Nov. 7, 1937-Aug. 16, 2022
Wayne Edward Yates Sr. passed away in Natchitoches Aug. 16, 2022, surrounded by his loving family. He was preceded in death by his wife, Harriet Ardala “Dala” Harding Yates; and is survived by his four children, Dawayna Dare Yates Sanders Christman, Wayne Edward Yates Jr., Kathrin Ellen Yates and Mary Elizabeth Yates; his younger brother, Herbert Wayne Yates; nine grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. Wayne was born Nov. 7, 1937, in Gurdon, Ark., to Lula Ellen Eckert Yates and William Justus Yates Sr.
Wayne attended North Little Rock High School, where he began a life-long career in basketball. He went to Memphis State University where he was a star basketball player and considered one of the greatest centers ever to play for MSU. He was a first round NBA draft pick taken by the Los Angeles Lakers in 1961. He played one season with the Lakers and moved to the ABL playing for Oakland, before returning to Memphis State as an assistant coach. Wayne served as Head Coach at MSU from 1974-79. Coach Yates helped bring the MSU Tigers to the Final Four, finishing second in the nation in 1973 and was one of only six coaches in NCAA history to win 80 games in his first four seasons. After leaving MSU, he moved to Louisiana and coached the Northwestern State University basketball team and several high schools in North Louisiana. He was inducted into the University of Memphis M Club Hall of Fame in 1993. Even though he was an amazing player and coach, winning accolades and awards on every level, he considered basketball an insignificant part of his life.
The real loves of his life were his wife and family. Wayne was a loving, some would even say, doting father, who always made sure his children and grandchildren had unique experiences growing up. He was an avid outdoorsman and always said the place he felt closest to God was out on the deer stand, early in the morning, just as the sun was rising. His house was filled with trophies of the hunt: bucks mounted above the mantel, a turkey beard sitting on the shelf, crossbows and guns hanging on the walls. He loved the land, and worked hard to ensure his family had some to call their own.
Physically powerful and standing at an imposing 6 feet, 9.5 inches, he was a big man with a commanding presence; however, he will be remembered by his family as an humble man, always willing to help and full of love for his family. He was known for his impeccable character, sharp wit and brilliant mind. Wayne left a profound legacy, was so much larger than life, and the echoes of his presence will be felt for generations to come.
The family will hold a private memorial for the internment of his ashes. In lieu of flowers, please make donations in his name to the American Cancer Society or to your local high school basketball program.