West Texas share cropping family. He worked in the cotton fields through high school while excelling in academics and sports. He graduated as salutatorian from Lamesa High School where he flourished in football, track and basketball as a Golden Tornado leading to a football scholarship at Texas Tech. That scholarship to Texas Tech got him out of the cotton fields and changed the path of his life. At Texas Tech he lettered in football (5), basketball (2), and track (2). As a Red Raider he set numerous quarterbacking records.
His college was interrupted in 1945 – 1946 by World War II where he served on a Navy aircraft carrier stationed out of Puerto Rico. After his 2-year military service he returned to Texas Tech and quarterbacked the Red Raiders to the 1947 Sun Bowl and the 1949 Raisin Bowl in San Jose, California before he graduated in 1950. His 3 seasons as starting quarterback at Texas Tech resulted in 3 Border Conference titles.
In 1950 Texas Tech coaches recommended Ernest for his first coaching position at Paris Junior College where he coached basketball and football for 7 years. His PJC Green Dragon teams won the Big Six Junior College Championship in 1954.
Ernest believed “you should always keep learning” thus he completed his Master’s degree at East Texas Teachers College in Commerce while executing his duties at PJC. In 1957 he accepted the opportunity to coach basketball and football at ETTC. So, the Hawkins family of 5 (Margaret, 2 daughters and 1 son) moved to Commerce in 1957. Soon after arriving, he inherited the tennis team and coached them until 1964. Ernest was assistant football coach to J.V. Sikes for 7 years which included 2 trips to the Tangerine Bowl in Florida. In 1964 when Coach Sikes passed away, Ernest was selected as head football coach. Over the next 22 years he became the winningest coach in school history with his teams earning Lone Star Conference Championships and a NAIA National Championship in 1972. He retired from coaching in 1986 and became ETSU Assistant Athletic Director for Compliance until full retirement in 1996. He was in the Lion Athletic Department for 40 years.
Ernest was inducted into 5 Athletic Halls of Fame: Lamesa High School, Texas Tech University, Paris Junior College, East Texas State University, and the Lone Star Conference. In October 2017, Texas A&M-Commerce officially named the football field “Ernest Hawkins Field at Memorial Stadium”. He is now a Legendary Lion!
During his lifetime, Ernest enjoyed playing competitive tennis, quail hunting, training bird dogs, & fishing. During his retirement years, he added gardening, cruising and traveling. He was a past president and 50 year active member of the Commerce Lions Club. His greatest joys were times he spent with former players, coaches, family and friends.
He was greeted in Heaven by the love of his life, Margaret, who was his high school sweetheart and wife of 63 years. He was also predeceased by his parents, Walter and Annie Hawkins and brother, Major Edgar Hawkins (MIA 1965 Vietnam).
Those left to cherish his memory are daughters LuAnne Bourland (Earl) of Terrell and Kathy Campbell of Commerce, and son Ray Hawkins (Susan) of Greenville; brother Bob Hawkins (Wanda) of Lamesa; five grandsons: Jayson Campbell (Ericka) of Commerce, Billy Bourland (Nancy) of Terrell, Bo Bourland (Heather) of Seymour, Alan Hawkins of Flower Mound, and Daken Denney (Dennisha) of Greenville; 8 great-grandchildren: Levi & Lani Bourland of Seymour, Blythe & Braxton Bourland of Terrell, Roland & Jemma Campbell of Commerce, and Daven & Davery Denney of Greenville. He also treasured his 4 nephews: Bobby Hawkins (Leslie) of Lamesa, Kim Hawkins (Freda) of Lamesa, Kirk Hawkins (Chadna) of Lubbock, Jay Winter of Idalou and 2 nieces, Vicki Winter Cramblet (Dale) of Canyon and Jana Winter of Lubbock, who lovingly called him “Uncle Hawk”.
Honorary Pallbearers are: Sam McCord, Eddie Vowell, James Rhodes, Ron Johnson, Roger Arnold, Wendall Bryant and the Commerce Lions Club. Pallbearers are grandsons and son-in-law.
In remembrance of Ernest, guests are invited to attend any or all events below.
On Friday, 2/2, Visitation:
5:30 – 7:30, at 1st Baptist Church Fellowship Hall, 1400 Washington St., Commerce.
On Saturday, 2/3, there will be 3 events:
10:00 Funeral at 1st Baptist Church Sanctuary,
11:30 – 1:30 Light Lunch & Celebration of Life in Fellowship Hall, and
2:00 Military Burial at Rosemound Cemetery, Commerce
Coach Hawkins established a scholarship fund for athletes, like himself, who need financial assistance attending college. In lieu of flowers, tax deductible memorials may be sent to Coach Hawkins Scholarship Fund, Texas A&M University-Commerce Foundation, P.O. Box 3425, Commerce, TX 75428-3425. Online contributions can be made at lionpride.tamuc.edu and the family will be notified of all donors.