Monday, August 19, 2019

 

            


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Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame Inducts 11 Monday Night in the Class of 2019

     MONTGOMERY – Eleven major contributors to prep athletics in Alabama were inducted into the 29th class of the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame Monday night. The 2019 class, which included an “old-timer,” were enshrined at a banquet held at the Montgomery Renaissance Hotel and Spa Convention Center.
      Inducted were: football coaches Phil Lazenby, David Lowery, Willie Carl Martin, Billy Odom and Ronnie Sikes; basketball coaches  Carolyn Wright and Scheussler Ware; track coach Claborn Campbell; baseball coach Mark Mincher; basketball official Johnny Robertson; and longtime coach and administrator Reynolds “R.C.” Cook, chosen in the old-timers’’ division. Mr. Cook is deceased. His son Stan Cook represented his father at the ceremonies.
    Coach Wright gave a resounding acceptance speech for what she described as a very humble and fortunate group.
      “We are a group of 11 individuals with devout faith who all shared the same goals, but we did it in many different ways,” she said. “This class of inductees have been mentors for coaches and teachers throughout the state of Alabama.
   “How did we get here? We have been truly blessed. We all have the same goals and we all had the same passions. Yet, we all expressed it in different ways. We all have the same testimony … with a lot of praying and God on our side we were able to endure together over 350 years of service to school systems all across the state of Alabama. As we take a look back, we can truly see how we were all guided.
   “We got here because our hearts and souls said yes. Yes, we wanted to change lives. Yes, we wanted to produce productive citizens to give back to our communities. And yes, we wanted to instill integrity. We wanted to create in our students a mindset of fortitude.”
       Sponsors of the Hall of Fame program are the Alabama High School Athletic Directors & Coaches Association (AHSADCA) and the AHSAA. The corporate partners include Alabama Power, ALFA, Cadence Bank, Coca-Cola, Encore Rehabilitation, Jack’s, Russell Athletic, TeamIP and Wilson Sporting Goods.
    Carolyn Wright accepted for the Class of 2019. Veteran sportscaster Jeff Shearer emceed the banquet. The NFHS Network live-streamed the banquet over the NFHS Network School Broadcast Program platform.
      The first class was inducted in 1991. These 11 new inductees will run the total enshrined into the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame to 353.

OPTIONAL BIOS ON EACH INDUCTEE

       A profile of each selectee:
CLABORN CAMPBELL: Campbell, 65, graduated from Cold Spring High School and Southern Benedictine College – then returned as a high school teacher and coach spending the bulk of his years in education at his alma mater Cold Springs (1979-83 & 1999-2018). He also had coaching stints at Winston County and West Point.
   Considered one of the top track coaches in the state, he guided the Panthers’ boys to two state track titles and had four teams finish runner-up. The Cold Springs girls’ track team won 17 Cullman County championships. He also directed the Cold Springs girls and boys to three state cross country crowns and had seven runner-up finishes.
     A dedicated coach and devout man of faith, he has been inducted into the Cullman County Sports Hall of Fame, was an AHSAA Making A Difference Award recipient in 2016, was selected NFHS Alabama Cross Country Coach of the Year in 2017 (girls) and 2016 (boys). U.S. Track and Field named him Boys’ Cross Country Coach of the Year in 2014.

REYNOLDS G. COOK (OLDTIMER Division): Cook, now deceased, was born in 1913 and graduated from Sidney Lanier High School in 1933. He earned his college degree from Troy State Teachers College in 1950. He earned his master’s in 1964.
   He began his teaching and coaching at Williams School in Montgomery, then moved to Union Springs High School in 1952 where he remained in various capacities through 1974.
    He coached Union Springs’ only undefeated 10-0 football team in 1956 – earning him Birmingham Post-Herald Class 1A Coach of the Year. His 1957 team was 9-1 and participated in the prestigious Peanut Bowl at Dothan. As a basketball coach he had two teams go undefeated through the regular season – combining for a 46-2 record in 1963-64 and 1964-65.
    He also coached baseball and helped bring the Alabama Lions Club regional East-West Baseball Game to Union Springs for several years. He also coached Union Springs to signature baseball victories over his much larger alma mater Sidney Lanier and its rival Robert E. Lee. He founded the youth baseball programs for Union Springs and remained active for many years.
   He left coaching to become the Superintendent of Education in Bullock County – guiding the school system through 1974. He also served as president of the TSU Alumni Association and was District Governor of the Alabama Lions International.
  
PHIL LAZENBY:
A graduate of Bessemer High School (1968) and Samford University (1974), Lazenby, 68, also received a master’s in education from the University of Montevallo in 1979. He played on Samford University’s 1971 National Championship football team and was selected Most Valuable Defensive Player for SU in 1973.
    He embarked on a long-time career in teaching and coaching, first as an assistant football and head tennis coach at Bessemer’s Jess Lanier High School (1976-1980). He then moved to Mountain Brook where he served as defensive coordinator and assistant principal (1981-90).
    He became a head coach, first at Guntersville (1991-95), was at Southside-Gadsden for one year in 1996, then moved to Benjamin Russell (1997-2000) and currently is at Bayside Academy (2007-present). He spent 2001-2006 at UMS-Wright as assistant coach and strength & conditioning coach. His overall head-coaching record is 169-89 with two state championship game appearances at Benjamin Russell and one at Bayside Academy. His teams had just two losing seasons in 21 years and have reached the state playoffs 17 times.
    Lazenby coached as an assistant and head coach in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game, was ASWA Coach of the Year in 1997, 2011 and 2015 and has served as a past president of the Alabama Football Coaches Association. Lazenby was inducted into the Samford Athletic Hall of Fame in 2018. He served in the U.S. Army infantry reaching the rank of First Sergeant with tours in Europe and Central America.

DAVID LOWERY:
A native of Butler County, Lowery, 53, graduated from Georgiana High School in 1983, Troy University in 1988 and earned a master’s at AUM in 1998. Hs first teaching/coaching position was at Evergreen High School in 1988. He moved to Elba High School as assistant coach and defensive coordinator from 1989-1998. He also was head baseball coach leading the Tigers to the playoff semifinals in 1993 and 1994. He was head football coach two years (1995-1996).
   He then moved to Brantley High School where he was head football coach and athletic director from 1999-2013. He had an amazing run compiling a 156-27 overall record and 88-3 region record. His teams won the Class 1A state football title in 2009 and 2012 and finished runner-up in 1999 and 2005.
   Lowery was named ASWA Class 1A Coach of the Year in 1999 and ALFCA Class 1A Coach of the Year in 2012. Brantley High School named the football field David Lowery Stadium in 2013, and he was inducted into the Wiregrass Sports Hall of Fame in 2014.


WILLIE CARL MARTIN:
The Alexander City native and outstanding high school football lineman graduated from Laurel High School in 1969. He attended Northeastern Oklahoma on football scholarship. He was selected in the summer of 1969 to participate in the North-South All-Star Game – as one of the first three black participants in the game’s history.
   After a successful playing career in the Canadian Football League (CFL), Martin, 67, returned to Alexander City and began a teaching and coaching career at Benjamin Russell High School that spanned the next 25 years. He served as an assistant football coach from 1985-2001 directing a defense that allowed only 12.32 points a game over a 15-year period. He served as head football coach from 2001-2006. He compiled a 51-24 record during that span and captured the school’s only state football title in in his first year in 2001.
    Martin’s leadership expanded to the AHSAA where he served on the District 4 Board and Central Board from 2003-2007.
    He was hired in 2007 to serve on the University of Alabama football staff as Director of Player Development, a role he kept until 2015 when he retired. In May of that year, Alexander City celebrated Willie Carl Martin Day (on May 12) as the city honored the native son who served as a trailblazer throughout his career.
 
   ,       
MARK MINCHER:
Mincher graduated from Hazel Green High School in Madison County in 1975, got his college degree from Memphis State University in 1975 and later earned a master’s in administration from Alabama A&M.
   The son of former Major League baseball standout Don Mincher embarked on a career in education in 1980 that lasted more than three decades. He coached football, boys’ and girls’ basketball and baseball at Monrovia Middle School for two years before moving to Sparkman High School in 1982. He became head baseball coach in 1983. He moved to Huntsville High School as head baseball coach in 1985, a position he held for the next 28 years. He compiled a 576-353 baseball-coaching record with 12 city championships, eight area titles, 18 state playoff appearances and one Class 6A state championship (2011).
   Mincher also served as HHS athletic director during that time and became an important mentor for other teachers and coaches, not only at his school but throughout Huntsville, Madison County and the state.
    He was recognized as the Huntsville City baseball coach of the year numerous times, was named AlaBCA Coach of the Year (6A) and NFHS State Baseball Coach of the Year in 2011. Mincher was inducted into the Madison County Sports Hall of Fame in 2011. He was chosen HCPTA Secondary Principal of the Year in 2015.


BILLY ODOM: Odom, 68, graduated from Baker High School in Mobile in 1968 and from Mississippi College in 1972. He served as a teacher and head football coach at Baker High School for 14 seasons (1972-87), moved to Murphy as an assistant coach from 1989-91 and returned to head coaching at Alba High School from 1992-1997.
    His Alba team won the region title in 1994.
    Odom’s work as a coach and teacher was just part of his many contributions. He also played a key volunteer role in the development and administration of the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Football Game in Mobile from its inception in 1988. He has been a key administrative coach for that game ever since – heading into his 33rd year. He has also served as the South team manager for the Senior Bowl College All-Star Game for the last three decades.
    Recognized as one of Mobile County’s most dependable volunteers, he received the prestigious Bob Pannone Service Award in 2017 and was recognized by the L’Arche Mobile Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012

 

JOHNNY ROBERTSON (Contest Official): This Sidney Lanier 1965 graduate has been one of the state’s top basketball officials more than 50 years. Robertson, 71, served in 17 of 18 AHSAA state basketball tournaments from 1982-1999.
    Recognized by the his peers and the AHSAA for his teaching skills, he served as AHSAA state rules clinician from 1981-1999, has been a Regional Tournament coordinator ever since the regional and state final four basketball format was instituted in 1994 and has been the South Central District Director for Officials since 1999.  He has been serving as State Rules Interpreter since 2008. Robertson helped institute the state officials’ camps and has been the State Camp Director since 2008. He received the AHSAA Distinguished Service Award in 2008.
    Robertson also officiated high school football from 1972-1987, and he officiated baseball from 1972-1974.
   Active in church and civic affairs in Montgomery, he has served in various positions of civic leadership including serving as president of the Kiwanis Club of Montgomery, was Division 9 Lt. Governor for the Kiwanis from 2007-2009 and has also served as president of the Boys and Girls Clubs of the River Region.

RONNIE SIKES: A native of Randolph County, Sikes, 59, graduated from Randolph County High School in Wedowee in 1977 and from Auburn University in 1981. He also attended Southern Union Community College and received a master’s degree from Auburn University (1987).
    The veteran football coach began his career in high school education in 1981 with stints at Valley High School (1981-1984), Notasulga (1984-1988), Mortimer Jordan (1988-1990), and Beulah (1990-1992) before returning to Notasulga in 1992. He served as head football coach for the Blue Devils for 12 years compiling a 91-51 record. He then moved to Lanett from 2004-2009. He has coached and taught at Georgia public schools since 2013. While at Notasulga his teams compiled a 25-game winning streak with his 2001 team capturing Class 1A state runner-up. He rebuilt the Lanett program in a short time becoming the first coach to lead the Panthers to a 12-win season since former AHSAA Executive Director Dan Washburn, a 2000 Inductee into the HOF, led Lanett to a 12-1 record in 1976.
    Sikes coached in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game twice and also coached in the North-South All-Star Game. He was named O-A News Coach of the Year in 1998.
 

SCHUESSLER WARE: Anniston High School’s long-time boys’ head basketball coach graduated from AHS in 1974 and Talladega College in 1978. He earned a master’s degree in elementary education from Jacksonville State University.
   Ware, 60, began teaching and coaching at his high school alma mater in 1979 – spending his entire career with the Anniston City Schools. He became head basketball coach in 1997 and for the next 20 years his teams compiled a 420-168 record with two state championships, the Class 5A title in 2002 and the 4A championship in 2009. Anniston made five State Final Four appearances, five Northeast Regional titles and seven Calhoun County championships during his tenure.
   He was chosen Calhoun County Coach of the Year nine times, AHSAA Class 5A (2002) and Class 4A (2009) Coach of the Year, and saw 12 of his teams win 20 or more games in a season.  Only one team had a losing record but still won the area title, and two years later the program rebounded to go 27-6 and reach the Northeast Regional tourney.
   He is active in his church and community serving as an Elder at First United Presbyterian Church.


CAROLYN WRIGHT: Mrs. Wright, 62, graduated from Tuskegee Institute High School in 1974 and from Alabama State University in 1978. She earned a master’s in specific learning disability.
   She has spent the last 40 years teaching and coaching, primarily at Central High School in Phenix City. She became the head girls’ basketball coach at Central in 1991 and finished the 2019 season with a 517-293 record. She guided the Lady Red Devils to a 26-4 record in 2016-17 and a berth in the Class 7A State Tournament after winning the Central Regional title. Her teams have had just two losing seasons and finished 29-5 in 2005 to set a school girls’ record for basketball wins in a season.
   Wright, who also coaches volleyball at Central, served as girls’ track coach from 1992-2007 with 14 individuals or relay teams winning state event titles. Her volleyball team reached the Super Regional tourney in 2014.
     She serves in several other leadership roles include department chair for the health and PE department (1991-2008) at Central, and is also currently assistant athletic director. She served on the AHSAA Strategic Planning Committee in 2016.
    Her husband Bobby Wright, the Central boys’ basketball coach, was inducted into the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame in 2015. With over 600 wins, the husband-wife duo have more basketball games than any other husband-wife coaching duo state history. The couple now have the distinction of being just the second husband-wife tandem to be selected to be enshrined in the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame. The first were Tom and Lynette Calvin.
   



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