William Murphy, III, the son of William E. Murphy, II and Inez Miller, was born in Wilmington, North Carolina, on November 27, 1933. He was educated in the New Hanover County Public Schools and became a stand-out athlete at Williston High School, where he was captain of the football team and earned the nick- name “Big Train,” by which he is still known to many. Murphy was a proud graduate of the Williston Senior High School Class of 1954.
Following graduation, Murphy attended Voorhees College in Denmark, South Carolina, where he continued to excel in the sport of football as a student-athlete. Unfortunately, family crisis caused Murphy to return home after graduation and assist in the care of family.
Football’s loss at the next level was Wilmington’s gain! Murphy immediately involved himself in the coaching, teaching, and mentoring of young neighborhood children, teaching them discipline and excellence through sports. He began working for the City of Wilmington Parks and Recreation Department and traveled to all the centers (mostly by walking) to organize sports in the various centers across the city. He later became Director of the 8th Street Center, when it was just the “little white house on the hill.” However, from that little white house, Murphy shaped and developed the character, athleticism, and desire for excellence in many young boys and girls, preparing them to be winners and leaders as adults.
Murphy’s teams joined the Pop Warner Football League and were feared as “Murphy’s boys”. He later left Pop Warner for an independent traveling league. He also coached organized ladies’ softball teams, demanding the same amount of commitment and hard work as he did from the male teams. Finally, Murphy accepted the position of Head Coach of the Wilmington Tiger’s Semi-Pro Team. Although this was a team of grown men, Murphy expected and demanded respect, hard work and a desire to “do it right” and win. He led by example, and not only talked the talk, but walked the walk. Posthumously, Murphy was inducted in the Mason Dixon Football League Hall of Fame. Robert Strange Park was renamed the William E. Murphy, III Athletic Complex. In addition, Murphy was honored in 2014 as an African American Pioneer by The Friends of North Carolina HBCU Parks and
Murphy was married three times, and from those unions, eight children were produced, in addition to 2 bonus children. From those children came 16 grandchildren. From the grandchildren came seven great grandchildren, ensuring that the Murphy legacy will continue!
Words cannot adequately express the impact Murphy had, and continues to have, on the community of Wilmington. He was hard, but fair; he expected you to give your best or stay home; he believed in the children and their future; he was a tough outer shell but had a heart of gold inside. He was a friend, a father-figure to many, a mentor, a teacher, a role-model, an icon that will never be replaced or forgotten.