CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Curtis Price, a civic leader and one of the Kanawha Valley's most beloved athletes, died Thursday at his Charleston home after a long battle with cancer. He was 63.
Price starred on the 1968 boys basketball team at Charleston High School. Under Coach Lou Romano, the undefeated team won the state championship. Price went on to excel in basketball at West Virginia University, but a knee injury ended any dreams of a pro career.
Price later became the nation's youngest collegiate head basketball coach at age 21, when he took over the West Virginia State College men's team. He compiled a 76-60 record in five seasons at the school, and in 1973 the West Virginia Sportswriters' Association named him the top college coach in the state.
He also was an accomplished musician, playing in bands when he was in school and later with Ivor Sheff in the Production Company. The group briefly had a single that played on local radio stations.
After five years at State, he accepted a position with then-Gov. Jay Rockefeller's affirmative action program.
"Curtis Price was a dedicated West Virginian and public servant who worked hard to provide equal opportunities for all West Virginians," Rockefeller said in a written statement Thursday. "He was so important to me as an advisor and as a friend. Curtis passed away filled with pride knowing of the contributions he made to the state he loved. My thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Judy, and his family."
Price worked for Rockefeller's administration for seven years.
He was most recently employed with the Charleston Job Corps Center. He had worked for the Job Corps for more than 20 years in various positions across the country before eventually returning to his hometown as the director of the Charleston center.
Job Corps is an education and training program that helps low-income young people earn a high school diploma or a GED, and get job training.
Tena Jones, an executive secretary at Job Corps in Charleston who first met Price when he started his career decades ago, said he was passionate about the Job Corps mission.
"He wanted these kids to succeed and walk out of this program and be able to have a family, have a job and go into the workplace," she said. "He was not fake. He was a true genuine person when it came to his care, concern and his love for people."
Job Corps recently hired Willie Brown as the acting director of the center. Like Price, he comes in with more than 20 years experience with Job Corps.
Andy Richardson, an at-large member of Charleston City Council, said Price was his "childhood hero and adulthood friend."