William “Bill” Merner was born January 31, 1915 in Palmerville, North Carolina moving to Hopewell, VA at an early age and graduated from Hopewell High School in 1934. He played football for the Blue Devils from 1931 to 1934. Merner entered East Carolina University in 1937, receiving his BS degree.
Merner worked at Fort Lee as a teacher and volunteer for the Army in 1942, served in the 82nd Airborne Division and coached them to a 22-0 record until 1948.
Merner was elevated to Head Varsity Coach at Hopewell High School where he served from 1949 to 1958. His first three years 1949-51 going undefeated with 10 and 0 records. Merner’s overall record with Hopewell was 74 wins, 25 losses and 1 tie. His Blue Devils scored 26,560 points against its opposition’s 945 points.
On November 12, 1951, Merner was honored by his hometown with a “Bill Merner Night” and the Hopewell news dedicated their November 23, 1951 edition to him, his staff and the football team.
In 1965, the Hopewell High School field where the Blue Devils played its home games was renamed “Merner Field”. Merner coached until 1958 when a heart attack forced him to give up the thing he loved most at the early age of 43. He passed away in 1965 of a heart attack.