Orvis Sigler, longtime leader of Shreveport's sports scene, dies

Published: Dec. 31, 2016 at 6:39 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 31, 2016 at 10:39 PM CST
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(Source: R.W. Norton Art Gallery oral history project)
(Source: R.W. Norton Art Gallery oral history project)

SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - A longtime sports figure in the Shreveport community died Saturday morning in his home.

Orvis U. Sigler Jr., 94, was beloved by his family and the many athletes he influenced in his long career.

A memorial service for the Springfield, Mo., native is planned at a later date at Kings Highway Christian Church, 806 Kings Hwy. in Shreveport.

Earlier this year, sports blogger Nico Van Thyn described Sigler as "one of the most valuable sports contributors in Shreveport-Bossier and beyond."

The blogger went on to say that Sigler's teams at Centenary College in Shreveport were 18 games above .500 until his final 3 seasons.

"But to me, he was a winner in so many ways. He was so deserving to be selected Mr. Louisiana Basketball in 1989 and the lone inductee in the Centenary Athletics Hall of Fame in 1994."

Sigler, a decorated World War II veteran, also was one of the most decorated sports individuals in Northwest Louisiana history.

In 1976, he was among those involved in the formation of the Independence Bowl and chaired it in 1991 and 1992.

As a consummate fan of basketball, he organized the first basketball camp in Louisiana followed by the Louisiana High School Top 20 basketball tournament by raising and managing the tournament for its first four years.

Sigler and friend M.E. Mischler organized the Fellowship of Christian Athletes in Shreveport, marking the first such chapter in Louisiana.

He's been inducted into the Louisiana Association of Basketball Coaches'  Louisiana Basketball Hall of Fame. The Louisiana Sports Writers Association selected him as a Louisiana Basketball Coach of the Year.

Off campus, Sigler served from 1993-96 under Shreveport Mayor Hazel Beard as the city's first sports coordinator. He later was president of the Shreveport Sports Authority board and was a president and a member of the Shreveport Executive Association board.

He also was involved with Shreveport Parks and Recreation (now Shreveport Public Assembly & Recreation), Volunteers of America and the Caddo Distributive Program.

It was in the late 1930s that Sigler got his first ride in an airplane from the famous barn stormer Wiley Post while Sigler's father was running a drugstore in Cabool, Mo., according to the R.W. Norton Art Gallery oral history project.

The oral history project includes Sigler's account of the day he emerged from a movie theater while attending Drury College to hear the news about Pearl Harbor. He recalled his classmates then clamoring to join the military.

"In my class at Drury, all but 2 men went in the service, and those 2 didn't go because they couldn't get in," he is quoted as saying.

Sigler chose the U.S. Navy's aviation program and went on to serve as an SB-2C-4 Curtiss Helldiver dive bomber and attack pilot from Aug. 8, 1942 until Dec. 12, 1945. He described the Helldiver as "slow and kind of like a truck."

Sigler was attached to the USS Bennington (CV-20). The first time he flew off the aircraft carrier, Sigler struck the Japanese battleship Nagato and, thus, earned the Air Medal. He would go on to earn 2 Gold Stars in lieu of 2 more Air Medals.

Sigler also served as a spotter for American battleships firing on Hokkaido in the first bombardment of the Japanese homeland.

All told, Sigler flew 10 strikes, mainly against shipping and munitions plants in ports. His squadron lost 3 men to anti-aircraft fire.

The oral history account also mentions the USS Bennington sailing into Yokohama the day after Japan surrendered. Sigler went ashore to find the people "... were courteous, they bowed, and they really treated us fine. It was almost the same as if you'd been there in peacetime."

He returned home in December 1945 and graduated in 1948 from Southwest Missouri State in Springfield, Mo.

His obituary says it was then that Sigler's professional athletic career began with him being head coach of all sports at West Plains (Mo.) High School. He later became business manager of athletics and assistant basketball coach at Southwest Missouri State University, which had the national NAIA basketball championship team for 2 years running.

In 1954, Sigler was hired as head basketball coach and assistant football coach at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., where he served under legendary football coach Earl "Red" Blaik. Sigler's basketball team was the first to participate in a Christmas tournament in Madison Square Garden.

After 4 years, he was hired as basketball coach and athletics director at Centenary College, where he remained until 1973 then entered the sporting goods and advertising business before retiring.

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