Trailblazers Pride and Slater lead a group of eight inductees
By David Elwell
The Decatur Daily
The impact of an athletic career is not always left on the playing field or the gym floor.
Sometimes it carries over into the community where it can leave an impression that last forever.
At least two members of the Morgan County Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2018 have made that kind of impact.
Bobby Joe Pride was a running back at Decatur's Lakeside High School. In 1967 he transferred to Decatur High and starred on the school's first integrated football team.
"It's been 50 years since I played at Decatur and it's quite an honor to be remembered so many years later," Pride said. "It's not every day that a person goes into a hall of fame."
Jeaniece Slater played a role in the growth of girls basketball in Alabama. She was part of the powerhouse Hartselle program in the 1980s. Slater was a four-year starter at Hartselle and played on the 1985 state championship team.
"I had the opportunity to play basketball at Hartselle with a lot of great teammates like Vickie Orr," Slater said. "I would like to think that we helped push girls basketball to the popularity that it has today."
Pride and Slater are joined in the Class of 2018 by six other inductees. They are Jimmy Brazelton, a star in basketball and baseball at Austinville and in football, basketball and baseball at Decatur in the early 1960s; Katherine Eick, a state champion gymnast at Decatur in the 1980s when she was known at Katie Hughes; Leon Mooney, a five-time All-Morgan County basketball selection at Ryan in the 1960s; Gary Morris, star three-sport athlete at Decatur in the 1970s; Larry Peck, a fixture on the Hartselle football coaching staff for nearly three decades, who closed out his career with the Tigers' 2011 state championship; and Joe Weaver, a star football player at Hartselle in 1970 and 1971, who signed with Alabama to play for Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant.
The eight will be inducted into the Morgan County Sports Hall of Fame at a banquet on Saturday, May 5 at the Ingalls Harbor Pavilion. Tickets are $30. For information on tickets or to inquire about reserving a table, call Joe Bailey at 256-286-9048 or David Varner a 256-340-3466. Proceeds go to the Boys & Girls Club of Morgan County.
Pride will be joining three of his coaches in the hall of fame. Lorenzo Jackson, who coached Pride at Lakeside, was inducted in 1996. Earl Webb, who coached him at Decatur, was inducted in 1992. Hal Self, who coached him at what is now the University of North Alabama, was inducted in 1990.
"They were three wonderful men who had a huge impact on my life," Pride said.
Slater holds the distinction of being Alabama's first Miss Basketball. The award was started in 1988. Several girls from the area have won it over the years, including Decatur's Yolanda Watkins, Lawrence County's Natasha Thomas, Speake's Starr Orr and West Morgan's Hayden Hamby, but Slater will always be the first.
Slater's last game in high school was one of the most memorable in state championship history. Hartselle fell to Pell City in the finals on a last second shot. Pell City was coached by Larry Slater, Jeaniece's father. He was inducted into the Morgan County Sports Hall of Fame in 2016.
"I like to think that game helped a movement that is still going strong today with women's athletics in our state," Slater said.
2018 Inductee Highlights
Jimmy Brazelton's career highlights
Jimmy Brazelton had the rare opportunity to star in baseball and basketball at Austinville High and then football, baseball and basketball at Decatur High, where he graduated in 1962. He was an All-District and All-Tennessee Valley Conference selection in basketball. His high school basketball career ended with him being selected to play in the North-South All-Star Game. After four years of basketball and golf at what was then Athens College, Brazelton turned his attention to baseball and played on a semi-pro state championship team. Later he was involved in youth baseball in Morgan County as a coach and umpire.
Katie Eick's career highlights
Katie Eick, 47, was better known as Katie Hughes in high school at Decatur when she was the state all-around champion in gymnastics for three years from 1986-1988. She was a member of two state championship gymnastic teams under Coach Lenette Calvin. Eick was selected as an AAU All-American and The Decatur Daily Female Athlete of the Year in 1986 and 1988. She became a national champion diver at Emory University in Atlanta. In 1993 she was the NCAA Division III national champion on the one meter board.
Leon Mooney's career highlights
Leon Mooney was a five-time All-Morgan County basketball selection from 1964-1968. The Ryan School scoring machine averaged 17.5 points as a sophomore, 21 points and 12 rebounds as a junior and 33 points and 17 rebounds his senior season. In 1968 he was selected as a High School All American. In his last three seasons at Ryan, Mooney scored 1,607 points and had 931 rebounds.
Gary Morris's career highlights
Gary Morris starred in baseball, basketball and football at Decatur High, where he graduated in 1976. He was the starting third baseman on the varsity baseball team as a freshman. In his junior season, he was the starting quarterback on the football team, starting guard on the basketball team and an All-Morgan County selection in baseball. His senior season saw him honored as a first-team All-Morgan County selection in basketball and baseball. After two seasons of football at the College of the Desert in California, he went to California Polytechnic as a punter and earned All-Big Sky Conference honors.
Larry Peck's career highlights
Larry Peck was a fixture on the Hartselle football coaching staff for nearly three decades. The Tigers' defensive coordinator for 19 years closed out his coaching career after Hartselle won the 2011 Class 5A state championship with a 13-3 win over Vigor. Hartselle went 15-0 that season with Peck's defense holding opponents to just 139 points for a 9.3 average. The Tuscumbia native was a star football player and wrestler at Deshler, where he graduated in 1975. After playing football at UNA, Peck was head coach at East Lawrence for four seasons before joining the Hartselle staff in 1985.
Bobby Joe Pride's career highlights
Bobby Joe Pride was a star in football and track at Decatur's Lakeside High before transferring to Decatur High in 1967. He played running back and defensive back on Decatur High's first integrated football team. Playing for Coach Earl Webb's first team at Decatur, Pride raced for three touchdowns vs. Austin in the Red Raiders' 33-0 victory. At the end of the season, his teammates voted him most valuable player. Pride continued to star in college when he played at what is now the University of North Alabama. He set a school record that won't ever be broken with a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
Jeaniece Slater's Highlights
Jeaniece Slater was selected as the first-ever Miss Basketball in Alabama in 1988. The Hartselle Tiger great was also the state's Gatorade Player of the Year, Class 5A Player of the Year and The Decatur Daily Player of the Year that season. She was a four-year starter from 1984-1988. Hartselle's record in those four seasons was 100-7 and included three Final Four appearances, a state championship, and a runner-up finish. Her four-year average was 18.5 points, 7 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 2.5 steals a game. She later played college basketball at Southern Miss., Wallace State (for her father Larry Slater) and North Alabama.
Joe Weaver's Highlights
Joe Weaver starred on the football field for the Hartselle Tigers in 1970 and 1971. He was an All-Morgan County and All-Tennessee Valley Conference selection. Weaver accepted a scholarship to play at the University of Alabama for Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant. After a season on the Crimson Tide's freshmen team, Weaver worked his way up to a starting position in the Alabama offensive line in the spring of 1973. A medical condition forced him to give up football before the '73 season. Weaver returned to Morgan County to teach, coach and work in administration for the next 38 years.