Longtime SCHS supporter Charles ‘Papa’ McCombs dies at 65

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Charles McCombs dedicated much of his life to young people, though he never drew a paycheck as a coach or teacher.

The bed of his pickup truck was often filled with football equipment, the cab with players.

For a time, he was a fixture on the sideline at Shelby County High School football games, pushing when he felt like they had more to give, slapping them on the back when they&8217;d score.

McCombs died at his Shelby County home Sunday, leaving behind his wife and two daughters as well as hundreds, if not thousands, of former Shelby County High School students who affectionately referred to him as &8220;Papa.&8221; He was 65.

McCombs was born Sept. 27, 1940, the son of one of Birmingham&8217;s first freightlining business founders.

He developed a love for athletics, particularly football, at an early age.

McCombs wore the cardinal uniform under legendary Shelby County coach Don Bulger from 1956-57, developing a lasting relationship that would ultimately shape his involvement in Shelby County athletics and produce one of his closest friends.

After graduation, he spent time in the Army National Guard and eventually took over ownership of McCombs Freight Lines.

He was generous with his time and wealth, heavily investing both in the community.

Shelby County High School recognized his contributions by renaming Wildcats Stadium in his honor in 2004.

In the early &8217;90s, McCombs built a golf course in a cow pasture on part of his 1,700 acres of land near Calera.

The Big M Golf Club, started more for McCombs&8217; enjoyment than a business venture, features a simple, laid-back style, much like its founder.

Rounds there were often played free of charge.

&8220;I just want people to have a good time,&8221; McCombs told the Shelby County Reporter in 2005. &8220;Life&8217;s too short to go around being sad.&8221;

McCombs is survived by his wife of 42 years, Patsy Dorough McCombs; daughters, Shelly McCombs Wade (Dennis Wade), Charlon McCombs Couch (Frank Couch); sister, Dot Reese Vines (Jack Vines); six grandchildren, Regan Merrell Wade, Connor Charles Wade, Callie Brooke Wade, Anna Morgan Couch, Adison Couch, Alexa Couch; and an extended family of nieces, nephews, cousins and friends.

Funeral service was held yesterday at the First Baptist Church of Columbiana, where he was a member