Captain Boatman was KFD mainstay

Betty BeanObits, South Knox

William A. “Boaty” Boatman’s first nickname was “Chugg.” That’s what the kids in his Lonsdale neighborhood called him, because he ran with a peculiar gait – he was born with clubfeet.


But he was a determined kid who never let that stop him, and he developed into an accomplished baseball player for the Rule High School Golden Bears. His coach, the legendary coach Sid Hatfield, became his friend and mentor, and later a teammate on the Knoxville Prospectors in the Stan Musial League, winning the 1964 National Championship in Battle Creek, Michigan. Boaty was a star catcher.

He passed away at home on June 24, 2020, and had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

Boaty was made friends easily and kept them for life. He was also a lifelong lover of sports, and when his baseball days were done, he became an avid golfer and had several special friends with whom he regularly played. He loved spending time at Norris Lake with family and friends and loved traveling, and particularly trips with his fellow Elks to sporting events like the British Open and the Army-Navy football game. He was a huge fan of the Tennessee Vols and the New York Yankees.

His brother-in-law Billy Stokes said that he and Boaty, along with Boaty’s son Andy and friend Billy Clabough had planned to go to the British Open in 2021, but were forced then to move that trip back to 2022 by the pandemic.

“Boaty went to the Army-Navy game with me, and we went to tons of Tennessee’s away games, especially Auburn and Alabama,” Stokes said. Billy Mullins and David Brooks from the Elks Club were also among Boaty’s favorite road trip companions.

Boaty was a firefighter in a time when Rule High graduates dominated the city fire and police departments. Fire hall politics were as hardball as his games on the diamond had been, and Boaty had risen to the rank of captain when he retired with 38 years of service. Most firefighters had side jobs in those days, and Boaty delivered furniture for Miller’s on his off-days to better provide for his family.

Boaty’s wife, Elaine Stokes Boatman, (Billy’s sister) died of pancreatic cancer in 1991. Billy said that Boaty continued to care for his in-laws (Billy’s parents). Billy’s father died in 1999, and Boaty continued to visit Billy’s mother almost every morning until her death in 2013.

Boaty was also preceded in death by his mother Grace Boatman, brothers Jim and Walter Boatman and sister Virginia Rolen. He is survived by daughter Karen (Gary) Ellis and son Andrew (Meredith) Boatman and grandchildren Kristina and Rebecca Ellis, brother David (Carol) Boatman and sister Carolyn Boatman.

He leaves brothers-in-law Robert (Brenda) Stokes and Billy (Bay) Stokes, special cousin Carolyn (Curt) Naumann, numerous nieces and nephews and a host of friends, most especially his brothers and sisters of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, Lodge No. 160 and fellow Knoxville firefighters, past and present. Due to COVID-19 concerns, the family regrets that no services or ceremony will be held at the present time. A Celebration of the Life of William A. Boatman will be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers or other memorials, Boaty specifically requested donations to the BPOE 160 Youth Activities Fund or the Shoe Fund administered by the Lodge, 5600 Lonas Rd. Knoxville, TN 37909. Full obituary here.

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