Leila S. Case: And the Panther memories live on

Published 12:16 pm Monday, August 19, 2019

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It was an exciting time in our lives and that of the entire community when the Americus High School (AHS) Panthers football team, led by head football Coach Alton Shell, was on a huge winning streak beginning in 1973, that included two back-to- back state championships in 1974 and ‘75. The Panthers ranked second in the nation in December 1975.

Many people have written countless words about Coach Shell and his achievements since his death last week, including those who knew him better than I. But I’m moved to write about him, too.

I met Coach in 1973, when my son Mark Barrett entered high school at AHS and was a member of the Panthers team. Of course, we were in the stadium cheering “Go Big Blue” at every home game as well as the out of town games. I even tagged along to away games with friends Spencer Davis Sr. (“Onion”) and his wife Virginia when my husband was away on business trips.

It was an exciting time.

In September 1974, I joined the staff at this newspaper and the powerful AHS Panthers were the topic of the community and state. Sports were not included on my beat, but nevertheless I wrote some sidebars and features for sports editor, the late Clarence Graddick. And as I recall Alf Bell took the action photos for Graddick’s stories.

The 1975 season opener was at the newly constructed AHS Finklea-Robinson Stadium named to honor the contributions of Coach Jack Finklea and Dr. John H. “Bud” Robinson, during their decades-long service to public education in Americus. The stadium was formally dedicated before kick-off, and I was assigned to cover the story. It was a glorious Panther football Friday. The stadium was packed. The band played, fans cheered and, of course, the mighty Panthers won the game due to the skillful coaching by Coach Shell, Coach Doug Parrish and other assistant coaches.

It was an exciting time.

Now many of the principal school leaders and administrators of that time are gone: Principal Richard Fussell, head coach Shell and Americus School Superintendent Spencer Davis Sr.

But memories of these legendary men and those days of Panther football glory live on in our hearts and minds, especially those of guys coached by Alton Shell.

Elsewhere, Southland Academy’s class of 1976 gathered last weekend for their 45th high school reunion.

About 50 people, including 27 classmates and their spouses, gathered at the home of classmate Pat Sellars Gordy in Ellaville for a barbecue “meet and greet” Friday evening, while Saturday night they re-grouped at The Carnegie for a delicious cocktail buffet catered by Leon Holloway with music by DJ Thurston Clary. During the weekend, they had a memorial service for the 12 classmates who have died.

Classmates attending were Andy Shivers, Lee Ann Weaver Behsmann of Colorado Springs, Colorado, Maryann Dean Peel, Cathy Trask, Cecile Queener, Terry Lloyd, Carl Corbin, Gary Mathews, Jim Moyd, Skeeter McKenzie, Warren Greene, Mike Fletcher, Jimmy Harrison, Guy Holloway, Mark Tatum, Richard Mason, Gail Coogle, Sharon Slappey Tatum, Jolyn Dillard Morris, Kathy Green Christmas, Joy Keene Nelson, Ann Coogle, Linda Brown Burch, Beth Smith Cochran, Dennis Hall, Pat Sellars Gordy, and James Haugabook.


Stick and Elise Miller enjoyed cooler weather as well as lobster while visiting her parents in Maine recently, while Ricky and Jane Arnold also enjoyed cool days and the absence of pesky insects during their recent visit with Bobbi Bagley at her summer home in Highlands, N.C. While there they enjoyed the annual Cashiers Tour of Homes.

Congratulations to Ross and Charlotte Chambliss who recently celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary and to Sam and Julie Megginson who observed their wedding anniversary, birthday wishes to Cindy Dudley, Sue Fitzgerald, and Carey Wooten whose birthday is today. Get well wishes to Larry Dillard.

Leila Sisson Case lives in Americus.