Former FAMU Basketball Coach Passes Away

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Palm Beach Post
By MARCUS NELSON
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Willie Booker, who had been the athletic director at Palm Beach Community College for slightly more than a month, was found dead Tuesday at his home near Orlando.

Mr. Booker, 64, had gone to Orlando to retrieve some of his belongings last week, but PBCC officials didn't become alarmed until he missed a Monday luncheon with coaches and other school administrators.

When Mr. Booker, who was unmarried, couldn't be reached, PBCC officials contacted some members of his family, who also didn't get a response. Family members went to his residence and found his body. No foul play is suspected, school officials said. Funeral arrangements are pending.

Coaches and athletic department employees were told of Mr. Booker's death Tuesday.

"Everybody is feeling the pain," said Quincy Moor, PBCC vice president of student services. Moore hired Mr. Booker this year. "It's a sad time for the college."

Mr. Booker took over as PBCC's athletic director July 2 and was the school's first full-time athletic director since Hamid Faquire retired in September after 21 years in the position.

"The Palm Beach Community College family was deeply saddened to learn today of the death of Dr. Willie Booker, who had joined the college July 2 as our athletic director," PBCC President Dennis Gallon said in a statement. "We will share funeral information as we receive it from the family. We send our heartfelt condolences to his family and friends and wish them comfort at this time."

Mr. Booker was at PBCC a short time, but already had made an impression with his enthusiasm for the job.

"I didn't get to know him very well, but he had great ideas for our programs," PBCC baseball coach Alex Morales said. "I was excited for him to be a part of us and we were part of him."

Mr. Booker had been an athletic administrator for more than 30 years and was also the men's basketball coach at Florida A&M from 1984-1993. The Rattlers were 137-125 under Booker and he led FAMU to its first NCAA Tournament in 1991.

"He certainly knew about winning championships," said ex-FAMU President Walter Smith, who hired Mr. Booker. "He is going to be missed in a lot of ways."

A graduate of Lakeland's Rochelle High, he was the state's first basketball All-America at St. Petersburg's Gibbs Junior College. He transferred to New Mexico State where he played football, basketball and baseball and later became an assistant basketball coach.

Mr. Booker also was the first athletic director and basketball coach at Roxbury Community College in Boston.

After he was dismissed from FAMU in 1993, he ran his own business before returning to college athletics at PBCC.

"He was icon in community colleges," said Smith, who met Mr. Booker at Gibbs. "He was special and a fine young man. The people at Palm Beach Community College and all of us have lost a good one."

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