Thomas Jackson Hill, or T.J. as he was known, coached track at Follansbee for 17 years before retiring in 1954. His Follansbee track teams won 52 and lost only nine dual meets. His teams won the Follansbee Invitational, which he founded, five times in seven attempts, and also captured the Brooke County Relays.
T.J. Hill never had the depth at Follansbee to produce a state champion track team. However, he had six individual state champions – Joe Yauch in the low hurdles, Ralph Freshwater and Joe Marose in the mile, Robert Balch in the 440, Jim Carey in the high jump, and George Taibi in the 100-yd dash. Joe Yauch was killed during World War II. During T.J. Hill’s career at Follansbee, his teams scored in every state championship event.
Coach Hill started Glenn “Jeep” Davis on the road that led to Olympic greatness. Hill coached Davis as a junior high and freshman athlete. When tragedy took the lives of Davis’ parents, Glenn moved in with relatives at Barberton, Ohio. Hill kept up a close relationship with his star pupil and traveled to see him compete first at Ohio State, and later at the Olympic games at Melbourne in 1956 and at Rome in 1960. Hill’s former star won the 400-meter hurdles and set a record in both Olympic occasions. Davis also established an Olympic record for the quarter mile. (See 1956 – Glenn “Jeep” Davis on Timeline)
T.J. Hill took pride in his own early years as an athlete. He graduated from Ripon College (Wisconsin), where he stared in track, baseball, and was quarterback for the football team. He recalled playing football at a time when shoulder pads were sewed on the outside of jerseys. He claimed that today’s pressurized athletics cause the real purpose of athletics, “recreation, fun, and exercise,” to be lost.
After coaching high school sports in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa, he served in a field artillery unit during World War I. Following the war, he made his first appearance in the Ohio Valley as all-sports coach at Triadelphia. He later coached at Wellsburg before coming to Follansbee. Hill became a legendary track coach in the valley. With his Triadelphia and Follansbee track teams, he attended every state high school meet from 1923 until his final coaching year.
It is estimated that T.J. Hill coached more than 2,000 youngsters over a 44-year career. After retiring from Follansbee, Hill was recruited by Bethany College where he coached track for four more seasons. At Follansbee, football coach Doug Stone assumed Hill’s track duties.
In 1954, the Northern Panhandle Coaches Association presented T.J. Hill with a life pass to all OVAC athletic events. Hill was honored in 1967 at the state high school meet at Charleston, where his picture was featured in the program. In 1981, he was posthumously selected for membership in the Ohio Valley Dapper Dan Club’s Hall of Fame. T.J. Hill was born in Strathaven, Scotland in 1889 and died in 1974.
- Follansbee Review, “… T.J. Hill Given Life Pass..,” September 15, 1954, front page.
- Steubenville Herald Star, “Dapper Dans Honor Hill,” February 1, 1981.
- The Wheeling Intelligencer, “Cliff McWilliams’ Sports” (tribute to T. J. Hill), Wednesday, May 19, 1965.