Chauncey Lyles, Sr. was a native Washingtonian and a graduate of Paul Lawrence Dunbar SHS. A co-founder of the Pioneers, Coach Lyles was an ardent football fan with a passion for the line play. He was known to favor the four-point stance and his players affectionately remember how often he would tell a cocky player “you ain’t doing a damn thing”. Mr. Lyles served in the US Army during WWII before working for the US Postal Service. He had a talent for making men’s suits and was an avid gardener. Mr. Lyles was married to Elizabeth Leake and together they had 5 children.
Nathaniel I. Briscoe was born in Washington, DC, grew up in Anacostia and graduated from Armstrong SHS. Fifty years ago, “Bris” as he was known to friends, answered the requests of neighborhood kids to start and coach a youth football team. Coach Briscoe coached football, basketball, track, and boxing for the Pioneers/Warriors for 23 years before hanging up his whistle in 1986. An artist, whose first love was painting, Briscoe was also an accomplished blues guitarist and an avid golfer. Mr. Briscoe married Mattie L. White and had five children. He worked as a Scientific Illustrator for the Navy Department until his retirement in 1983.
Charles McDaniel was born and reared in Atlanta, Georgia in 1920. He migrated to Washington, DC, when he was in his early twenties. He later met and married Pearlie Plummer in the 1940’s and together they bore three children, David, Charles, and Karen. The family built a home in the Woodridge community where they lived until his death. In the mid-1960s, Charles McDaniel became a member of the original coaching staff for the Number #12 Boys Club, better known as the Pioneers. He was actively involved in the football, basketball, and baseball programs that helped to introduce many local stars to include his son, Charles “Skip” McDaniel, Dwight Mosely, Haywood Corley, and a host of others. He volunteered many hours and years to the Pioneers well in the 1970s. His commitment and dedication to these young men did not end on the playing field. He had a caring heart and opened his home to many of these young men who were less fortunate. Mr. McDaniel was a self-taught brick master who started his own construction company in the late 1970s and provided jobs to many of the Pioneers.
Mason Clark was born in 1936 in Langston, Oklahoma. He earned a B.S. degree in Animal Husbandry from Langston University before enlisting in the US Army. A job brought him to Washington, DC as a Veterinarian Assistant in 1959. Mason taught at Ketchum Elementary School and Biometric Research Laboratory. Mason helped start the Pioneers and has been with WWYO the entire 50 years. Mason is married to Elaine Clark, a retired, DCPS teacher, a very active member of McKendree United Methodist Church, and the father of five.
Pearlie McDaniel was born in 1923 in Tennessee, but spent most of her childhood in Charleston, West Virginia. She moved to Washington, DC when she was in her early 20s. She later met and married Charles McDaniel in the 1040s and three children were born from that union. David, Charles, and Karen. The family lived in the Woodridge community where she was a community activist starting with the PPTA presidency for Woodridge Elementary School in the 1960s. She was the first African American female ANC Commissioner in Ward 5. She was also at the vanguard of female sports teams for the Pioneers. She is most noted for the development of the Pioneers Track and Field Team that included her daughter, Karen, and the 1976 Olympian Sheila Ingram. Mrs. McDaniel became well known in the track arena, locally and nationally. She had another first as the African American female president of the Potomac Valley AAU. She chaperoned the 1988 Olympic team in Seoul, Korea, as well as many other international track and field teams for over 20 years. She was selected to carry the torch in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia, as it passed through the District of Columbia, but was unable due to failing health. Mrs. McDaniel was the Community Service Coordinator at Howard University Hospital (HUH) where she worked for 42 years. Over the years, she received numerous awards for her outstanding service track and field and as Coordinator of Community Service of HUH.
Vernon Ham, Sr. affectionately known as “Ham”, was born on May 27, 1932, in Winston Salem, North Carolina. He moved with his family to Washington, DC, when he was 16 years of age and has resided in the Brookland community for over 48 years with his loving wife, Virginia. He has been married for 55 years plus and has partnered in rearing seven children, 21 grandchildren, and 32 great-grandchildren, and one great-great grandchildren.
Mr. Ham worked for the District of Columbia’s Department of Public Works for 38 years. While employed by the DC Government and after his retirement, he led various sports teams for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Washington, DC, including basketball, football, softball, and baseball. For more than 20 years, he coached and assisted coaching various athletic teams in the Capitol Hill, Brookland, and Woodridge communities, including the Woodridge Pioneers and the Woodridge Warriors. Coach Ham led and assisted many teams in winning championships in the city, division, region, and nation.
It is a belief in the Ham family that God creates each of us with a passion and a purpose for our lives. Ham’s passion above all other was watching, discussing, playing, and coaching sports. As a young man, he was a superior baseball player and had dreams of playing professionally. Unfortunately, he suffered a permanent injury to his arm and realized his dream of his personal success in sports would never be achieved. However, his passion and purpose never changed, just the vehicle to see his dream come true.
Coach Ham poured his heart and soul into mentoring young men and women who wanted to fulfill their dreams. Although it wasn’t the desire of every child to b a professional player, the values they would require to play sports were also the values they needed throughout their lives. His messages and examples as a coach were clear; be responsible for your actions, be on time, work hard, do your best, don’t settle, be consistent, persevere, keep your word, and work as a team. As a humble man, he may not have realized the impact he had on the lives of the children, parents, and families with whom he had had contact in life. However, it has often been said that if it weren’t for his lessons and commitment to the lives and well-being of his teams, many young men and women would have had different paths in life. Thus, he has honorably impacted the lives of hundreds of children in our city who needed a coach, father, grandfather, and friend.