Virtual celebration held for legendary coach and NSU alum ‘Cadillac’ Harris
Long-time Virginia football coach Elisha “Cadillac” Harris attended his virtual retirement celebration, hosted by his wife, Bonita Billingsley Harris, to commemorate a long, successful football career both as a player and a coach.
Flourishing as a player first, Harris played football at Norfolk State College (currently, Norfolk State University), where he led the Spartans to secure three CIAA championships as team captain. Shortly after, in 1988, Harris was hired as the head coach at Green Run High School, becoming the first African American head coach in Virginia Beach. He went on to win two Virginia Beach district football championships, as well as becoming four-time coach of the year for the Virginia Beach school district, and three-time coach of the year for the Southeastern District. Harris was a coach and educator for over 40 years in Hampton Roads and North Carolina including Green Run High School, Elizabeth City State University, Norfolk State University, Maury High School, and Indian River High School
Harris was a coach and educator for over 40 years in the Chesapeake Public School district. Although he was 125-125 as a head coach, Cadillac Harris’ family and friends could only rave about what kind of man Harris was and still is. One of his former players, Keith Goganious from Green Run, stated that being coached by Harris was “like having a second father. He was always there and he looked out for everybody.” Goganious was one of Coach Cadillac’s student-athletes, as well as Matt Darby and Plaxico Burress. Harris prioritized education and was heavily focused on black males being able to succeed, with or without athletics, having helped send more than 100 athletes to college. One of Harris’ daughters had an emotional moment during the retirement ceremony, thanking her father for being a “survivor” and maintaining a positive attitude through all adversity.
Harris will always be remembered as a pioneer in high school athletics, as well as a monumental influence in the lives of hundreds of young men. As a mentor, husband, father, coach, and instructor, Harris’ impact on the people around him will never be forgotten. The time he now gets to spend with his wife of over 20 years, his daughters, and grandchildren is well-deserved. Bonita Billingsley Harris shared some heart-warming words during the ceremony, “I am so proud of all you have accomplished in your career, and I am grateful that you are still the same amazing, talented, God-fearing, and incredibly handsome man I met at that party 30 years ago.”