Landmark group of eight includes a record four females

By David Elwell
The Decatur Daily

The Morgan County Sports Hall of Fame is making history in 2020.

For the first time since the Hall of Fame starting recognizing Morgan County’s athletic heroes in 1989, half of the Class of 2020 of eight is female.

The four are Nancy Keenum, Christy Thomaskutty, Lori Breedlove Bailey and Andrea Watkins-Orr.

“It just shows you how far we’ve come as a society,” Keenum said. “When I graduated from West Morgan in 1975, we had no girls athletic teams.

“Today, we have girls from Morgan County going to college to compete at a high level. It’s great to see recognition for what they have accomplished.”

Joining the four females are Mario Morris, Charles Lee Martin, Howard Jenkins and Clift Knight. The Class of 2020 will be inducted on May 2 at the Ingalls Pavilion in Decatur. Tickets are $35. All proceeds go to the Boys & Girls Club of Morgan County.

The sports world was dominated by males for decades, but that changed in 1972 when Congress passed Title IX, which bars discrimination in education programs receiving federal financial assistance. That sparked a boom in female sports.

That boom has also been felt by the Morgan County Sports Hall of Fame. The first female inducted was golfer Kathy Farrer in 1991. Through 2011, seven females had been inducted. Since 2012, nine have been inducted. The Class of 2020 will make 10 in the last five years. The total of males to females will still be male heavy at 202-20, but many more females worthy of induction are coming.

During the time period of 1989-1994, Thomaskutty at Brewer, Bailey at Danville and Watkins-Orr at Austin each received All-State basketball recognition.

“I think this honor says a lot about the coaches of our era,” Thomaskutty said. “They put a lot of time and effort into the success of girls basketball and it paid off.”

Here’s a capsule look at the Class of 2020:

Lori Breedlove Bailey, 45, was a four-time All-State player at Danville from 1989-1993, where she scored 1,500 points. She played in college at Wallace State and Jacksonville State. Today, she teaches at Danville Middle School and coaches the Danville softball team.

Howard Jenkins, 81, was a star athlete at Cotaco where he played basketball and baseball. He played on Cotaco’s 1955 Morgan County Tournament champion baseball team. He worked at Monsanto and served as a Morgan County Commissioner for 12 years.

Nancy Keenum, 62, graduated from West Morgan in 1975 and played basketball at Calhoun. She coached at UNA and Judson before returning to Calhoun in 1983. She retired as the Calhoun softball coach last spring and continues as the school’s athletic director.

Clift Knight, 84, spent nearly 50 years covering high school sports for the Hartselle Enquirer. After serving in the Air Force following high school, Knight graduated from Alabama with a degree in journalism. He’s won numerous press awards and was mayor of Hartselle from 2000-2004.

Charles Lee Martin, 69, was a star athlete at Austin in the late 1960s. He was the most valuable player in the Class 3A state tournament in 1969 when Austin won its first state basketball championship. Martin was named to All-State teams by the Birmingham News and Birmingham Post-Herald.

Mario Morris, 48, was an All-State football player at Decatur 1989. He was a starting linebacker on the University of Alabama’s 1992 national championship team. Today, he’s at Notre Dame as the Deputy Athletic Director for Business Operations.

Christy Thomaskutty, 45, gained All-State basketball honors at Brewer from 1990-1992. She played in college at Tulane, where she received several athletic and academic honors. Thomaskutty coached in college before joining ESPN in 2017 as a basketball analyst.

Andrea Watkins-Orr, 44, went by the nickname “Bam” in high school at Austin, where she was a Class 6A All-State player in 1994. She played in college at Wallace State, UNA and UAH. She graduated with a degree in chemical engineering from UAH and has worked for several companies involved in missile defense and space exploration.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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