Speaking of Sports--Logan schools have made sportswriter welcome for five decades
By Jim Turner

Posted on January 29, 2023 8:59 PM

Exactly 52 years ago today, my first Speaking of Sports appeared in print in the News-Democrat. For perspective on how long ago that was, athletes in that first senior class I covered turn 70 this year.

Memories of that first year have been popping up in my mind leading up to my induction two nights ago into the Logan County Cougar Foundation Hall of Fame.

My family and I are immensely grateful to the Hall of Fame Committee for choosing me for this honor. It was a special night for us, one that I will always cherish.

In that first column, I quoted by dear friend, Dr. Bill Webb, as saying, “Letting you write sports is like giving a Peeping Tom a stepladder.” I’m pleased to say 52 years later, I have gotten to talk with Bill in person both yesterday and today. And I readily admit, I have been peeping in on local athletes’ and coaches’ accomplishments and disappointments ever since.

When I became sports editor that week, I was in my third year teaching and coaching at my alma mater, Russellville High School. More significantly, I was a fixture on the Panther basketball bench providing statistical information to the head coaches—then Wayne Mullen but prior to that Dennis Doyle and afterwards Mickey Meguiar. I was also the school’s tennis coach, both for the boys and for the girls team which Principal Roy Reynolds had allowed me to create.

Coaches, players and fans could have resented that a Black and Gold guy would be writing about their teams, but they didn’t. I was welcomed cordially and graciously.

Why was that, I’ve been wondering lately. Why have I been so welcome that five decades later, it was the Logan County Schools who deemed me worthy of being in their Hall of Fame?  I think I’ve come up with the answer(s).

First of all, the News-Democrat and the new Logan Leader were without a sportswriter at that time. Dan Knotts, Lon Sosh and Tom Kirkpatrick had written sports over the years, but neither was doing it then. I haven’t looked at previous editions of the paper lately, but I have a feeling that county games weren’t being covered much.

Second, Russellville High students were getting much more ink than were those in the county. A column had appeared for many years called “All About Young People,” but it was really All About Russellville Young People.” WRUS had a show that I believe was called “Teen Town Party” on weekends. Almost all of the hosts were RHS students.

From the beginning I wanted to give all six schools’ teams equal coverage during basketball and baseball seasons. That couldn’t be true in the fall, since Russellville had fielded a football team for over 35 years, and no school in the county system played football until LCHS did over a dozen years after I became sports editor.

The coaches made me welcome. This was four seasons before girls basketball began. Boys basketball coaches in that first season were Howard Gorrell at Auburn, Gordon Pogue at Chandlers, Bob Birdwhistell at Lewisburg, Earle Shelton at Olmstead, Tommy Cummings at Adairville, and Mullen at Russellville. All of them but Cummings made me feel at home. I don’t have any bad memories of the Adairville coach, but I don’t recall us ever talking much, and he left after winning the district championship the next year.

Mullen and the late Coach Birdwhistell are among the best friends I ever had. Howard and Bob later became my bosses as principals when I taught at LCHS for five years in the 80s. Gordon was very cordial to me and later his son—Nashville multi-talented sports media celebrity Greg Pogue—became a close friend. Earle Shelton is a local and area sports legend. Before consolidation, I added Logan coaches Barry Reed, Larry Jordan, Jim Thompson, Tim Owens, Gerald Sinclair, Bob Nylin, Gary Shelton and David Billingsley among others to the close friends list. Olmstead’s oft-winning girls coach Lugene Rogers had been one of my first tennis standouts at RHS.

Administrators were also very good to me, including Adairville’s Jesse Richards, Auburn’s Butch Garrett, Chandlers’ Morris Shelton, Olmstead’s W.N. Alexander and Logan County Superintendent Bob Piper.  

I also was brought up to respect Logan County Schools. My mother, Marie Turner, who was also an RHS graduate, began her teaching career at Logan elementary schools at Gordonsville and Oakville before teaching at Auburn High School for several years. Then she left teaching for 10 years to devote herself to being a farm wife and mother. Some of “Miss Marie’s” students at Auburn may never have forgiven me for being born, although I know that two of them—the very influential Nancy and Bill Gaines—smoothed my transition into being a sports editor for the entire county.

In Mother’s tenth year at home, Mr. Piper got her started substitute teaching in the county. She spent much of her time at Lewisburg High School, and she often told me what good students were there, including Larry Forgy, Joe Milam and twins Bob and Bill Franklin. Of course, Larry almost became governor, the twins excelled in medicine and school administration, and Joe gave up school administration to succeed Marie Turner as environmental science teacher at RHS.

Also, I had gotten to know several Logan County students during my youth through 4-H Club activities. Among my best friends before high school were Frankie Ham, Carolyn Mallory (Ham), Joe and Gary Holman, Alice Penick and Jackie Atkinson—all of Olmstead, Adairville’s Sandra Adams (Walton), Auburn’s Pat Pillow (Hatterman) and Chandlers’ Michael and Marvin Maxwell, Ginger Tynes and Troy Costello. I also respected several 4-H members from the county who were a little older than I, including Sue Williams (Spurlock) and Pat Cauley (Foster), Tina Hancock (Dawson) of Olmstead, Bill Davis of Adairville, and Robert Earl Chyle of Auburn. I’m sure I’m leaving several out, but from this I learned that Russellville and Logan kids could get along well together,

When I was chosen to represent Russellville American Legion at Bluegrass Boys State in the summer before my senior year, Auburn American Legion sent to AHS athletes, Charlie Barnett and Barry Perkins, as their representatives. We travelled together and developed friendships that have lasted a lifetime.

One other story: My first sports hero was a basketball player from the county, Auburn’s Johnny McCarley. Our parents were good friends and we often were at church together. John is five years older than I am. I remember my parents and I were driving to the 1959 district tournament finals for an Auburn-Russellville game. I had been brought up a Panther fan, but I said, “You know, I might be for Auburn tonight. Johnny has been sick and he’s going to try to play tonight. Auburn is a little school, and I kind of feel sorry for them.”

Mother answered, “You can be for Auburn if you want, but let me tell you… you don’t ever have to feel sorry for Auburn. They can take care of themselves,” Forty-two years later, our son Trey became an Auburn basketball player, Johnny led Coach Ronnie Clark’s Auburn Tigers to the win, although Coach Jim Young’s Panthers featured four future Russellville Hall of Famers—Johnny Guion, Dicky Bagby, George Hill and Wayne Mullen.

The first college basketball game I ever saw in person wasn’t at Western or at UK but at David Lipscomb College. We went to see Johnny play. I knew from that night on I loved college basketball and I wanted to go to college at Lipscomb.

Later John and I taught together at RHS, we coached against each other in the finals of the regional tennis tournament, I went to his daughter Jane’s wedding in Glasgow, and our family was there when my wife Elaine’s dad, Dr. Robert Hooper, officiated the wedding of John McCarley, who was a widower, to Diane Dugan, widow of Lipscomb’s baseball national champion coach Ken Dugan.

So it was especially pleasing to me that John McCarley and I were inducted together in the Logan County Athletic Hall of Fame Friday. It was like a family reunion.

In fact, one of the other inductees, the late Ed ‘Fido’ Jones of Adairville, played in the first district championship game I covered in 1971, which was won by Lewisburg and Coach Birdwhistell.

Several of the players on those teams that first year have become my good friends, including Barry Silvey, Greg Shelton, James ‘Bubba’ Grimes, Danny Finch, Steve McCarley, Russell Offutt, Hal Freeman, Keith Northern and my neighbor, Gary Johnson. I’ve covered many of their children in sports, including David Danks’ son, Hall of Famer Zak Danks, Raymond Mason’s son Montez; Hal Stokes’ son-in-law, Nathan Thompson; Charles Wells sons Bubba and Mike; Mike White’s son Austin; James Appling’s son Travis; Steve McCarley’s sons Billy and Daniel; Mike Brady’s grandson, Caleb Bruner; Earle Shelton’s son Eddie Shelton and grandson Ryan Bailey; Bob Birdwhistell’s son Joe; Wayne Mullen’s sons, Jason and Casey; and Mickey Meguiar’s son Michael, daughter Lori Meguiar Bouldin, and granddaughter Ann-Meguiar Bouldin.

My RHS schoolmate, newspaper fellow worker and dear friend Jeannie Leedom Bowles congratulated me on Facebook today but added kindly, “You’ll always be a Panther to me.”

I responded: “I’ve always been a Panther. I’m also a Cougar. I believe we all should support both schools except when they play each other. But it was Logan County which decided I was worthy to be in their Hall of Fame.”

Again, I’m grateful to the Logan County Hall of Fame Committee, Chairman Richard Holloman, and to all the Logan County players, parents, coaches and fans who have treated me like one of their own for over a half century.




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