Former Franklinton High School coach, teacher, and athletic director Lester Wilder passed away over the weekend. Wilder coached numerous sports during his 41-year career at Franklinton, however, he was probably best known for leading the Red Rams Women’s Basketball teams until he retired in 2017.
His Women’s hoops teams won more than 500 games and 10 conference championships while he picked up nine conference Coach of the Year Awards. He led the team to the 1993 2A Eastern Regional Championship and a runner-up finish in the State Championship when his Red Rams fell 54-42 to Monroe. Wilder, always confident in his players, told the Charlotte Observer in the lead up to the 1993 State Championship Game, “We are very, very, very unimpressive in warm-ups. You’ll see us and think we’re not very good. But when the game starts, well … watch us then!”
In a statement issued by Franklinton High School, Wilder was described as more than just a coach and mentor, stating, “Anyone connected with Franklinton High School knew Coach Lester Wilder was the cornerstone of Red Ram Athletics as he led our school and community for over 50 years as a teacher, coach and athletic director.” The statement continued, “He achieved more than most could begin to imagine in high school athletics, but beyond the numerous successes he achieved on the courts, his biggest wins were found shaping and improving the lives of our students. He showed us how to treat each other, dig deep when adversity arose and built a tradition of kindness, compassion and love that will never leave our school.”
Wilder was a native of Franklinton and attended Kittrell Junior College and then St. Augustine’s University. He was a left-handed pitcher on the University’s baseball team, earning All-CIAA honors.