2013 INDUCTEE - CHARLES RILEY
By Calvin Cooley
For the Decatur Daily
Ask around and you'll quickly discover that there aren't many people who have done as much for promoting the history of local football than Charles Riley.
A promising three-sport athlete at Decatur before a knee injury shortened his playing career in 1946, Riley has dedicated the bulk of his retirement to preserving the memory and legacy not of himself, but one of Decatur's most beloved sports figures: former coach H.L. Ogle.
"Coach Ogle became a part of my life in 1944," Riley said. "He came over to Gordon Bibb to look over some of his future players. That day was the beginning of a relationship with Coach Ogle, his coaches and other players that will last forever."
In 2007, after years of research through the Morgan County Archives, Decatur Public Library and the Decatur High School library, Riley published "Shorty's Boys: A True Story", a chronicle of football history in the city of Decatur from 1919 to 1963.
The publication is just one in a long list of things Riley has done to serve the community, with others including recording DVDs of baseball, football and soccer events to distribute to local players and coaches, speaking engagements at numerous local gatherings and serving as captain of Shorty's Boys, a group that consists mostly of local athletes coached by Ogle which meets monthly.
For his contributions on and off the field, Riley has been selected to join the Morgan County Sports Hall of Fame with the 2013 induction class.
"Obviously this is a great honor," Riley said. "Decatur sports have been a big part of my life for a long time. It can't be said enough how big of an honor this is."
Riley attended Auburn University, receiving a Bachelor's Degree in Mechanical Engineering in 1955. Upon graduation, Riley worked as a design engineer for Wolverine Tube Division in Decatur. From 1957-1983 he worked for the United States Army Missile Command where he earned the Meritorious Civilian Service Award in 1973, 1978 and 1983.
He received a Master's Degree in Engineering Management from Vanderbilt University in 1970.
Still, sports have always played a large part of his life.
"You can't know a man like Coach Ogle or the other players that he affected and not have that with you for the rest of your life," he said. "I'm pretty confident everyone else who knew him would tell you the same thing. We're a close-knit group."
That knee injury during his senior year of high school didn't do much to hold Riley back as he would go on to play softball for the Decatur National Guard in 1949 and for his fraternity at Auburn in 1950.
He also played for Wolverine Tube Division in 1955 and 1956 and captured the City of Decatur Bowling Championship in 1967.
"I've always been a pretty active guy, so I always did what I could to stay going," he said. "I really enjoyed participating in school, that just cut short by my injury so after I was able to heal up I looked for opportunities to keep playing."
Riley retired from the engineering field in 1998 after working as a private consultant out of Huntsville, and shortly after began putting work towards writing Shorty's Boys.
"I didn't keep a log of how many hours I put into research around the county," Riley said. "The search was made easier by all of the help I received along the way. Much has been written about Coach and many honors have been given ‚Äî all of them richly deserved.
He was the beginning of a legacy that has continued from 1933 until this very day. His legacy is not so much about wins and losses, but about the lives of the young men he taught."
According to longtime friend and fellow inductee Marvin Taylor, Riley was the perfect person to capture that legacy in writing.
"Charles and I have known one another for a long while," Taylor said. "When we were younger he lived near me and I always looked up to him. He's a good man who has done a great deal for the community. His work capturing Coach Ogle's legacy speaks for itself; nobody could have done a better job. Any honor given to him is very much deserved."
Charlie Jones, a friend and former teammate, echoed the sentiment.
"Charles is a special man," he said. "Nobody could have captured the relationship between Coach Ogle and his players like he did. For as long as I've known him he's been a great teammate, friend and member of this community. We are very lucky to have him."
From 2005-2011 Riley produced videos and DVDs of local basketball, baseball and soccer games to distribute as gifts to coaches and players, with the purpose of encouraging the young athletes to pursue and enhance their skills so that they would be prepared for the next level of play.
He has also been a featured speaker with the Lions Club, Kiwanis Club, Rotary Club and the Decatur High School Booster Club, talking publicly about the history of Decatur football and comparing the games of today to the games of yesterday.
"This has all been such an enjoyable experience for me," he said. "Going all the way back to playing, to writing, to just being involved. It has all been great. I've picked up a lot of memories through the years and I'll carry them with me forever."