Collin Briggs, African American educator and coach, was born in Texas on December 11, 1920. He grew up in Houston’s historic Fifth Ward community and graduated from Phillis Wheatley High School in 1938. He was an outstanding basketball player at Wheatley and was awarded an athletic scholarship to attend Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. He continued to be an exceptional basketball player at Tuskegee and served as team captain during his senior year. He also became a lifelong member of Alpha Kappa Psi fraternity. Briggs finished at Tuskegee with a bachelor of science degree in 1942. After graduation, he enlisted in the United States Army, where he served as a sergeant in the Army Transportation Corps.
Following his discharge from military service in 1946, Briggs returned to Houston and became the head basketball coach at Phillis Wheatley High School. He also enrolled at Texas Southern University, where he earned a master of education degree in 1948. During his tenure as coach, his teams produced an astounding record of 608 wins, 55 losses, and 13 state championships (1948, 1950, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1955, 1958, 1959, 1961, 1966, 1968, and 1969). Three of the teams were invited to play at the national level in what was then called the Negro National High School Basketball Tournament, comprised of sixteen Negro State Champions, at Tennessee State University in Nashville. The 1952 team was a finalist in the tournament but ended up losing to Central High School of Louisville, Kentucky, by the score of 51 to 49.
The championship seasons of 1968 and 1969 are particularly noteworthy, as they were the first two years of integrated play in the newly-created University Interscholastic League. In 1968 Briggs’s Wheatley Wildcats finished 36-0 and defeated the Thomas Jefferson Rebels of Dallas to claim the Class 4A state championship. Prior to 1968 Briggs’s teams competed in the all-black Prairie View Interscholastic League.
Briggs retired as head coach after the 1969 season but continued to serve the Houston Independent School District in a number of capacities well into the 1970s. These included stints as coordinator of Houston’s Prototype Schools Project, Models Cities Project, and Teacher Instruction Program; assistant director of the district’s Multi-Cultural Awareness Program; and administrative assistant of the Model Cities Adult Learning Center. He also remained active in the Texas State Teachers Association and Alpha Kappa Psi fraternity.
For his extraordinary coaching record, Collin Briggs was honored many times. He was inducted into the Phillis Wheatley High School Hall of Fame; into the Prairie View Interscholastic League Coaches Association Hall of Fame and Hall of Honor in 1982; into the Texas High School Basketball Hall of Fame in 1992; into the Texas Black Sports Hall of Fame (Dallas); into the Texas Black Sports Hall of Fame (Waco); into the Tuskegee Institute Hall of Fame in 1987; and into the Texas High School Coaches Association Hall of Honor in 2012. Additionally, he was named 1968 Coach of the Year by the Texas Sports Writers Association, and May 16, 1969, was officially proclaimed “Collin Briggs Day” by Houston Mayor Louis Welch. Collin Briggs died on December 27, 1983, in Houston, Texas. Briggs had married Hallie Mae Waddell in 1959. They had two daughters and a son.