Four nominated for Decatur County Sports Hall of Fame

Published 6:12 pm Friday, January 29, 2016

Four outstanding Decatur County sports figures will be inducted into the Decatur County Sports Hall of Fame on Saturday, March 19, at the Bainbridge High School cafeteria.

Inductees are the late Charles Bess, former outstanding Attapulgus High School and Bainbridge High School head basketball coach, one of his outstanding players LaRae Davis, who played with the Florida State University Seminoles under head coach Pat Kennedy, Mallory McRae, a two-time Bainbridge High School Bearcats state tennis champion, and Ozell Swain, a top athlete at Attapulgus Mount Moriah High School from 1966 through 1970.

There will be a meet and greet session at 6 p.m. and the banquet will begin at 7 pm. Tickets are $20, and are available at Bainbridge High School and Parker Paints.

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Ralph Jones, who led the Bainbridge High School Bearcats to the State Class AAA football championship and the Cairo High School Syrupmakers to the 1990 State Class AAAA football championship and is a member of both the Decatur County and Grady County Sports Hall of Fames, said all four honorees are very worthy of induction.

“Coach Charles Bess, Mallory McRae, LaRae Davis and Ozell Swain were all outstanding on the field of sports and were also great role models for the young people in their day,” coach Jones said

Bess coached two state championship teams at Cherokee High School in Canton, Georgia, before taking over the BHS Bearcats basketball program in 1970. He later was Decatur County School System superintendent.

Decatur County Commissioner Russell Smith, who was a senior center on coach Bess’s 1965 Attapulgus High School Bulldogs team, praised Bess for his coaching ability.

“Coach Bess was an outstanding coach who emphasized fundamentals and supported his team,” Smith recalled. “In 1965, there was a lot of outstanding Class A teams in the Albany High School Christmas Tournament. In a pre-story on The Albany High School sports page, they ran a headline that said ‘Where is Attapulgus?’ Our little Class C team went over to Albany and showed them where Attapulgus was by winning the tournament.”

Inductee Mallory McRae and Erman Tanjuatco won the state AAA doubles tennis championship for the Bearcats in the1986-87 school year and McRae also won the state class AAA doubles tennis championship during the 1988-89 school year.

McRae went on to become a Scholar Athlete and All-American and All South Atlantic Conference tennis player at Presbyterian College. He is currently head coach of the Grace Christian Academy Cougars basketball team.

Inductee Davis played for coach Bess’ Bearcats from 1978 to 1982 and he pedaled them to the State Class AAA semifinals in 1982. He played for coach Pat Kennedy’s Florida State University Seminoles from 1985 to 1987 and helped them to the National Invitation Tournament in 1987. He played one season for the Middle Tennessee State University Blue Hose before transferring to Florida State.

Inductee Swain, affectionately known as Cow, was a 6-foot-5-inch gentle giant during his playing days. He was from Amsterdam and he played before fans from Southwest Georgia and North Florida. As a youngster, he first played on an outside dirt court.

At Attapulgus Mount Moriah, Swain started at power forward as a sophomore and at center as a junior and center.