2018 INDUCTEE - JIMMY BRAZELTON
By David Elwell
The Decatur Daily
Living in the Austinville community in the 1950s meant basketball was a big part of your life.
The Hornets won four state championships in that decade, including three in a row from 1957-1959.
"I was in the third grade when Austinville won the first championship (in 1953)," Jimmy Brazelton said. "I remember going to Tuscaloosa and seeing "Wormy" Woodall and the rest of that team win the championship at Foster Auditorium. It was exciting and I wanted to be a part of it."
Eventually, Brazelton got to be part of the Austinville High basketball program. Through some unusual timing, he also got to play basketball, baseball and football at Decatur High.
Brazelton's athletic career was filled with a long line of Morgan County Sports Hall of Fame coaches that includes Joe Jones, Earl Morris, H.L. "Shorty" Ogle, Bearl Whitsett, Bill Isbell and Wes Thompson.
"My dad put up a basketball goal in the hallway of our house on State Avenue," Brazelton said. "A lot of my friends would come over to play. When we were ages 6-10, there was enough room for 1-on-1 or even 2-on-2. There were many times when a shot might break a light bulb in the ceiling or an elbow would break the sheetrock on a layup.
"Eventually, the goal was placed on the back of the house and a full court was built in the backyard. Everybody in Austinville had a basketball goal, but not everybody had a full court in their backyard. There was a lot of great basketball played in that backyard."
Brazelton first played basketball for Jones at the Red Shield Boys Club. Jones coached Austinville's 1953 state championship team. He became the school's principal in 1954 and hired Morris to replace him as basketball coach. Morris coached the state championship teams in 1957, 1958 and 1959 that had a combined record of 95-6. Brazelton was a freshman in 1959.
"Jimmy was a hungry kid who wanted to learn," Morris said. "He was a really good player who made his teammates better. That's the kind of player any coach would want."
The Austinville community became part of Decatur in the late 1950s. In 1960, Austinville's school became a junior high school. The high school students were moved to Decatur. That meant Brazelton was back playing basketball for Jones, who was much more than just a coach to Brazelton. He was a family friend, who would often stop by the house.
"We lived next door to where Coach Jones went to church," Brazelton said. "I remember one Sunday we were eating lunch and I saw Coach Jones walking across the church parking lot toward our house.
"I had invited my girlfriend over for lunch. Coach Jones didn't like his players to have girlfriends. I got her to go hide in the kitchen closet before he came inside. She stayed there until he left 90 minutes later. It was hot in that closet. When she came out she was soaking wet and her hair was a mess. It was bad, but I guess it worked out because we later got married."
The basketball experience at Decatur was a little different from Austinville. Brazelton went from a school with a small gym and no dressing rooms or indoor bathrooms to the largest gym in the area with a dressing room, meeting room and training facilities. The one common denominator was the coaching.¬†
"Coach Jones and Coach Morris had the same basic philosophy," Brazelton said. "They believed in hard work and the fundamentals of the game. You knew exactly what was expected of you. I'm glad I had the opportunity to play for both of them."
In 1961, the Red Raiders (29-5) advanced to the final eight in the state tournament. In 1962, with Brazelton playing point guard, Decatur (29-7) advanced to the state championship game before falling short against Sidney Lanier, 59-47.
"That was some dog-eat-dog basketball in those days with teams in our area like Cullman and Butler," Brazelton said. "It was quite an accomplishment just to advance to the state tournament."
In 1962, Brazelton was an All-District and All-TVC selection. Other players on that team to receive post-season honors were Billy Rhodes, Joe Sides, Bob Gilchrist and Ronnie Norris.
Brazelton was a three-sport athlete for the Red Raiders. He played baseball and experienced football for the first time.
"I was the scout team quarterback for Coach Ogle," Brazelton said. "I didn't know our plays, but I knew the plays of each of our opponents every week."
Following high school, Brazelton played basketball and golf at what was then Athens College for another legendary coach, Oba Belcher. The 1966 team advanced to the NAIA national tournament in Kansas City.
Brazelton later played semi-pro baseball for Decatur's Davis Construction. The team advanced to the National Baseball Congress national tournament in Wichita, Kansas, in 1966.
After his playing days ended, Brazelton turned his attention to contributing to youth sports in Morgan County. He also served on the board for Decatur Park and Recreation.