5 to be inducted into 2017 Atmore Area Hall of Fame class

Published 12:01 am Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The Atmore Hall of Fame committee released its inductees of the 2017 class recently.

Tickets for the HOF banquet, which will be held on Sat., April 29, at The Club, can be purchased at Carl’s Tot Shop.

The following are in the 2017 class of the Atmore Hall of Fame:
William C. America Sr.

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America was born on Feb. 28, 1933, to the late Richard America Sr. and Lillian America Golden. He was a native of Camden, and moved to Atmore in 1945.

America was the founder and lead singer for a local men’s quartet, the Southern Voices, for many years. He also organized and promoted local and nationally well-known African American gospel artists in the greater Atmore area.

America obtained local advertisement and support to create a gospel radio program for 105.9-FM Gospel Radio in Atmore for many years.

America was the first African American county commissioner elected to served on the Escambia County Commission. He served 12 years and four years as chairman. He still remains the only African American to serve as chairman.

America helped form a citizen action committee to elect the first African American city councilman in Atmore. He led a coalition of Atmore citizens that included both African American and white citizens to elect Eldred Pritchett on the city council.

He was the founder and president of United Civic Club, an organization that helped restore Houston Avery Park. He paid for the park’s sign with his own money.

While on the commission, America made numerous trips to the state capitol to obtain funding and state support to install water lines to rural areas in the county, which included the Robinsonville area.

America also provided leadership and guidance to many community organizations, groups and task forces.

America married Pauline Powers on Feb. 17, 1951, and the couple had six children.
Howard Shell

Shell was born in Monroe County near Excel on Oct. 31, 1932, and shortly afterward moved to Davisville, Fla., where his dad farmed. After two years, the Shell family moved to Walnut Hill, where Shell’s dad bought a small grocery store.

“There were no paved roads, no telephones and gasoline was 21 cents a gallon,” Shell wrote. “If you smoked, your choice was Bull Durham or Prince Albert, and you had to roll your own. The read rolls (Lucky Strike, Wings or Dominos) cost more.”

Shell attended Ernest Ward High School, and played on the school’s first football team in 1950. He went to Florida State and then to the Korean War. He served four years in the U.S. Navy. as a hospital corpsman.

Shell said he saw firsthand the tragedies of war.

After his stint in the Navy, he went to work at Chemstrand, working 30 years in research and development. When he retired, Shell was elected to the city council and later served 22 years as mayor.

Shell helped build a spec building that would eventually become Alto Products.

Working with the merchants, the city applied for and received a grant to revitalize downtown. The old sidewalks were replaced, flower beds added and the garden club recommended flowers to be planted. Shortly afterward, Amtrak picked Atmore to locate a depot for the Sunset Limited from Florida to California.

Shell helped the city move forward in purchasing what would be the Rivercane Development.

Shell and his wife, Nannette, have been married for 66 years and the couple have two children, Nancy Fayard, and son, Burt; five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Edmund Adam Staff

Staff was born on Nov. 16, 1904, in Crown Point, Ind. In 1913, he and his family moved to Camp Walton, Fla. In 1932, he married Nell Yearwood and they moved to Atmore. They raised six children, which resulted in a large family. He remained in Atmore until his death on Feb. 2, 2003.

Because his faith was important to him and his family, the Staff family was instrument in starting a Catholic church in Atmore. Because there was no church, Mass said in the Staff’s living room.

After a fire in the church in 1969, Eddie and his sons refinished all of the pews and made the doors to the church. His idea, along with donations fro his and other families, brought about the stained glass windows in the church. The windows still remain today. Because of his love of music, he bought two organs for the church.

During World War II, he was on the ration board, and worked with the civil defense. He was on the city of Atmore Board of Adjustment, which was active in bringing four lanes Highway 21 through to Interstate 65.

Staff and 12 others helped organize the Atmore Area Chamber of Commerce, he helped bring Vanity Fair Mills to Atmore, served on the board of directors of The Bank of Atmore, which is now United Bank, and Staff was owner and manager of Staff Chevrolet Inc., from 1937-2003.
Earl LaGrande “Cannonball” Etheridge Jr.

Earle LaGrande “Cannonball” Etheridge Jr. was born in Huxford as the first child of Eltra Mae Vickrey Etheridge and Earl L. Etheridge Sr. on Dec. 7, 1937. He attended elementary, junior high and high school in Atmore, graduating from ECHS in 1955.

He lettered in football and baseball during his sophomore, junior and senior years, and was awarded a football scholarship to Auburn University, where he played on the freshman team for the 1955-56 school year.

Etheridge attended the University of Southern Mississippi on a baseball scholarship beginning in 1958.

He began his coaching career in 1963 in Savannah, Ga., as an assistant football and head baseball coach at Savannah High School with Arvel Holmes, a former coach at ECHS.

Later on, Etheridge became the head football coach, athletic director and head baseball coach at the new city school, Windsor Forest High School, in the fall of 1967. He continued in that capacity through the 1983-84 school year. While there, his baseball teams won the region championship 14 out of the 16 years and played in the state finals several years.

Etheridge received numerous coach of the year awards, and coached a nationally-ranked softball team from 1980-1991. The team won the national championship in 1985 and 1990.

Etheridge also was involved in several committees in Savannah, including the board of trustees, the reclassification committee, football committee and officials committee.

He was the tournament director for several state semifinals and finals in football, basketball and girls softball.
William T. Hall Jr.

William T. Hall Jr. was born in Atmore to Virginia Hall and W.T. Hall Sr. on Dec. 13, 1944. He attended Escambia County Training School and graduated in 1963.

“My successes are a summation of influences of the Atmore community,” he said. “My parents, teachers and church are what gave me the tools and faith to help me reach my goals. The list is too long to mention the special ones.”

Hall attended Tuskegee Institute from 1963-67, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and math education. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the United States Army.

Hall’s military service includes a stint in Vietnam, where he was awarded the Bronze Medal, and obtained the rank of captain.

“After my military service, I attended the University of Alabama in Birmingham, and worked as a research assistant in biochemistry,” he said. “I also obtained a master’s degree in science education.”

His schooling wasn’t complete as Hall attended the University of Alabama School of Medicine from 1974-78, where he obtained his medical degree.

“I completed training in internal medicine with the Baptist Health Systems from 1978-1981,” he said.

Afterward, he started a private practice in 1981 and is still in practice in Birmingham.

“I was influenced to become a doctor while serving in Vietnam, where I was exposed to massive destruction of human lives,” Hall said. “I credit my faith that was instilled in me at Greater Mt. Triumph Baptist Church in Atmore, in helping me to return home.”

Hall is married to Sandra Hatcher Hall, and he has two sons that have attended Auburn University. He resides in Birmingham.