The memories were special

Published 8:17 am Tuesday, March 6, 2012

What a great night of special memories.

That was my feeling as I left Saturday night’s second-annual Decatur County Sports Hall of Fame induction banquet at Bainbridge College’s Charles H. Kirbo Regional Center.

I had the pleasure of covering three of the honorees — nationally renown lady bass angler Pam Martin-Wells, who is the leading money winner in women’s professional bass fishing; coach Ralph Jones, who coached the Bainbridge High School Bearcats to the 1982 State Class AAA football championship; and coach Alfred Gant, who led the Hutto High School Tigers to state basketball championships in 1953 and 1959, and other Tigers basketball and football teams to numerous district championships.

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The other, former outstanding Bearcats and University of Georgia Bulldogs running back Fred Barber, I watched during his Bearcats playing career.

They all talked about having mentors who helped them along the way. For Martin-Wells it was her parents and grandparents, her husband Steven and the late Jack Wingate — a fellow member of the Legends of the Outdoors Hall of Fame and a member of the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame.

For Jones, who also led the Cairo High School Syrupmakers to the 1990 State Class AAA football championship, and was inducted into the Grady County Sports Hall of Fame in 2010, it was his late parents, his wife Sharon, his son Ralph and his youth and Cairo High School coaches in Grady County along with all the administrators and teachers he worked with as an award-winning Decatur County School Superintendent.

Speaking for the late coach Gant, his brother, Dr. James Lamer Gant, retired dean of education at Florida State University, said his brother’s major inspirations were his wife Nancy and his daughters Debbie Gant Sullen, Gloria Gant and Nancy Gant Gray.

One of Barber’s major influences, in addition to his family, was coach Spencer “Onion” Davis, a member of last year’s first Decatur County Sports Hall of Fame class.

While he is also a member of the University of Georgia Sports Hall of Fame and National Football Foundation College Hall of Fame, he said it’s really special to go into the same hall of fame that coach Davis is in.

“Coach Davis is really the one who got me started,” he said. ”He was there with me when I went into the University of Georgia Sports Hall of Fame.”

Barber also pointed out that, while the Bearcats had some outstanding seasons under coach Davis, including a 10-0 regular season in 1960, he also taught them great character lessons.

Coach Davis was a great coach and he led us to a lot of big wins, “Barber said. “I think, however, that the fact we made good grades and later became good husbands and fathers was even more important to him.”

Joe Crine is the sports editor of The Post-Searchlight. You can email him at