Hall of Fame to honor top athletes

Published 9:44 pm Friday, August 27, 2010

The Decatur County Sports Hall of Fame will honor people who have honored us through their outstanding athletic accomplishments, Steve Bench told the Lions Club Wednesday.

“Counties that surround us like Grady, Mitchell, Thomas, Dougherty and Colquitt, already have sports halls of fame and there is no reason why we shouldn’t have one,” said Bench, who a Bainbridge High School Bearcats offensive line coach and is chairman of the newly formed Decatur County Sports Hall of Fame board of directors.

“We have had Decatur Countians who have played in the National Football League and in Major League Baseball. We have also had a motorcross champion, a National Bass Fishing Hall of Fame member, the defensive coordinator on a national champion college football team, cheerleading champions, athletes who have excelled in basketball and track both here and around the world, and many more.”

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The national champion defensive coordinator Bench referred to was Kirby Smart, defensive coordinator for the 2009 undefeated national champion University of Alabama Crimson Tide.

Smart was the 1993 Region 1AAAA defensive player of the year with the Bearcats, and an All-Southeastern Conference defensive back with the University of Georgia Bulldogs. He is the son of former Bearcats and Rabun County High School Wildcats head football coach Sonny and Sharon Smart.

“I have talked with City Manager Chris Hobby about possibly permanently placing the Hall of Fame in a wing of the welcome center,” Bench said.

He said the honorees will receive a plaque at the Hall of Fame banquet each year and a duplicate plaque will be placed in the Hall of Fame’s permanent location.

“We want to make the Hall of Fame a first-class operation, and to do that we need the full support of the city and county, which we are confident we will have,” Bench said.

During a comment session following Bench’s address, Lions Treasurer Cotton Hester talked about his remembrances of coach Spencer “Onion” Davis’ Bearcats 1960’s running back tandem of Fred Barber and Ed Varner.

“Fred and Ed were like Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside,” Hester said. “Fred would run up the middle for good yardage and Ed would take it around the end for good yardage.”

Members of the Hall of Fame board of directors are Mike Harrell, Ralph Jones, who led the 1982 Bearcats and 1990 Cairo High School Syrupmakers to state football championships and was recently inducted into the Grady County Sports Hall of Fame, Wayne and Joan Shiver, Keith Lyle, LeAnn Harrell Inlow, Larry Clark, BHS sports statistician Chip Ariail, Brian Parker and Larry Ware.

“We are currently taking nominations for our first Hall of Fame class, which we will induct in March. We want to induct four members this coming March and four more in our second class the following March.

Nomination applications are available at Bainbridge High School, the Bainbridge-Decatur County Chamber of Commerce, the welcome center and on The Post-Searchlight web site at www.thepost-searchlight.com.

“When we receive the applications, we can do research on the nominees,” Bench said.