Sunday is Billy’s special dayPublished 4:35pm Tuesday, August 7, 2012
This Sunday will be a special day for my dear friend Billy Simmons Jr., a dedicated employee of Bainbridge Walmart.
Born in Saigon, Vietnam, where his late father Billy Simmons Sr. was serving as a Green Beret with the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, on August 12, 1972, Billy will celebrate his 40th birthday on Sunday.
Billy, who has cerebral palsy, came to America with his father and mother, Nguyen Pham, at the age of 6. Billy, his father, mother and brother Dan moved to Montgomery, Ala., close to his father’s Greenville, Ala., home. They later moved to Tampa, Fla., where he had surgery to stretch his hamstrings at the Shriners Crippled Children’s Hospital.
Billy is a 1992 graduate of Tampa’s Gaither High School, where he was manager of the football team. His senior year he was voted homecoming king by his classmates.
An avid University of Alabama Crimson Tide football fan, Billy wrote his high school senior English term paper on legendary late Alabama head football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant.
An active member of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church and the Bainbridge Lions Club, Billy was named the Bainbridge Kiwanis Club’s “Decatur County Man of the Year” in 2011.
His physical condition never deterred him from pursuing car racing, the sport he loves most.
At his apartment, there are prominently displayed trophies he received in driving competitions as a youngster. His favorite driver is Dale Earnhardt Jr. His late father, who passed away in 1994, took him to his race competitions.
After moving to Tallahassee, with his brother Dan, Billy attended Tallahassee Community College and Kaiser College. He earned a degree in computer graphics from Kaiser College.
Before moving to Bainbridge, where he initially worked with Goodwill Industries, he worked as a computer instructor in Tallahassee.
In 2008, the Bainbridge High School Bearcats baseball team dedicated their annual program to him and presented him with a baseball autographed by head coach Scott Miller and the other coaches and players, after he threw out the season’s ceremonial first pitch.
In addition to his autographed baseball, Billy’s substantial sports memorabilia collections also includes basketballs signed by Bearcats and Lady Cats basketball players and coaches.
He also has an autographed picture of popular late Atlanta Braves announcer Skip Caray, which he obtained a few years ago on a visit to a Braves game at Turner Field.
Among his most prized possessions are a football and cap signed by former Bainbridge High School Bearcats defensive back James Butler, soon after he and his New York Giants teammates defeated the New England Patriots 17-14 in Super Bowl XLII in Glendale, Ariz., in 2008.
If you see Billy this week, give him a high five and wish him happy birthday.
Joe Crine is the sports editor of The Post-Searchlight. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.