Hamilton County Councilman Jim Belden, a member of the Indiana Football Hall of Fame who coached Carmel High School to four state championships, died on Sunday at 77 after a battle with cancer.
Belden, a Republican who had recently filed to seek reelection, brought the same team approach to working in government that he did to coaching, said Hamilton County Commissioner Steve Dillinger.
“When there was controversy on the council, Jimmy went into his coaching mentality,” Dillinger said. “He had a unique ability to pull people together.”
Dillinger, a friend who had known Belden for decades, called him “one of the truly great Hamilton County teachers, coaches, and government officials in the history of Hamilton County. Everything he did was for everybody else.”
Belden, who was an all-state fullback at Shortridge High School in Indianapolis and an all-conference fullback at Butler University, started his coaching career at Westfield High School in 1964, according to the Indiana Football Hall of Fame.
He moved to Noblesville High School in 1967, where he took a struggling program to a prominent one that was twice ranked number one and finished as the state runner-up in 1979.
“The Noblesville program was way down when Jim came, at an all-time low,” said Dillinger, who at the time was coaching younger boys. “He went 0-10 his first year, 5-5 the next year and then never went less than 7-3 after that.”
He moved to Carmel in 1980 where he would take teams to four more state championships—in 1980, 1981, 1986 and 1989—and win them all.
Belden retired in 1996 with a career record of 272-76-2.
He got his political start in 1992 at Dillinger’s urging and served on the county council for 23 years. He was president of the Hamilton County Solid Waste Board but his work happened largely behind the scenes, Dillinger said.
Belden helped ensure the expansion of Ivy Tech Community College to Noblesville with a vote to provide funding for the project and was a big proponent of planned upgrades on State Road 37, Dillinger said.
“He did the right things for the right reasons,” Dillinger said. “He never did anything for self-promotion or self-motivation or for political gain. That was not even in his mentality.”
The entire Carmel football program mourns the passing of Jim Belden, an inspirational and beloved man.— John Hebert (@coach_hebert) February 14, 2016
It's a very sad day in Carmel Football.We just got word that Jim Belden has passed away early this morning.�� pic.twitter.com/jzKjpBU2Mz— Erin schmitt-beery (@erin_beery) February 14, 2016
Coach Belden- a huge influence in our house.— CarolineClayton (@NHS_NPHS) February 14, 2016
my brother played right tackle on Carmel's state champ football team 88 https://t.co/XXDL2BSG49