T.R. Miller principal dies in crash

Published 1:26 am Thursday, August 12, 2010

Longtime T.R. Miller High School principal Donnie Rotch died in a head-on collision  on U.S. 31 North of Brewton Wednesday night.

Officials and witnesses at the scene said Rotch’s vehicle was hit head-on by a vehicle being pursued by Brewton Police officers in a high speed chase that began when police responded to a domestic incident in the parking lot of the police department, Police Chief Monte McGougin said.

The driver of the second vehicle involved in the crash also died in the incident. Family members on the scene identified him as Martin Reid, 40. Neither driver had passengers.

McGougin declined to name the officer involved in the chase, but told The Brewton Standard that he believed department protocol was followed. Reid was attempting to pass another vehicle when he hit Rotch’s vehicle head-on, McGougin said. The officer involved was “taking this very hard,” the police chief said.

Rotch was a Jackson, Ala., native who became a member of the T.R. Miller coaching staff in 1974. He spent 18 years on the Tiger sidelines, working under head coaches Frank Cotten, Mike Sasser, Joel Williams and Jamie Riggs. When he moved into administration, he was the offensive coordinator and also coached baseball.

McGougin was among those who played football for Rotch.

“It’s terrible on both sides,” McGougin said. “It’s always tragic when someone loses their life in the manner he did.”

Brewton Mayor Ted Jennings said, “No one loved T.R. Miller High School more than Rotch and T.R. Miller loved him.”

Rotch was a part of two championship teams (1984 and 1991) at T.R. Miller and saw the program win three more (1994, 2000 and 2002) as an administrator.

Despite having been an administrator as long as he was a coach, current T.R. Miller students still affectionately called him “Coach Rotch.” As word of his death spread throughout the community Wednesday night, his current students planned a day of mourning and scheduled a prayer vigil for 7:30 a.m. Thursday at the school. School administrators also planned to have counselors on campus Thursday morning.

Rotch’s death came just a month after Phillip Ellis, principal of cross-town rival W.S. Neal, lost a year-long battle against multiple myeloma. Ellis had served as principal of Neal for 21 years. His replacement was expected to be named today, Thurs., Aug. 12.