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Garrison's vision and drive helped make Hall a reality

By Mark Edwards
DAILY Sports Editor

During the period 1989 - 2015 the MCSHOF, in concert with the Boys and Girls Club of Morgan County, has inducted 190 Morgan County sports heroes into the MCSHOF and raised more than $380,000.00.

One of the pioneers of the formation of the MCSOF program is Phil Garrison. The following story presents some of the highlights of his 25 years of dedication to the program.


When Decatur resident Phil Garrison picked up his Sunday morning paper June 5, 1988, he never imagined that reading that day's edition would spark an idea that has raised about a quarter of a million dollars for charity.

 

That day, Garrison read a DECATUR DAILY sports column by then-sports editor David Elwell about how Morgan County should find a way to recognize its top athletes and coaches from the past.

At the time, Garrison served as president of the board of directors for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Decatur, now the Boys and Girls Clubs of Morgan County. The board was looking for a way to promote the organization and raise funds.

Garrison

Garrison figured that a hall of fame would accomplish those goals and honor Morgan County's athletic tradition.

 
 

I called David and asked him, "What do you think?" Garrison said. He said, "Let's go for it."

 

That conversation marked the beginning of the process, which gave birth to the Morgan County Sports Hall of Fame. The first class was honored in the summer of 1989, with the proceeds from the induction banquet going to the Boys and Girls Clubs. Now, 17 years later, the annual banquets have honored more than 100 athletes and raised about $250,000 for the Boys and Girls Clubs.

Garrison has served on the Hall of Fame's board since the start, and for his efforts in building it into what it is today, his fellow board members have honored him with a spot in this year's induction class.

"It's a great honor, but I'd prefer to keep the focus on the Boys and Girls Clubs," said Garrison, 61. "I just happen to be someone who helped start the Hall of Fame. Looking at how much money the Hall of Fame has raised for the Boys and Girls Clubs — that's what it's all about."

But it took work to get the idea off the ground, and Garrison did much of it. After contacting Elwell, Garrison sent out letters to about 25 current and former coaches and athletes living in Morgan County to determine if there was much interest.

Garrison found out that he wasn't the only one who thought it was a good idea.

One of the first replies came from Vernon Lang, who wrote back, "Phil, you can count on Vernon Lang and Lang's Sporting Goods to support this effort."

The rest of the responses contained the same level of enthusiasm.

"That's the key — getting support from great people," Garrison said. "We had a lot of great people get involved early."

With his group of interested people on board to help, Garrison contacted the Southeast regional office of the Boys and Girls Clubs to see if anyone else was doing anything similar. The answer came back that the Knox County branch in Tennessee had started a Hall of Fame and it was going well.

Garrison invited the Knox County director to give a presentation to his group about starting a Hall of Fame.

"It was very helpful," Garrison said. "So from there, we decided to go forward and start the Morgan County Sports Hall of Fame, following the Knox County plan."

The process included appointing a board of directors, conducting monthly meetings, scouting for nominations to the Hall of Fame and organizing the first banquet to honor the first class. In addition, the board added a one-day golf tournament for recreational golfers. It's played the day before the banquet, and Garrison has handled the tournament every year since its beginnings.

"Everyone has such a good time at the golf tournament," he said. "Stories get swapped. Family and friends get to see each other. Old teammates get together. It's a lot of fun to see."

The initial class included eight men: former professional baseball players Ray Pepper, Rip Sewell and Marve Breeding; former NFL player Bobby Freeman; legendary coaches Joe Jones, Randolph Ryan and H.L. "Shorty" Ogle; and former college football standout Don Whitmire.