Hall of famers
Former Auburn basketball coach Sonny Smith kept a crowd of more than 500 in stitches with jokes and anecdotes about his upbringing in rural Tennessee, his coaching career and his rivalry with former Alabama basketball coach Wimp Sanderson.
But after the funny stuff, Smith turned serious in regard to the honor paid to six Morgan County athletic standouts at Saturday's Sports Hall of Fame induction banquet.
"I've been selected to a lot of things that meant a lot to me, but a few years ago I was selected to the hall of fame in my county. It was the biggest thrill that I have received. It's unbelievable what this means to somebody and I tell you, when they do something for you in your home county or your hometown, it's unbelievable."
The 14th class of inductees in the Morgan County Sports Hall of Fame was laden with four basketball greats, a baseball player and one of the founders of the Hartselle Athletic Booster Club.
Inducted Saturday night were Charles Livingston, Charles "Boonie" Russell, Wally Sanders, Tommy Tomlinson, Claude McMurtrie and Bob Sittason.
Sanders was selected to accept for the class and polled his fellows for their comments in the acceptance address.
"Accepting for yourself and five other guys is a pretty awesome task. It's nerve wracking," Sanders said. " Multiply my nerves times five and that's where I am right now."
Sanders said being named to the hall of fame was a "thrill and a very humbling experience. It is an awesome thing. As Sonny said there is nothing better than being recognized in your own community. You have made this a special night for us."
Sanders found that as in the past, his thoughts ran to the people in his life and the lives of the other inductees that made it possible for them to be seated on the podium and receive the honor.
"We didn't get here by ourselves, none of us. There's not a person up here that will tell you that they got there by themselves. Because there was a coach, a teacher, a parent, a family member, an in-law, some special person somewhere out there, and there are usually multiples of them, that have helped us to get here. We don't get here by ourselves, not by any means," Sanders said.
Sanders called the others and got their thoughts. Tommy Tomlinson thanked the sports hall of fame and "George Nancarrow for his support throughout his entire career.
Claude McMurtrie thanked "Red" Caudle, Bob Sittason, John Braswell, Russell Smith and others who were instrumental in his induction into the hall of fame.
Charles Livingston thanked his coach and his teammates for the relationship that he had with them during his playing days. He also thanked the opponents from his playing days for the memories that he has of those times.
Bob Sittason thanked those in attendance for supporting him. "And then he thought a minute and said, 'The best thing that every happened to me was moving to Hartselle,' Sanders said, "because the people of that community have been a great support for he and his family for his entire working career."
"Boonie Russell said, 'Thank the good Lord and my mother for putting up with me,'" Sanders said. "Then he continued to thank everyone in Hartselle, especially Bob Sittason and the late Bob Gilchrist for the help that they gave. To Morgan County and the state of Alabama for supporting him in his playing career, and then he paused and there was a little chuckle on the other end, and he said, 'Thanks to my teammates for them throwing me the ball so I could shoot it.'"
For himself, Sanders thanked the board and the members of the hall of fame, his family for their support, his friends, the school administrators and "the players that I coached, and thanks for the game. For without the game, I would not be where I am today."
Sanders quoted author Robert Hastings: "Sooner or later we must realize there is no station, no one station to arrive at once and for all. The true joy of life is in the trip."
"This night and this honor has truly added great joy to our trip. Thank you very much," Sanders concluded.