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.
2019 Inductee Highlights
Randy Lewis's career highlights
Randy Lewis was an All-State basketball selection from Danville in 1973. The shooting guard for coaching legend Wayne Bowling scored 1,884 career points in three seasons. He was a three-time All-Morgan County selection. In his senior season, Lewis averaged 26 points and 16 rebounds a game. He scored 16 points in the North-South All-Star game. Lewis also excelled on the baseball field where he played on two Morgan County championship teams.
Billy Mile's career highlights
In 25 years at Austin High School, Billy Miles enjoyed coaching success in several sports. He was the football team’s defensive coordinator in 1983 when the Black Bears advanced to the Class 4A state championship game. Miles coached the Austin baseball team to the state championship series in 1984. His Austin girls basketball team played for the 1994 Class 6A state championship. His baseball teams won 354 games. His girls basketball teams won 224 games. He had 27 baseball players and 15 basketball players earn college scholarships.
Curtis Miller's career highlights
Curtis Miller starred in basketball, football and track and field at Lakeside High School in the late 1950s. He played on the varsity as a freshman and was team captain his senior season when the Tigers went undefeated with 22 wins. In track and field, he starred in the broad jump, shot put and 440-yard and 880-yard relays. After two years of basketball at Alabama A&M, he returned to Decatur and played semi-pro football for the famed Rough Riders, who went 66-2 over five seasons in the 1960s.
Jan Sanders's career highlights
Jan Sanders made her mark in bowling in the 1980s and ‘90s. In 1989 she was the Alabama champion in the competition for Team USA and finished 15th nationally out of 22,000. In 1990, she represented Team USA in the U.S. Olympic Festival, where her team took home a third-place medal. In 1994, Sanders was Coca Cola World Cup champion in Alabama and finished seventh overall nationally. She was inducted into the Alabama Women’s Bowling Association Hall of Fame in 1997.
Greg Screws' career highlights
Greg Screws grew up longing to be a part of the history of Morgan County basketball. He got his wish in 1973 as a 6-foot-7 center for the Morgan County Tigers, where he earned All-Region honors in 1977. He also played basketball for two years at Wallace State Community College. After graduating from the University of Alabama in 1981, Screws began a television broadcasting career, first covering many of the top sports stories in the state. Later, he became a nightly fixture in North Alabama as a local news anchor.
Jerry Warren's career highlights
Jerry Warren showed how determination can be an advantage on the basketball floor. The 6-foot-1 Danville Hawk could score and rebound among the best in Morgan County in the early 1970s when star big men dominated the game. He averaged a double-double as a junior and senior with 1,417 points and 871 rebounds. The Hawks won 73 games in his three years on the varsity. Warren played at Calhoun Community College and then at UAH in the early days of the Chargers’ program.
Jody Witt's Highlights
Jody Witt was a key part of Austin’s 1993 Class 6A state championship team coached by Bob Harpe. Austin defeated Tuscaloosa County, 54-44, in a game played in Auburn. Witt scored 14 points, including 10 early in the third quarter. The three-year letterman was an All-Area selection. He was named team captain and received team awards for defense, rebounding and free throw shooting.