Barnes Boys reunite
By By James Crawford
The Barnes Boys were a team once more as they held their annual reunion yesterday at David's Catfish Cabin in downtown. The group of nearly 120 people including Barnes' Boys, classmates, and spouses shared stories and talked about fellow classmates who have passed away.
About an hour into the gathering, John Crawford of the class of '49 called for a moment of silence as he read the names of 85 fellow teammates who have passed on. As each name was read out loud, Dix Darby rang the gold plated bell in honor of their passing. After the names were read, the group held hands and hugged one another as they sang their alma mater with reverence.
Nell Kelly of the class of '49 was busy saying hello and giving hugs to nearly everyone who passed by. "I'm having a good time. It's a big crowd this year," said Kelly.
The gathering began in 1986 when the boys all attended to honor the passing of their coach, Herbert Barnes, for whom the group carries the name Barnes' boys. The group met each year for a while and then it dissipated.
About nine years ago the group had been gathering as honorary pallbearers at the funerals of their friends and decided to once again start meeting in celebration. The attendance has been steadily growing ever since.
"We started with nine and its grown until last year we had about 115 and this year we have even more," said class of '47's Robert Faircloth, owner of David's Catfish Cabin along with his son Rob.
"Atmore is a great little town and it's full of wonderful people," said Mary Lou Brawner, widow of Judson Brawner. Brawner had met up with a fellow widow, Betty Powell Crook, widow of George Crook. The widow's husbands had been best friends and died only a year apart. "We shared a house together in college at one point in time and we try to stay in touch," said Crook.
Although the group is most recognized for their contributions on the football field and their association with Herbert Barnes during perhaps the greatest football years Atmore has ever known, many of the young men went on to an even greater cause – fighting for freedom in the south Pacific, Korea, Vietnam and in other military skirmishes over the years.
Barnes is well-known for having installed a sense of duty to his teams while on the football field and that sense of purpose spilled over after high-school to lead many of his boys into military service where they continued to win when the stakes were the greatest of all.
Most of the former football players entered the service from 1950-53, during the Korean Conflict. Some entered earlier, but they were retained until after Korea. Jessie Sewell Stanton, who still lives here in Atmore, was the first to suffer severe combat wounds.
Dix Darby is widely thought of as being directly responsible for about six or seven of the Barnes' Boys entering the Navy and Marine Corps. Darby went in the Navy at the height of WWII in 1943 when he was almost 15. Darby participated in numerous invasions in the Pacific and later returned to attend high School while still a teenager. He re-enlisted one day after graduation and served as an inspiration for his fellow classmates.
Walter E. Welch of the 1947 team is perhaps the most decorated among the group having achieved the rank of Commander in the United States Navy at the height of his 30 year career.
Welch entered the navy upon completion of high school in Jun 1948 as a seaman recruit. He advanced through all enlisted ranks and was commissioned in 1960. Welch served as the Executive Officer aboard the 850 Man repair ship USS Ajax that was deployed to the western Pacific.
Welch has been awarded the following decorations during his 26 years of Naval service: Bronze Star Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Four Navy Commendation Medals with combat "V", three Good Conduct Awards, China Service Medal, Occupation Medal, two National Defense Medals, Korean Presidential Citation, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal and the Presidential Unit citation.
The following is a listing of the Barnes teams and the men who played football for Atmore and later fought for our country. The list was compiled by Walter Welch with the help of his comrades in arms. A total of 70 players, 63 served, seven didn't. Two of those seven suffered medical problems. Harold Hendrix had only one eye and Dale Dees had Polio.
Cliff "PeeWee" Bethea, Army; Joe Brown, Navy;
Otis Hale, USMC 21 years Master Sargent.
Bobby Graham, USMC; Red Bray, Navy; Andrew Sharkie, Navy; Billy Crummery, Army.
David Andrews, Air Force, Colonel 28 years; Locklin Moore, Air Force, Col. 27 years; Wayne Barrett, Army; Randolf Bonds, USMC; Charles Edwards, Army; Ben Haley, USMC-Navy; Tom Lowery, Navy; James Forte, Navy; Kenneth Cunningham, Army; John Earl Davis, Army; Tommy Forte, Army; Sewell Stanton, Army; Doyle Thompson, CDR, 25 Years, USMC-USCG; Dewitt Bell, Navy
Bug Albert, Navy; John Winston McGlothern, Navy, Senior Chief, 24 years; Henry Lowery, Air Force.
Judson Brawner, USMC – Navy; Dix Darby Navy, Master Chief 26 Years; Joe Duchac, Air Force; Henry Lowery, Air Force; Grover Everette, Army; Robert Faircloth, Army; Lawrence King. Air Force, Master Sgr. 21 Years; Nathan Little, Army; Carlos McGlothern, Navy, Lieutenant, 24 years' Robert Mallory, Air Force; Walter Welch, Navy, Commander, 30 years; Sonny Shirley, Navy, Senior Chief 21 years.
Billy Arnold, Army; Harold Barnes, Navy, Commander, 26 yr.; George Crook, Navy; Tommy Cunningham, Army; Bobby Davis, Army; James "Red" Emmons, Army; Don Forte, USCG, Senior Chief, 22 years; Harold Forte, Army; Lloyd Furney, Army; Bobby Griffin, Navy; Arron Hadley, Army; Marion Hadley, Army; Wilton Hathaway, Army; Billy James, Air Force; Bo Keller, Army; Robert Lowery, Army; Earl Manning, Army; Robert Mallory, Air Force; Bobby McDonald, Air Force; J.K. McLeod, Army; Kenneth Nall, Army; Bobby Norris, Army; Virgil Peacock, Navy. Lt. Cdr. 23 years; Harold Shirley, Army; Wallace Welch, Army; Winston White, Army; Bubba Wilson, Navy.