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Sports Hall of Fame inducts four more members

South Boston News
Four new members joined the Halifax County-South Boston Sports Hall of Fame Saturday night. From left, the new Hall class includes Jerry Brooks, Joseph E. Johnson, Ronnie Chappell, and Dale Ramey, with president Carlyle Wimbish Jr. (Victor Newman photo) / April 14, 2014
Ninety-three honorees are now part of the Halifax County-South Boston Sports Hall of Fame, as Jerry Brooks, Ronnie Chappell, Joseph E. Johnson and Dale Ramey joined the celebrated group Saturday night.

All four members of the Hall graduated from Halifax County High School, in the same building that now houses the Halifax County Middle School, site of Saturday’s banquet.

All four had different resumes.

The latest Hall class includes Johnson, who was a football and track star.

Johnson also showed grace and determination coming into an almost all-while high school under the Freedom of Choice plan. Chappell had an outstanding varsity football career at HCHS, winning all-state honors on both sides of the ball, before moving on to William & Mary, where he made the all-Southern Conference football squad his junior season.

Ramey emerged as a fleet-footed track and football standout in an earlier era at Halifax County. Brooks was a hot-shooting guard for the Comet boys’ basketball program, and capped a stellar season by helping to lead the 1973 squad all the way to the state finals and an historic showdown with powerful Petersburg and Moses Malone.

Three Comet student-athletes also received scholarship assistance at the annual Sports Hall of Fame banquet, which picked up new local sponsorship this year from Huber Engineered Woods of Crystal Hill.

The Matze family scholarship went to Ezra Walker, who plans to attend George Mason. Frank Lee also presented a pair of scholarships from the Hall Endowment Fund to Richard Booth, who plans to attend Hampden Sydney; and Will Harris, who hopes to play baseball at Ferrum College.

Two members of the local Hall of Fame leadership who had passed away recently, Addison Marable and Terry Meadows, were also remembered with a moment of silence.

BALLOU PRESENTS BROOKS: Hall member Brad Ballou recalled the electrifying Brooks, who was a member of the Comet squad from 1970-73. Ballou remembered the 1973 state final in Charlottesville, when the Comets contained Malone in his final high school game. Calvin Crews held Malone to 12 points that game and Brooks shredded Petersburg for 26 points, but the Comets still came up short in the state final.

Ballou had an entertaining talk, and recalled Brooks had an ‘Oh lord’ effect on local basketball fans. As in - ‘oh lord, did you see that move? Ballou remembered Brooks for his flair - and leadership - on the court.

Brooks, who battled back from a major medical operation to make the effort to be here, praised God for his grace and mercy in his life. He also thanked the Hall committee for this honor.

Brooks remembered the contributions his family and teammates made in helping to shape his career. He particularly remembered his mom and dad. He also commended his wife of 32 years, Pamela.

STARNES HONORS CHAPPELL: Another local Hall of Famer, Coleman Starnes, presented Chappell for induction into the local Hall.

Starnes praised Chappell, who joined the varsity football team as a sophomore, as an eventual all-state selection on both offense and defense.

Chappell was a standout performer for the 1969 team that went 10-1, defeating Tazwell in regional playoff action.

Chappell honored his extensive family and gave a humorous, poignant speech on his selection.

“Like most aging sports stars, I travel with my own entourage. And my entourage, everyone is a Chappell; used to be a Chappell, is married to a Chappell, or a child of a Chappell,” he said.

He went on to summarize some of the accomplishments of his extended family and praised his wife, Susan, who has extensive South Boston ties. He also had kind words for his older brother Eddie, who had paved the way for Ronnie.

Chappell also expressed appreciation for his Comet teammates.

Chappell showcased his trademark humor and folksy speaking style, noting that he often got the credit for something that one of his younger brothers (Jack and Jim) did. He noted in the 1969 Western Regional championship game, Giles Carter broke through and blocked a punt.

“The ball rolled into the Tazwell end zone and a pile of blue jerseys fell on top of it. Although my brother Jim gathered in the loose ball, I received credit in the newspaper for scoring the first and only touchdown of my high school career. I hope that a correction of some kind will appear in the local paper,” said Chappell.

Chappell also recalled fondly his role as the designated fouler for the varsity boys’ basketball team under another Hall of Famer, Bill Morningstar. Chappell’s role was to get the opposing teams’ best players frustrated by repeated fouls.

JOHNSON JOINS HALL: Bristol Martin presented Chappell for induction to the local Hall. Johnson played football for the Comets - he and Chappell were members of the defense on that fabled 1969 regional championship football team - and the Comet standout also made his mark in track and field.

Chappell noted of Johnson that he arrived at HCHS under the Freedom of Choice plan. Johnson entered HCHS as a freshman in the fall of 1966.

Johnson would go on to became one of the Comets’ first standout African-American athletes.

“It was a really turbulent time. Public schools in neighboring Prince Edward County had been closed for five years. Here at home, local officials were in court, fighting tooth and nail to delay or prevent the complete desegration of the local schools,” Chappell recalled.

Johnson was one of the few who made the choice to attend HCHS under the freedom of choice plan. “As a 13-year-old, I remembered how worried I was now coming to Halifax County High School and going to school with a bunch of people from South Boston. I can only imagine what it was like for Joe .... it took courage for Joe and William Leigh to try out for an all-white football team.”

Johnson praised the coaching acumen and leadership of his former coaches Morningstar and Starnes.

Johnson also thanked his family and teammates and the Hall committee for their support. He also told a great story on Martin, then a young coach at the time. Johnson was supposed to do an extensive workout on a day when Martin could not be there. But Johnson cut the workout short. Martin pressed Johnson about his shortcuts and doubled the workload the next day. It was part of the life lessons Johnson learned on integrity, hard work, sportsmanship and honor at HCHS.

Noting the atmosphere at HCHS in a broiling time for race relations, Johnson said, “We found safety and solace in the classrooms. The instructors were kind, and they prevented the issues from outside from infiltrating into their environment.”

RAMEY COMPLETES THE CLASS: Ramey was presented to the Hall class by his old 1959 football quarterback Louie Seabolt.

Ramey also brought humor and grace to his induction speech. He also thanked the Hall, his old teammates and the community for their support. Ramey also recognized his family ties — and their accomplishments — during the induction ceremony.

Ramey also played with Morningstar, Wayne Lloyd, Starnes and future Virginia star Chip Conner. Ramey recalled fondly his senior season in sports as a Comet.

He also recognized a number of people in the county during his athletic career.

Ramey also recalled that, in so many ways, his athletic career and ongoing business career have brought Ramey rewards and recognition been better than he deserved.

“I had a great time playing sports. I really enjoyed all of that,” said Ramey, who brought out a number of stories about his career as a Comet.

Ramey remembered some of his former coaches and teammates in their role in helping shape his athletic career.

The local Sports Hall is now open to the public, with visiting hours set for 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on Saturday and 1-3 p.m. on Sundays. The location is adjacent to Boston Lumber, on U.S. 58.

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See complete sports coverage for Halifax and Mecklenburg counties.