Fourteen new names, including a member of the University of Alabama's first varsity football team in 1892, will soon be added to the Huntsville-Madison County Athletic Hall of Fame.
The new inductees are to be enshrined in the Class of 2012 during the Hall of Fame's annual Induction Banquet at the Von Braun Center on April 9.
The late David A. Grayson, a native of Gurley who played on Alabama's first two football teams in 1892-93, is perhaps the most unique inductee in the 23-year history of the Hall of Fame. Grayson, an end, was one of 18 players 120 years ago on that first Alabama team, which went 2-2 and lost 32-22 to Auburn in a rivalry that would eventually become known, deep into the following century, as the "Iron Bowl.'' Grayson was a prominent Huntsville attorney from 1898 until his death in 1947.
In addition to Grayson, the 2012 Class features five other ex-football players: Chris Anderson, Ralph Battle, Cedric Brownlee, Steve Cash and Anthony "Lefty'' Perry. Anderson was a two-time All-State tailback at Huntsville High (1988-89) and later a four-year letterman at Alabama. Battle, one of three former Jacksonville State University players in the class, was an All-City defensive back at Johnson High in 1978-79. Brownlee, voted Johnson's Most Outstanding Athlete in 1976-77, later played running back at Jacksonville and briefly played in the NFL. Cash, a top NASA administrator at Marshall Space Flight Center, was an All-State linebacker at Grissom High who signed with Alabama. Perry, twice an All-County running back at Hazel Green (1969 and 1971), later transferred from Alabama to Jacksonville State, where he became a second-team All-American.
The new Hall of Fame class also includes former Alabama A&M basketball coach Vann Pettaway, the winningest coach in school history; two former basketball stars: the late John McLemore, who played on Huntsville High's 1930 state championship team; and the late James Mundie, a standout athlete at Johnson in the mid-1970s who went on to play at Mississippi State and then for Kayo Willis at Alabama-Huntsville; Barbara Belyea, a decorated local swimmer in the early 1970s and later a longtime swim coach and teacher at Grissom High; and Connie Stephens, a former three-sport letter winner at Alabama who has coached girls tennis and cheerleading at Grissom for more than three decades. This marks the first year that two women have gone into the Hall of Fame in the same class.
Rounding out the Class of 2012 are Ray Gargus, Jackie Pedigo and Ronnie White. Gargus, who died in 2010, was one of North Alabama's top high school football officials for more than 30 years. Pedigo, a baseball star at Butler High school and later at Florence State; he went to coach a variety of sports at several schools, including Butler, Huntsville, Catholic and Grissom. White, former managing sports editor and longtime racing writer for The Huntsville Times, becomes the fourth member of the newspaper's sports staff to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. He joins the late Bill Easterling and John Pruett, who were inducted in the inaugural class of 1989, and golf writer Al Burleson, who was inducted in 2003.
------------------------------------------------- Profiles of the Hall of Fame Class of 2012 --------------------------------------------
CHRIS ANDERSON – A four-sport letterman at Huntsville High School from 1987-90, Anderson played baseball and basketball and won a number of events in track and field, but football was his specialty. As a fleet running back for the Panthers, he was All-State as both a junior (1988) and a senior (1989). Recruited by many schools across the country, he signed with Alabama in 1990 and promptly started as a freshman. His 96-yard touchdown against Temple in 1991 is still the longest run from scrimmage in Crimson Tide history. As a junior, Anderson rushed for 573 yards, caught 14 passes for 147 yards and scored seven touchdowns in Alabama's national championship run in 1992. Although injuries curtailed his senior year, he was named co-captain of the '93 Tide. He graduated from Alabama in 1996 with a degree in Communications. A logistician for a Houston company, Anderson recently returned from a 16-month civilian tour of duty in Iraq.
RALPH BATTLE – One of a number of outstanding football players produced by Huntsville's J. O. Johnson High School in the 1970s and ‘80s, Battle was a first-team All-City selection as a strong safety in both 1978 and 1979, and was later named a member of Johnson's All-Decade Team along with such Jaguar stars as Chris Martin, Donnie Humphrey, Mike Adcock, Karl Jordan, Ricky Skiles, Cedric Brownlee, Robert Malone, Clarence Johnson and Tim Huggins. After high school, Battle played at Jacksonville State, lettering four years. He was an All-Gulf South player in 1980 and 1982 and made the roster of the Cincinnati Bengals in 1984. Battle is one of six former Johnson players who played in the NFL. The others: Chris Martin (1983-94), Donnie Humphrey (1984-86), James Willis (1993-99), Joey Kent (1997-99) and Rashad Moore (2003-06). Battle is now a neighborhood programmer for the City of Huntsville's Recreation Services.
BARBARA BELYEA – Barbara Belyea has been a familiar face on Huntsville's sports scene for much of her life. She played volleyball and basketball at Whitesburg Junior High and later at Grissom High School, but swimming was always her primary sport. She swam for the Rocket City Aquatic Club from ages 10-17 and for the Rocket City Swim League in the summers. After winning four state titles at Grissom, she became an All-America swimmer at Memphis State before transferring to Alabama and becoming an All-SEC swimmer for coach Don Gambril in 1976-77. Following graduation, she was hired at Huntsville High in 1978, teaching PE, Biology and Physical Science and coaching both swimming and softball. She then taught physical education at Lincoln Elementary for 28 years, and has been Grissom High's swimming coach since 2005. She currently teaches PE at ML King Junior Elementary. Belyea has also coached several local and area swimming teams for more than three decades.
CEDRIC BROWNLEE – A native of Madison County, Brownlee – a running back on offense and linebacker on defense -- was one of Johnson High's first football stars shortly after the school opened in the early 1970s. He was named to the All-City Defensive team in 1975-76, was the Defensive Player of the year in 1976-77 and was picked as the school's Most Outstanding Athlete in 1976-77. He was selected to The Huntsville Times' All-City defensive team in 1975-77 and played in the Alabama High School Athletic Association's All-Star game in Tuscaloosa, winning the MVP award for the North team. Brownlee then played football at Jacksonville State, where he led the team in rushing yards in 1979-80 and was named the Gamecocks' Most Valuable Player and Most Outstanding Running Back in 1980-81. He signed a football contract as a free agent with the New York Giants in 1981. Brownlee is now retired from Fed Express and B&J Landscaping and Excavation Company.
STEVE CASH – A leader on the football field and in the classroom, Steve Cash was one of the top student-athletes athletes in the early years of Grissom High School. Labeled "our spiritual leader and our stopper on defense'' by Grissom football coach Larrie Robinson, Cash played linebacker and running back for the Tigers from 1974-77. As a junior, he was selected to the All-City team (along with another 2012 inductee, Cedric Brownlee of Johnson) and to the All-State team, which also included future college stars Major Ogilvie, Frank Warren and Byron Braggs. Cash was named high school All-America in 1977 and was awarded a football scholarship by Alabama. A promising college career was curtailed by a serious knee injury, however, on the final pre-season scrimmage of his freshman season. He graduated in 1981 with a degree in Civil Engineering, which led to a distinguished career at NASA. He is currently manager of the Shuttle Propulsion Office at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center.
RAY GARGUS – The late Ray Gargus is fondly remembered as one of the most outstanding officials in the history of the North Alabama Football Officials Association. A former football player at Emma Sansom in Gadsden and a Navy veteran, Gargus moved to Huntsville in 1968 for a civil service job on Redstone Arsenal. He began officiating high school football in 1976 and later became executive director of the North Alabama association. Over the years, he officiated more than 1,200 high school football games in North Alabama, including three state championship games in 3A, 4A and 6A. In a 1992 newspaper interview, Gargus defined high school officials this way: "What we've all got in common is a love of the game and of young people. I have two pet peeves. One is an official who's on an ego trip. The other is an official who gets in it for the money. A man who's in it for the money needs to look for a part-time job. Officiating football is not a part-time job.'' Ray Gargus died of cancer at 78 on Aug. 16, 2010.
DAVID GRAYSON – Nearly 141 years after his birth in Gurley, 120 years after he played on the University of Alabama's first football team, and 65 years after his death in Huntsville, David Allison Grayson joins the Huntsville-Madison County Athletic Hall of Fame's class of 2012. Born in 1871 when U.S. Grant was president of the United States, Grayson was educated in the rural schools of Madison and went on the state university in Tuscaloosa, where he received a BA in 1893 and a law degree the following year. He opened a law office in Huntsville in 1894 and continued his practice for the next 53 years until his death in 1947. For the last 11 years of his life, Grayson was referee in bankruptcy cases for 10 northern Alabama counties. As a college student, he was voted the top player on Alabama's first two football teams in 1892-93. Among his handful of teammates were William Bankhead, a future Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, and future Alabama governor Bibb Graves.
JOHN McLEMORE – A key member of Huntsville High School's 1930 state championship basketball team, John Dan McLemore was the first player from Madison County to be selected to the Alabama All-State team. "John was the best basketball guard I'd ever seen,'' said the late local historian James Record, who once co-chaired a committee to single out the county's best athletes. McLemore grew up in Toney and learned to play basketball on a dirt court. He moved to the home of his sister, Mrs. Myrtle Rodenhauser, in order to be eligible to play at HHS. He later worked at NASA as a crane operator for 34 years. At Huntsville High, McLemore played for Jesse Keene, who taught history and coached football, basketball and baseball in the early years of the Great Depression. The 1930 state champions, who finished 30-2, featured guards McLemore and Gene Williams, forwards Jack Strong and Joe Pruitt, and center Pete Keene. John McLemore died in 1989 at the age of 78.
JAMES MUNDIE – Born in Dallas, Texas in 1957, James Mundie moved to Huntsville with his family in 1961. Over the next two decades, he developed into one of the most outstanding all-around athletes in the city's sports history. At the ages of 11 and 12, he was a two-time All-Star for a Little League team that won the state championship. He was a star running back in pee-wee football. He won a number of junior tournaments and became a scratch golfer. He was a two-time All-City baseball player at Johnson High in 1975 and 1976. But Mundie is best remembered for his skills on the basketball court. A electrifying guard at Johnson, he was All-City in both 1975 and '76, was named the city's MVP as a senior and was third-team All-State the same year. After transferring from Mississippi State, he played and starred three years for coach Kayo Willis at UAH during an era when the Chargers were one of the top NAIA teams in the nation. Mundie was only 39 when he died of bacterial meningitis in 1996.
VANN PETTAWAY – L. Vann Pettaway has spent most of his adult life in the service of Alabama A&M University, first in 1979-80 as a two-year student-athlete for the basketball Bulldogs (after transferring from Selma University) and later as the school's longtime basketball coach. After succeeding legendary coach Ben Jobe in 1986, Pettaway coached the A&M men's team for the next 25 years before stepping down in March of 2011. During that period, he complied a 453-279 record while leading the Bulldogs to eight NCAA Tournament appearances and eight conference championships. His greatest success came in his first 11 seasons when A&M was competing at the Division II level. The Bulldogs were 263-74 during that stretch, rolling up eight 20-win seasons, seven conference championships, six SIAC Tournament titles and traveling to the NCAA Division II Tournament seven times, including four trips to the Elite Eight. Pettaway also served as A&M's athletic director from 1989-92.
JACKIE PEDIGO – Born in Huntsville's historic Lincoln Village in 1946, Jackie Pedigo has been associated with many of the city's schools in one way or another for much of past six decades. He played baseball at Lee Junior High for legendary coach Hub Myhand and later became an All-City baseball player at Butler High School in 1964. Following graduation, Pedigo served in the Army from 1965-68, including a two-year hitch in Vietnam before becoming a decorated drill sergeant. He then attended Florence State, playing baseball in 1970-71, and worked at the McCormick YMCA for three years before joining the faculty at Butler, where he was head baseball coach from 1974-77. Next he moved across town to Huntsville High, coaching the Panthers' basketball team from 1977-86 and the baseball team from 1977-79. He later became a school administrator before returning to coaching, first at Catholic High and then as girls coach at Grissom before retiring in 2011.
ANTHONY "LEFTY'' PERRY – Lefty Perry, a 5-11, 165-pound running back-defensive back for the Hazel Green High School Trojans from 1969-71, is believed to be the first football player from his school ever to receive a football scholarship from a Southeastern Conference team. Perry, a two-time All-County player for coach Ken McKinney at Hazel Green, was voted the team's MVP in 1971 after leading all the Madison County schools in scoring with 17 touchdowns during the Trojans' county championship run. He was named to The Huntsville Times' All-County team as a sophomore in 1969, but missed almost his entire junior season because of a shoulder injury. He signed with coach Paul "Bear'' Bryant's Crimson Tide in 1972 and was a member of Alabama's national championship team in 1973. Perry then transferred to Jacksonville State University, where he became a second-team All-America player for the Gamecocks. An ordained and licensed minister, Perry in Hazel Green.
CONNIE STEPHENS – Born in Tuscaloosa in 1952, Constance E. Stephens graduated from Tuscaloosa High School in 1971 before going on to the University of Alabama, where she played varsity volleyball, tennis and basketball, earning an athletic scholarship in volleyball during the 1974-75 season. She earned a BS degree in education in 1975 and a graduate degree in 1976. After beginning her teaching career at Lisman Junior High in Butler, Ala., she came to Grissom High in Huntsville in 1976. She's now in her 36th year on the Grissom faculty. Since 1995, she has served as department chairman of the PE and Drivers Education departments. Stephens, known for her humor and school spirit, has been Grissom's cheerleading coach and girls tennis coach since her first year on the staff. Her tennis teams won a state championship and finished second twice while winning nearly 400 times. She has been named City Coach of the Year 12 times. Her cheerleading squads have won 30 championships since 1982.
RONNIE WHITE – The first stock car race Ronnie White ever covered also happened to be the first stock car race he ever saw. It was the Daytona 500 in 1967, the same year White joined the sports staff of The Huntsville Times after working two years at the newspaper as a copy boy while he was still playing high school football and baseball at Madison Academy. And although he retired in 2010, White continues to cover racing part-time, writing stories for the paper and serving as the chief scorer at the historic quarter-mile Huntsville Speedway. By unofficial count, Alabama's "dean of short track racing'' has covered more than 5,000 races over the years. Born in Chicago, White moved to Huntsville with his family in 1954 and never left town. Although best known for his racing coverage, he was also an award-winning outdoors writer, and also served as The Times' managing sports editor for more than two decades. White was Systems Editor at The Times the last several years of his career.