Coach Johnny Bilberry
Johnny B. Bilberry Sr. was born in Farmerville, Louisiana and lived in Shreveport for over twenty-six years. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Southern University in Baton Rouge, La. in 1954 and his master’s degree in 1963 from the University of Colorado. He was employed by the Caddo Parish school system in 1963. His professional career in the Caddo Parish school system included serving as a teacher, coach, principal, and Parish Supervisor of Athletics and Health Physical Education and Recreation (HPER). He was the first African American to be appointed to the position of Caddo Parish School System Supervisor of Athletics, Health and Physical Education.
Prior to coming to Caddo Parish, he taught and coached in the Bossier Parish school system. He was a very knowledgeable person (especially on athletics), and he had the ability to relate to all types of people, athletes and non-athletes alike. He gave his subordinates and the school system exemplary leadership and was totally concerned about all people involved.
His career began in Caddo Parish Schools as an assistant coach and physical education teacher at Bethune High School. He was later head football coach at Valencia High school, where he guided his team to the State Championship playoff title game in the Louisiana Interscholastic and Literary Organization (LIALO) in 1969. The Valencia Vikings lost to state champion Scotlandville High School by a score of 38-14.
Coach Bilberry moved to Byrd High School as an assistant coach after Valencia was phased out as a high school during the school desegregation process in 1970. He was the head football coach at Northwood High School from 1971- 1973. He became the assistant principal at Fair Park High School in 1974 and was named the school’s acting principal in 1976 before being named Parish Athletic & HPER supervisor in 1977.
Coach was active in church, sports organizations, and other community service activities. He served four years on the parish council of St. John Berchmans Co- Cathedral, where he was a Eucharist minister. He was also a member of the Shreveport Sports Foundation, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, and numerous national, state, and local professional organizations in which he held office.
Though coach Bilberry was an All- American football player at Southern University and a football coach, he loved the game of tennis and was a strong advocate on its behalf. He always encouraged physical education to expose students at all levels to lifetime sports. He wanted youth to remain physically active in recreational pursuits beyond their school years.
Some people described coach Bilberry as a “tough coach and administrator, but his greatest asset was his feel for people”. Bilberry Parks and Recreation Center located on Lakeshore Drive in Shreveport was named in his honor.