E.A. Sports Today

Howell joins Hall

ACC champion and former Anniston mayor among six to be enshrined in this year’s County Sports Hall of Fame induction class

For East Alabama Sports Today

The golf wing of the Calhoun County Sports Hall of Fame will expand by one this June as Anniston Country Club champion and former Anniston Mayor Chip Howell has been selected among this year’s six inductees.

Stanley Bell, Mike Deerman, Billy Ferguson, Jerry Ray and Ricky Weems are joining him in the Class of 2017.

The class will be honored at the 13th annual induction banquet June 17 at the Oxford Civic Center. At that time, the group will formally join the current 76 members of the Calhoun County Sports Hall of Fame.

“I’m very appreciative of the board for selecting me and looking forward to that night,” Howell said. “The whole process has been an exciting event.

“It was an exciting opportunity to kind of revisit my history and my journey, not only from the golf perspective, but they give weight and consideration for your community and civic activities, of which I’m also very proud of. Building that scrapbook, getting the information together, was very rewarding.”

For over four decades Howell has been one of Calhoun County’s best amateur golfers. He won County Championships at Anniston Municipal Golf Course in 1979, 1985 and 1998, and was the club champion at Anniston Country Club 13 times between 1975 and 2009. He also has been a part of three Calhoun County team championships and the 1989 Sunny King Charity Classic team title.

Outside of Calhoun County, Howell was a three-year golf letterman at Alabama, is a past 36-hole medalist in the State Amateur and has played in the British Amateur. He has been a director of the Alabama Golf Association for more than 30 years and served as Anniston CC’s general manager during its centennial celebration, bringing it recognition from the USGA.

“If there were a Calhoun County Golf Hall of Fame I am absolutely confident Chip would be a first-ballot inductee,” read a portion of one of his letters of support. “His record as a player is impressive and reputation as a gentleman in a gentleman’s game impeccable.

“He accepts victory as well as defeat always with reverence for his opponents and respect for the game. His combination of boyish grin and steely-eyed competitor often conjures for me visions of Tom Watson, one of the greats of the game.”

With his induction, Howell becomes the first amateur golfer in the County Sports Hall of Fame and joins former U.S. Open champion Jerry Pate (2006) and longtime Anniston Municipal Golf Course pro Buddy Moore (2013) in the golf wing.

“Knowing both of them like I do and being the first amateur in the Hall is certainly of note and an honor,” Howell said. “I go back with Buddy for 40-plus years and Jerry the same, having the honor to play with him at Alabama and to be there the day he won the (U.S.) Open. I was proud of both of them when they were selected and just honored to be in their company.”

In addition to adding to the golf lineup in the Hall, Howell also is the second former Anniston mayor to be enshrined, joining 2014 inductee Norwood Hodges.

Bell was all-county for Wellborn High School in football at end for three years. As a senior in the fall of 1957, he was one of two players unanimously chosen first team and was Calhoun County lineman of the year. In his senior basketball season, Bell was all-tournament at the Calhoun County tournament for the second consecutive season. In June 1958, he played in the high school All-America basketball games in Hutchinson, Kan. He received a football scholarship to Alabama and lettered as a sophomore.

Deerman was an all-district basketball player at Jacksonville High School in 1964 and 1965, where he was coached by his father, the late Van Deerman. After graduating from Jacksonville State, he taught and coached at Weaver High School for 30 years; the gym there bears his name. He was varsity basketball coach for 25 years and was coach of the year four times. His teams made eight postseason appearances. Deerman also coached junior varsity and junior high basketball teams. Overall, his teams won more than 450 games.

His sons, David and Matt, are both head baseball coaches in the county. Their teams, Jacksonville and Piedmont, meet in the Calhoun County Tournament semifinals Monday.

Ferguson officiated football, basketball and baseball for 37 years and worked AHSAA football playoff games for 34 of them. He was an official in state championship games 12 times. Ferguson called Class 6A championship games in football, basketball and baseball and was referee in the 6A title game four times. Health concerns forced him to retire from officiating and in 1999 he received the Alabama High School Athletic Association’s Distinguished Service Award.

Ray starred in football at Oxford High School where he was a starter at running back on the varsity teams from his freshman year through his senior season. He was a second-team all-county pick as a sophomore and a unanimous first-team pick his junior year. That same year, he was named by the Anniston Quarterback Club as the outstanding running back among county schools. In 1960, his senior season, Ray repeated as first-team all-county at running back.

Weems was a four-year starter and four-year letterman in football at Wellborn High School. He was first-team all-county and second-team all-state in 1967 as a senior and the Anniston Quarterback Club named him the county’s defensive player of the year. He played in the AHSAA North-South all-star football game before beginning a football career at Jacksonville State. At JSU, he was a four-year starter and four-year letterman. He was all-conference as a junior and a senior and led the Gamecocks in tackles each year.

“The Calhoun County Sports Hall of Fame has earned the reputation of inducting high quality classes each year. This year’s inductees will certainly continue that strong tradition. The 2017 class well represents the excellence of athletics that we have here in Calhoun County,” said Jon Holder, a member of the Hall of Fame’s all-volunteer board of directors and spokesman for the board.

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