5 inducted into Atmore Hall of Fame

Published 12:05 am Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Five individuals were inducted into the 2017 class of the Atmore Area Hall of Fame on April 29 at The Club.

The inductees included William America Sr., Earl Etheridge, Dr. W.T. Hall Jr., Howard Shell and Eddie Staff Sr.

Each year, the Atmore HOF committee selects the inductees to pay tribute to them and their contributions.

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America’s son, James, accepted the honor for his dad, who passed away in 2010.

“The family feels so honored that the community would reach out and recognize our father,” James said. “He lived a great life, and taught us a lot.”

James said William instilled five things in his children, including a sense of leadership, respect, integrity, and commitment to the cause and caring for others.

James said when it came to believing in an idea, his father would fight for it.

“I saw courage in him then, and he was not scared,” he said.

On caring for others, James said his father had one simple motto.

“He said, ‘If I could help somebody, then my life wasn’t in vein,’” James said.

For Etheridge, the HOF award wouldn’t have been possible if it wasn’t for his mother and father, who he called assets in his life.

In addition, Etheridge said his brother helped him become the man he is today.

“My brother, there isn’t anybody better,” he said.

Etheridge said his father had a certain way of praising him, and his mother pushed him to success.

“I accept this award in honor of my mother,” he said.

As a coach, Etheridge said he saw a lot of success.

Hall is a doctor in Birmingham, and while he has received several awards in his medical career, the HOF award was the most special.

Hall recognized those who have helped him along in his journey.

From an early age, Hall said he was taught a good lesson from Mr. Swift.

“I remember Mr. Swift rolled up in his Cadillac,” he said. “Mr. Swift said, ‘Son, I hear you are a good student.’ He gave me a dollar. He said, ‘You get your school work done because good things do come.’”

Hall went on to attend Tuskegee, and then was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the United States Army. He served in the Vietnam War, a topic he talked little about.

“I tell you, that was an experience,” he said. “I was very fortunate I came back to complete my post undergraduate and medical school work.”

Hall said he wouldn’t have gotten through the war without God.

“God brought me through,” he said.

“This award to me is more important than any other I have received,” he said.

Shell, the former mayor of Atmore, talked about the other inductees and recalled a couple stories of his political life.

“When I first got into politics, I asked Judge Wiggins what I need to do,” Shell said. “He told me, ‘you need to take up preaching.’”

Shell said he proceeded to watch any program with preachers and studied their prayers.

He was called soon after and asked to preside over a funeral.

Shell said he managed to find the funeral, but will never forget what a digger told him.

“He said, ‘I have been doing this for 25 years, and this is the first time I’ve seen anybody pray over a septic tank.’”

Shell said he appreciates all of the effort the committee has done.

“It’s not what I did, it’s what we did,” he said. “Atmore will always be home.”

Major Jim Staff accepted the award for his father, who owned Staff Chevrolet for many years.

“I’m honored to accept this for the family,” he said. “My father was something. He did a great job.”

Staff talked about the early history of his father, all the way back to when he was a boy in Mexico.

Staff said his father graduated from Plant City, and went to Spring Hill.

Staff said his father was a boat mechanic, and earned $100 a night.

“He was a good man,” he said. “Those who are here from his family are proud of him.”