Lion legend Ernest Hawkins dies at 91

Former Lions coach Ernest Hawkins on the day the football field was renamed in his honor to Ernest Hawkins Field.

Legendary coach in Lion history and a beloved member of the community, Ernest Hawkins died Sunday night at the age of 91.

Hawkins was the winningest coach in program history, going 132-92-6 from 1964-1985. Hawkins was head coach of the Lions in 1972 when East Texas State took the NAIA National Championship, their first national championship in school history. The Lions also won four Lone Star Conference championships under Hawkins, in 1966, 1969, 1972, and 1983, and Hawkins was honored as LSC Coach of the Year in each of those years. Hawkins was inducted into the Lion Athletics Hall of Fame in 1988 and the Lone Star Conference Hall of Honor in 2004.

“He could not have been nicer. He clasped my hand and took off his national title ring to tell me how he hoped that we would have another one someday soon,” Brian Pate, Managing Editor of The Lion Wire blog said on Facebook. “I told him that my Dad was a senior the first year he won the conference and recalled the homecoming 1966 game against Texas A&I (Texas A&M-Kingsville). I told him that was most exciting memory of Lion football my Dad had, he then grasped onto my hand and said ‘We almost lost that game because Ben Kirkland [the QB] didn’t make all his reads on that play! The Slant was open! I chewed him up one side and down the other for that!’”

Just last season, the Lions dedicated the field at Memorial Stadium to Hawkins, unveiling the name Ernest Hawkins Field in front of the coach before the start of the Lions game against UT Permian Basin Nov. 4.

In a tweet, Lions head coach Colby Carthel said, “Since Day 1, Coach Ernest Hawkins played a huge roll in helping @LionsFB return #ToTheTop as National Champions! I’ll miss my friend…#RIP”

The Hawkins family requested in lieu of flowers that donations be made to the existing Ernest Hawkins Scholarship Endowment at the Texas A&M-Commerce Foundation.

Hawkins’s visitation will be held Feb. 2 at the Fellowship Hall of the First Baptist Church of Commerce from 5:30-7:30 P.M. with the funeral service taking place at 10 A.M. on Feb. 3.