The year 1945 was an eventful one for Roy Anderson.
The Scottsboro native played in a basketball state championship that spring, graduated from Jackson County High School in May and was drafted into the Army soon after as World War II continued on.
“That was a long time ago,” Anderson said with a laugh. “That year, going to the state tournament, graduation rolls around and then to the Army (in a few months). I was in Army Scout training one day when our sergeant told us the war had ended.”
Following his time in the military, Anderson went to play college basketball at Jacksonville State and later at Howard College (now Samford). On Saturday, at age 94, Anderson, the last living member of the final team for legendary Jackson County High School basketball coach Mickey “Guy” O’Brien, took his spot in the Jackson County Sports Hall of Fame next to O’Brien.
Anderson was one of 17 inductees in the Class of 2021, which was officially inducted during the JCSHOF Banquet at the Scottsboro Goose Pond Civic Center in Scottsboro.
“To be a part of this hall of fame is very meaningful to me,” Anderson said. “That meant a lot, bringing back memories.”
Joining Anderson in the Class of 2021 were former Scottsboro and Alabama football player Dr. Clyde Butler, former Scottsboro football/basketball/track and field athlete Dr. David Campbell, former two-time state champion Pisgah girls basketball coach Claude “Butch” Cassidy, former Northeast Alabama Community College men’s basketball coach Dr. Bill Elder, former Scottsboro and University of South Alabama track and field athlete and multi-time Homewood and Hewitt-Trussville track and field/cross country head coach Tom Esslinger, former Scottsboro and University of Alabama basketball player Holland Floyd, former Jackson County and University of Alabama football player Ben Hunt, former Scottsboro and Alabama football player Tom McCrary, former 16-time county champion Rosalie School basketball coach Ricky Ragsdale, former Scottsboro and Jacksonville State football player Dr. Morris Seymour, former Scottsboro and Athens State basketball player and longtime high school sports coach and referee Bobby Talley, former Scottsboro and Livingston (now West Alabama) football player and Livingston Fellowship of Christian Athletes president Ronnie Thompson, former Scottsboro and Auburn football player and Air Force Lt. William “Bill” Commodore Wood Jr., former Scottsboro and Liberty University football player Rupert Wright, former Scottsboro, Northwest Shoals and Auburn-Montgomery baseball player Heath Zapf and Contributor Inductee Delmus “Pat” Patterson. Hunt, Floyd, Thompson, Wood and Patterson are deceased.
Patterson, who died in 2017, was responsible for the start of the Section High School football team, his most notable among his many contributions to sports in that community.
“He said someone had to start it. If he hadn’t stepped in, who knows if it ever would have,” said Patterson’s daughter Cindy Patterson Palmer, who along with her brother Patrick Patterson accepted the honor for their late father during the banquet. “Growing up, I heard all about it, heard all the stories, I saw all the hard work he put in. For him to get recognition is everything. I wish he could been here because he definitely deserved it. A lot of those guys on the first team were here tonight. We appreciate them for coming. It really means a lot for our family.”
Added Patrick Patterson, “Our family is incredibly honored that Dad was recognized and inducted into the Jackson County sports Hall of Fame. If he were alive, he would be humbled and grateful. He was never a self-promoter and he would feel a little bit embarrassed by all of the recognition. However, he would be incredibly touched and appreciative. On behalf of Dad and our family, we truly appreciate the Jackson County Sports Hall of Fame taking the time to recognize his efforts to start the Section High School football program, as well as his life of servant leadership. We are eternally grateful.”
Ragsdale, the legendary former Rosalie Middle School basketball coach, said his induction brought back so many good memories.
“You think people have forgotten, but it reminds you that they haven’t,” he said. “I wish the plaque had said Rosalie community, because without all the kids and parents and everyone who played a part in (my coaching career) this wouldn’t have happened. They loved me and supported me. We just worked hard, and the kids and parents all bought into that. I was just blessed.”
The Class of 2021 was a family affair for the Esslingers, as hall-of-fame Scottsboro track and field/cross country coach John Esslinger (Class of 2014) was joined by his son Tom, who followed in his father’s footsteps as a state-title winning coach in those sports at Homewood and now Hewitt-Trussville.
“Not many people get to live the lives of their hero. I’ve been blessed to do that. My dad is my hero. I’m grateful, beyond grateful, for the opportunity to walk in his footsteps and hopefully pass on the lessons he’s taught me,” Tom Esslinger said while giving the Class of 2021’s acceptance speech.
Afterward, Tom Esslinger said joining his father in the hall of fame “was the most special part.”
“Thankful to him and to all those who have helped me along the way and fortunate to have them in my life,” he added. “(Being inducted) to me is what makes it special is the history of it all. You hear of what everyone’s done and how everyone is connected. It really shows how special this community is.”
The Class of 2021 followed a year in which the JCSHOF did not have a Class of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
JCSHOF board president Greg Bell was excited to see a large crowd in attendance as the banquet resumed after a one-year absence.
“It was a just a great night with great inductees. So many great inductees, people like Roy Anderson who played in 1940s and Bill Wood, who sacrificed his life for his country,” Bell said of Wood, who fought in the Vietnam war and was declared MIA (missing in action) in September of 1972 after his plane was shot down and declared and KIA (killed in action) in October of 1979.
“Seeing the crowd, it’s encouraging that people, even without (a banquet) last year, are still interested in the hall of fame,” Bell added. “I hope people will continue to turn in nominations. I know it can be cumbersome, but it’s well worth it. Get those nominations in. There’s a lot of people that could be and need to be nominated for this.”