Playing football ‘back in the days’ for Holmes

Published 9:44 am Wednesday, August 11, 2010

It was an emotional and spiritual occasion when six former ECHS football players journeyed to Glencoe two years ago to spend a day with their beloved former coach A.R. (Arvel) Holmes.

That’s what Glenn Jernigan told me last week when he brought me the details and a photo.

Jernigan said the group simply wanted to be with “coach for a “short spell” since word reached them that he was in failing health. Making that 2008 trip with Jernigan were Allan Davis, Adolph (Doc) Sutton. Jr., Tom Gattiker, Humphrey (Hump) Snider and Billy Broughton. These were only a “handful” of players Holmes tutored during his 1952 to early 1960 tenure at ECHS.

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Holmes took a coaching job in Savannah, Ga. after leaving Atmore. He coached at other Georgia schools but retired from Rabun High in Georgia.

Earl “Cannonball Etheridge,” who played for him at ECHS joined his Savannah staff and was associated with him for several years Jernigan said.

Holmes, who played college football under legendary “Scrappy” Moore at Tennessee-Chattanooga, recorded 211 wins and five undefeated seasons in his 34 years of coaching. Many of those wins occurred right here in Atmore.

Jernigan said the trip was especially meaningful as each of those six players expressed their personal faith to him. Jernigan said Holmes expressed his faith prior to their leaving.

He passed away two months later at the home of his sister and her family in Glencoe. Holmes was the featured coach on our Saturday mornings “High School Review” radio show on WATM. Sam Ford, who also was close to Moore, initiated that show and I continued it for several years after Sam left. I, too, learned to appreciate Holmes during those mid 1950 years.

In some more local news, I want to apologize to Charles Lowery for inadvertently omitting his name from the list of outstanding baseball players back in the 1940s and 1950s . That column about all those ballplayers was carried in The Advance last week. Many of you may have detected I wrote the column about two years ago. Charles was, indeed, one of those talented baseball players back in those days.

Betty Buxton Arthur called my wife yesterday informing her of a 1954 class reunion that is in the works. Full details are not yet worked out, but it will be held here about the same time as Williams Station Day. You’ll read more about it in upcoming weeks. One other man for whom I have tremendous respect is James Boyd, the former pastor of Brooks Memorial Baptist Church.

The Rev. Boyd resigned from that church last month after faithfully serving as pastor for 2-3 years. He was a fine pastor, but many probably do not know of his highly successful business career. He owned and operated one of Pensacola’s more prolific plumbing companies. In fact, his firm dispatched 27 trucks each day for commercial and residential jobs. He also has affiliation with one local plumbing firm. Ellen, his wife, spends a couple days a week at the Pensacola business, which is operated by his son.

Brother Boyd was an outstanding high school football player. And, very few knew that he was an excellent trumpet player. He told me, after leaving Brooks, that he may minister evangelistically. You can be sure those who appreciate him will follow his ministry closely.

He and I shared a lot of the same interests. He is very knowledgeable in current affairs and he knows the Bible as well as anyone. He and I both enjoy reading, listening to four-part harmony singing and the big band sounds of the 40s and 50s.

Known as a person who would “literally give you the shirt off his back,” he would occasionally do work for the less fortunate without charging them any money. He dispatched one small job for me and refused to take my money. He said “write a check to the church, that’s the only way I will accept it.” That’s the type of person he is.

Most of the time you will find him down on his Walnut Hill farm with a diversity of animals and fruits and vegetables. An avid apiarist, he has some of the finest bee colonies you’ll find anywhere. And the honey from those colonies is the sweetest around. A jar of his honey is found in my wife’s kitchen all the time.

Well, next week we will take a look at some more news, events and people from the year 1966.

Lowell McGill is a historical columnist for The Atmore Advance. He can be reached at

Pictured are players who played for former ECHS Blue Devils head coach A.R. Holmes. Pictured, from left, Glenn Jernigan, Alan Davis, Coach A.R Holmes, Adolph (Doc) Sutton Jr., Tom Gattiker, Humphrey (Hump) Snider and Billy Broughton. | Submitted Photo