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Hartselle Enquirer
The Morgan County Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2024 includes, front row from left, David Chairs, Randy Nelson, Steve Meek and Randy Russell who accepted for his late father Arnold Russell. On the back row are, from left, Jere Adcock, Sonny Jackson, Lesley Westmoreland Smothers, Tim Morgan and Gary Orr. The late Dwain Keel was also inducted.

Morgan County honors Sports Hall of Fame inducts Class of 2024

By David Elwell

For the Enquirer

May 4 was a night of milestones for the Morgan County Sports Hall of Fame.

It started with the 34th induction banquet being held at the Priceville Event Center. All previous banquets were held in Decatur.

The 10 inductees include Lorenzo “Sonny” Jackson, the first competitive swimmer ever among the Hall of Fame’s 247 inductees.

“It’s a great feeling to be the first at anything,” Jackson said.

In 1970, Jackson was the first Black man to ever compete in the Alabama High School Athletic Association state swim meet.

“This honor is a little sweet and sour,” Jackson said. “A lot of people didn’t have the exposure to swimming like I did.”

Saturday’s induction included David Chairs, who turns 93 in June. Chairs is the Hall of Fame’s oldest ever inductee. He goes in for a career in baseball as a player and as an umpire in baseball and softball that lasted over 70 years.

“The good Lord has blessed me with a great life and family,” Chairs said. “This honor makes it even more special.”

The Class of 2024 included former Decatur football coach Jere Adcock, former Decatur Heritage football and baseball coach Steve Meek, former Hartselle star basketball player and coach Gary Orr, All-American softball player Lesley Westmoreland Smothers, Danville basketball player Tim Morgan and Falkville three-sport athlete Randy Nelson.

Two members of the class are deceased. They are Hartselle basketball star Dwain Keel and long-time umpire Arnold Russell.

The new class has some family links to some previous inductees. Jackson’s late father, Lorenzo Jackson, was inducted in 1996. Chairs’ daughter, Tina, was inducted in 2009.

Nelson’s uncle, Rolland “Brownie” Nelson, was inducted in the Class of 1995. “Brownie” Nelson passed away last week and his funeral was held Friday.

The Morgan County Sports Hall of Fame is always accepting nominations from the public. Information on the nominating process is available on the website at mcshof52.com or call Joe Bailey at 256-286-9048.

The 2024 inductees:

JERE ADCOCK: The Handley native came to Decatur in 1994 to join head coach Steve Rivers’ coaching staff. In 2022, Adcock retired from Decatur after 27 years as head coach with 187 wins, the second most in Red Raider history behind H.L. “Shorty” Ogle with 209. Adcock’s teams had 17 winning seasons, 21 playoff appearances, five 10-win seasons and seven region championships. He was named the state’s Class 6A Coach of the Year in 2014. During Adcock’s tenure, the Red Raiders had 40 All-State selections. In 2024, the Alabama Football Coaches Association honored him with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

DAVID CHAIRS: The 1951 graduate of Decatur Negro High School served the athletes of the Decatur area for over half a century as an umpire and official in baseball, football and softball. In his early days, Chairs starred as a catcher for the Decatur Red Sox. Later he was a member of the famous Decatur Nationals. Chairs’ baseball highlights included seeing Willie Mays play in Decatur, meeting Hank Aaron and Jackie Robinson before they became stars and umpiring Calhoun games involving future major leaguers Gary Redus and Jorge Posada. He was also a member of the famed Decatur Rough Riders football team.

LORENZO “SONNY” JACKSON: The summer pastime of swimming turned into a vehicle of change for the Decatur native and Austin graduate. In 1970, Jackson was the first Black to ever compete in the high school state championship swim meet. In his senior season in 1973, Jackson missed being the first Black to ever win a swimming state championship by just .2 seconds in both the 50-yard and 100-yard sprints. When Jackson swam in college for Texas Southern University, it marked the first time he ever competed in a meet with another Black swimmer.

DWAIN KEEL: In 1968 and 1969, the Morgan County High graduate was a two-time All-State and All-Morgan County basketball selection. The 6-foot-6 Keel, who was nicknamed “Stick, “dominated on the inside for the Tigers while averaging 25 points and 12 rebounds as a junior and 18 points and 14 rebounds as a senior. In 1968, Keel helped the Tigers claim the Morgan County Tournament championship. Also in that season he set a school record with 51 points in the Tigers’ 102-90 victory over Union Hill. Hartselle head coach Jackie Coulter called Keel, who passed away in 2020, “the finest basketball player I’ve ever coached.”

STEVE MEEK: The Austin graduate put Decatur Heritage football and baseball on the map in his 11 seasons as head coach. The football program went 86-42 with four region championships and eight consecutive trips to the state playoffs. The baseball program made 10 straight trips to the state playoffs, which included the 2016 Class 1A state championship. Decatur Heritage also advanced to the baseball finals in both 2017 and 2022. During Meek’s tenure, the Eagles had 18 All-State football selections and 23 All-State baseball selections. He was named the Class 1A football Coach of the Year in 2015 and the Class 2A baseball Coach of the Year in 2022.

TIM MORGAN: The Danville native was an All-State basketball player for the Hawks in 1976 and played on a national championship team at the University of North Alabama in 1979. After starting his varsity career at Danville as a freshman for Hall of Fame coach Wayne Bowling, Morgan averaged 24 points a game as a sophomore and 27 as a junior. A knee injury limited his playing time as a senior when he averaged 18.6 points. In 1979, Morgan’s clutch free throw shooting late in the NCAA Division II national championship game was pivotal in UNA’s 64-50 win over Wisconsin-Green Bay.

RANDY NELSON: The Falkville graduate was a three-sport star athlete for the Blue Devils. The 6-foot-1 guard used his long-range shooting touch to score 1,650 career points in basketball while averaging over 20 points a game in each of his three varsity seasons. He scored a career-high 41 against Cullman as a sophomore. Nelson quarterbacked the Falkville football team to its first ever playoff appearance in 1972. He also was a star shortstop for the school’s baseball team. After playing basketball at Athens State, Nelson went into a coaching career that lasted 43 years at Boaz High.

GARY ORR: The Hartselle graduate was a part of seven state championships as a player and coach. Orr was an All-State tournament selection on Hartselle’s first ever boys basketball state championship team in 1971. He was an assistant coach for state championship teams at Johnson in boys basketball in 1987 and at Hartselle in football in 2011. A Hartselle girls golf run of four state titles in 2009-2012 came with Orr as head coach. Orr led Hartselle girls basketball for 14 years with four Morgan County Tournament championships, five area championships, three trips to the Northwest Regional and one trip to state.

ARNOLD RUSSELL: The Austinville graduate, who passed away in 2018, received a Distinguished Service Award from the Alabama High School Athletic Association in 2009 for his work as a baseball and softball umpire in a career that spanned 60 years. Russell was also a championship youth baseball coach in the Morgan County community of Slip Up. He was one of West Morgan High’s most involved boosters. Russell served the athletic program for many years as a clock operator for the school’s football and basketball games. Russell worked for the state highway department for 46 years.

LESLEY WESTMORELAND SMOTHERS: The 1992 Austin graduate was an All-American slugger in softball at both Athens State and Calhoun Community College. As a youth, Smothers played in Dixie Youth World Series in both softball and baseball. She starred in high school in softball and basketball. Smothers was a two-time All-Gulf South Conference selection playing fast-pitch softball at North Alabama, where she was named the school’s Female Athlete of the Year in 1994-1995. After completing her fast-pitch career at Athens State, Smothers led Calhoun to a slow-pitch national championship in 1999.

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