Butler High School was only three years old, and its diminutive firebrand principal, J. Homer Crim, was looking for a head basketball coach. The year was 1954. Crim had heard about a young coach who grew up in northern Alabama and who had made quite a record for himself at Southern Union, a small junior college at Wadley, in Chambers County. The coachs name was Thomas E. Rogers, who was raised in Pisgah on Sand Mountain. Everybody called him Cotton. Rogers came to Huntsville for an interview. Crim, immediately impressed, offered him the Butler job. Rogers said hed think it over. Later that day, Rogers and his wife, Eleanor, went downtown for lunch at the old Central Cafe. During the meal, Rogers overheard several Huntsville High kids talking at the next table. In an interview several years ago, Rogers remembered the conversation this way: They were saying, Butler may beat us in football, but theyll never beat us in basketball. I took that as challenge. It was the one thing that made up my mind to come here. The rest of it is history. Rogers took the challenge, started winning immediately, and went on to become one of the most successful basketball coaches in Alabama. Rogers, with the first racially integrated team in the history of the Alabama High School Athletic Association, won the state title in 1966. Randy Hollingsworth and a tall black transfer from Gadsden, and Danny Treadwell were the stars of a championship team that also included Don Faint, Tommy Lewallen, Brian Elliott, Larry Berry, Billy Broadway, Emmett Phillips, Jimmy Brooks, David Pearce and Rogers son, Walter. That was a great group of kids, Rogers said. All I had to do was drive the bus. Thomas E. Rogers was born in 1920 at Wedowee, Ala., in Randolph County. His family later moved northward to Sand Mountain, where Rogers attended high school at Pisgah. An All-State basketball player at Pisgah, Rogers signed an athletic scholarship with the University of Alabama. But his career was interrupted by World War II. After serving four years with the U.S. Army in Europe, Rogers returned to Alabama for his B.S. degree in education. He began his coaching career at Southern Union, where he compiled a 50-10 record in two years. In 1954, he accepted the head basketball job at Butler High in Huntsville, and for the next 18 years he coached the Rebels to some of their greatest victories. Rogers Butler teams won seven Tennessee Valley Conference championships, six districts championships and played in four state championships, winning the state in 1966. His '65-'66 team featured two of the top players in the state Hollingsworth, who went on to Alabama, and Treadwell, the first black basketball star at a previously all-white school in Alabama. Rogers compiled a 376-122 record during his career at Butler. He retired from coaching in 1972 and went to the then-new Johnson High School, where he was D.O. coordinator for the next eight years. He died in 1986, just a day before his 66th birthday. Mrs. Rogers and their three children Walter, Rodney and Mrs. Madonna Holladay all live in the Huntsville area.