This story was updated with more information at 12:27 p.m. on Feb. 20, 2020.
Bill Cherry, the former longtime athletic director of McCallie School, died early Thursday morning. He was 78.
In an email sent to the school's alumni and others, McCallie headmaster Lee Burns wrote: "It is with a mixture of earthly sadness and Resurrection joy that I inform you that Bill Cherry passed away this morning Bill was a constant presence on this campus and in the lives of McCallie boys for more than 50 years It is hard to imagine McCallie without Bill Cherry."
Cherry first came to McCallie in 1970 as an assistant football coach. He became the school's AD in 1973 and remained in that role until 2008. He remained at the school as both a middle and upper school math teacher. In 2017, the school named an amphitheater inside its Sports and Activities Center the Bill Cherry Team Room in his honor.
"Bill's importance in Chattanooga and around the state of Tennessee will be felt forever," said former Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association director Ronnie Carter, who worked with Cherry on numerous TSSAA boards through the years. "A great, great man, Bill was a leader in both education and athletics in our state for decades. His leadership transcended public and private. He provided a perfect example across our state for how to run an athletic department."
Said former Baylor School athletic director Austin Clark: "Bill was McCallie Blue through and through and I was Baylor Red, but he was an athletic director I respected a great deal and someone I always looked up to. He was one of those guys that whenever you heard the word McCallie, you thought of Bill Cherry."
Cherry, who had battled serious heart problems in recent years, is survived by his wife Mary and daughters Rachel Cherry and McLean Cherry Bayens, as well as granddaughter Liza Rogers and grandson Bridger Bayens. Funeral arrangements will be announced later.