Neville's Tiger King surprised by 80th birthday celebration

Published: May. 1, 2020 at 7:45 PM CDT
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Neville High School Dean of students Roosevelt Rankins has been at the school for 56 years. He came to the campus on Friday to record the traditional speech he gives to the senior class.

“You’re not gonna have any more Friday morning pep rallies,” Rankins said. “Cheerleaders, you’re not gonna run on a stage anymore. You’ve been a good group of seniors. Some of you got to my heart.”

However, to Rankins’ surprise, hundreds of cars paraded past sidewalk chalk, balloons and other decorations in his honor while former students honked and yelled their well wishes to him for his 80th birthday.

“All those kids and parents coming by, kids that I had here 50 years ago, 40 years ago, got a chance to see them, you know, in cars waving,” Rankins said. “I saw a couple of parents that were, you know, their hairline has gotten a little bad but they were out there in the car waving. That breaks your heart open."

It might be hard to get high schoolers to show up for much, but Joy Carlson, Rankins’ secretary, says getting participants to celebrate Rankins was no challenge.

“You just start putting the word out-everybody knows about Coach Rankins, everybody loves Coach Rankins,” Carlson said. “He has made a difference in their life whether it be big or small and they all love him for it.”

Following the parade the attention turned to the screen on the football field where a slideshow and video tribute by former students and more was played to honor the their true ‘Tiger King.’

“I wish my mother was here to be able to look down on me and see what a good job she done,” Rankins said. "Neville High School has been good to me and I’ve been good to Neville High School, and I will be back. And I wanna say one more thing tigers, always remember where you came from. This is Neville High School-get down tigers.”