Last week I wrote about the Class of 1965 at R.E. Lee Institute preparing to celebrate our 50th Reunion and took a look at the 1964 Rebel football team. Of course the 1964 football team was the team from our senior year.
This week I will take a look at some of the other teams from the 1964-65 school year and share a few more memories of that wonderful year. Again, I just can’t figure out where all of these years have gone!
Coach Jim Cavan’s Lady Rebel basketball team was the most successful squad of our senior year. They won the Region 4AAA championship and returned to the AAA State Tournament for the third consecutive year. The state tournament was played at the Holstun Gym on the Lee campus so it was an exciting time for our girls.
Senior players on that Lady Rebel squad were All-Stater Gwen Murphy, Donna Wilson, Christie Tyler, Sue Holloway, Dorothy Wilkes, and Florrie Bellew. As a member of the boys team, I saw every game these ladies played. They were very good and they were always supportive of the boys’ team.
1964-65 was the first season for Wallace Rhodes as coach of the Lee boys’ basketball team. He came in from Cuthbert, Georgia and immediately put his stamp on the basketball program. He inherited a squad with limited talent but good size for that era of high school basketball in Georgia. We had five guys who were 6’3” or taller.
Our season record was 15-10 and that was a very good mark for this group of players. Coach Rhodes did a remarkable job with our team and we won some very memorable games. We started four seniors and a sophomore. The seniors on the squad were starters Sandy Kersey, Fred Murphy, Woody Woodall, and myself. The backup seniors were Bob Jones and Sife Perdue.
We weren’t great shooters, but with our size and bulk, we could rebound with anyone. On many nights we simply out-muscled the other team and won with brute strength and determination.
Our biggest win of the year came against Decatur. The Bulldogs were the top team in our Region 4AAA and were ranked #2 in the state when they visited Holstun Gym in February, 1965. We were ready after losing a close overtime game, that we should have easily won, to them earlier in the season.
Behind 26 points from Jim Fowler (Yea!) we beat Decatur 46-41 to spoil their region title hopes. By the way, a member of that Decatur team was Herb White, who went on to star at Georgia and played for the Atlanta Hawks. He could absolutely jump out of the gym!
We also had a big win at home against our arch-rival, the Griffin Eagles, beating them by 19 points behind a 29-point effort from that Fowler guy. Yes, my teammates contributed greatly in our wins but, of course, I remember my efforts the most. I also remember getting beat 105-61 at Newton County. We had seven guys to foul out! I got 24 in that game though, but who cares when you get beat by 44 points?
No, we didn’t have a great team but we had a great time playing together. We were limited in a few areas, but the coaching was superb and the support of our fans was super. I remember full gyms when we played Decatur and Griffin and at other games as well.
Our baseball team was coached by one of my favorite men, Burns Pruett. Burns was fun to play for but he could get on your case pretty good at times. I don’t know what our record was, but we were about a .500 bunch. Through the years we got to play at two great ball parks, Silvertown and East Thomaston and those are great memories.
The seniors on that team were Harold Tarrer, David English, Jimmy “BoBo” Reeves, Bob Jones, Cooter Waller, Johnnie Caldwell, and Jimmy Haygood. I may have missed someone, but that’s what I remember from the information I have.
Oh yes we had some fun playing on these teams back in 1964-65. We played large schools like Avondale, Griffin, Decatur, Forest Park, Jonesboro, and others. It was always a thrill to board that Rebel Bus, always driven by Coach Clint McAbee, and journey into enemy territory.
One thing that I remember the most is how proud I was to wear the uniform of the R.E. Lee Rebels. To have that name emblazoned across my chest was a thrill. Once a Rebel, Always a Rebel! Thanks to all of my 1965 classmates for making that year a monumental year for me.
Jim Fowler is a sports columnist and retired teacher and coach who worked in the local school system for many years. He is a founding board member of the Thomaston-Upson Sports Hall of Fame and is also the statistician for the Upson Lee football team, and has written a book about the history of football at R. E. Lee High School.