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Four join elite roster

The Halifax County-South Boston Sports Hall of Fame added four stellar athletes to its roster Saturday night, with Jerry Brooks, Ronnie Chappell, Joseph Johnson and Dale Ramey getting the call.

Jerry Brooks, a flashy ball handler and prolific scorer, led the varsity basketball team to the VHSL AAA state championship game his senior season in 1973.

Former Comets basketball standout and teammate Brad Ballou, who presented Brooks for induction, said stats could easily be achieved if there is only one good player on a team.

Brooks, he added, played on teams that had “at least four guys every year with full rides.”

“We were playing against good teams,” added Ballou, with players such as Jeff Crompton, John Lucas and Moses Malone, all of whom enjoyed collegiate and/or professional basketball careers.

“He (Brooks) didn’t only score, he passed the ball and everything else.  He used his head, had flash and confidence.”

“When Brooks had the basketball, he was a leader,” added Ballou.

“I bet Jerry Brooks was the most exciting, flashiest basketball player I’ve ever seen.”

Brooks said he couldn’t have accomplished his success alone, citing teammates such as Jack Crews, Calvin Crews and Ballou.

“You can’t be successful without good people around you, or you won’t make it in anything you do,” said Brooks.

He recalled the support of his parents, his mother coming to away games and his father coming to home games.

Brooks recalled some advice his mother gave him.

“If you think you can do it, you can do it, all you have to do is try,” he remembered his mother telling him.

“I was just ecstatic,” said Brooks when he got the call for the Hall of Fame.

“I thought the Hall of Fame was out of my reach.”

Brooks still displays the same determination that made him one of the all-time top scorers in Halifax County High School basketball history, according to Hall of Fame President Carlyle Wimbish.

Brooks underwent major lung surgery barely two weeks ago, Wimbush said, with a recovery time estimated at between six to eight weeks.

“I’m going to be there at the Hall of Fame if the Lord is willing,” Brooks told Wimbish.

“Jerry should receive a plaque for courage,” Wimbish said.

Former Comets head football coach Coleman Starnes remembered Hall of Fame inductee Ronnie Chappell competing for a spot on the varsity squad as a sophomore.

His competitive spirit won him a starting spot ahead of a senior, Starnes recalled.

Ironically, that senior rode to school each day with Chappell, with Chappell constantly reminding him he’d be challenging him.

“After the third or fourth week, the man in front of him told me he was tired of this and to give him the position,” Starnes said of Chappell’s persistence.

“He’s probably the only player who made all-state on both offense and defense,” continued Starnes in citing Chappell’s success as a football player.

“He had more heart and was more aggressive than any player could be.”

Chappell had a number of humorous anecdotes prepared for Saturday night.

Chappell comes from of a family of football linemen, including his father and brothers Eddie, Jack and Jim, all of whom influenced his football career.

His father, a noted Halifax physician who played football at Randolph-Macon College during the late 1930s, used football “as a ticket to a college education and a better life,” noted Chappell.

“No doubt playing with my brothers enhanced my career,” said Chappell.

The football player turned reporter and communications specialist cited newspaper reports of his receiving credit for a fumble recovery in the end zone during the Northwest Regional football championship game in 1969.

One of his twin brothers actually recovered the ball, according to Chappell, who with a tongue-in-cheek comeback asked for a correction in the coming week.

While poking fun at his high school basketball, football and track teammates, Chappell noted their part in motivating him to achieve what he has in athletics.

Part of one of the most successful varsity football teams in school history, Chappell said he was grateful to his talented teammates and coaches for setting the bar so high.

It took courage for Joseph Johnson and William Leigh to try out for an all-white football team, Chappell said to fellow inductee Johnson.

“Joe played hard and tough, was quick to laugh and smile and was good to his teammates,” noted Chappell.

“I’m really proud to enter the Hall of Fame at his side.”  

Through sports, Chappell said he “acquired the confidence that comes with doing something hard and learned to move past defeats and disappointments.”

“I realized if I worked at something long enough and hard enough, that eventually life will succeed.

“That’s a great, great gift to take out into life.”

Bristol Martin, long-time track coach at Halifax County High School, presented track and football standout Joseph Johnson for induction into the Hall of Fame.

Martin cited a long list of Johnson’s accomplishments on and off the field, and continuing through a long and successful military career.

A freshman at Halifax County High School in 1967 under the Freedom of Choice period, Johnson was one of only two African-Americans on the varsity football team in 1969.

A three-sport athlete in high school, Johnson recalled a pivotal moment in his life occurring after a tough loss as the anchor in the one-mile relay team during a track meet against GW High School.

“I lost, but by putting out that effort I fell on the ground heaving and gasping for air,” he recalled.

“What followed after that is etched in my mind for a long time.

“Fellow inductee Ronnie Chappell came to me, picked me up and helped me to the bus,” Johnson continued.

Much has been made of he and William Leigh being the only two African-American players on the varsity football team, Johnson said, but not enough about the integrity, hard work and sportsmanship one learns in sports while doing your job to the fullest.

“We found safety and solace in the classrooms.  Those lessons have piloted us to great endeavors, added Johnson.

“I’m bewildered by this opportunity to demonstrate my gratitude at the highest level…I consider it a privilege to be selected for this honor.

Louie Seabolt, a 2013 inductee into the Hall of Fame and a football teammate of 2014 inductee Dale Ramey, wondered why it took so long for Ramey to be inducted.

One of the all-time great Comets running backs, Ramey was all-district and all-state in 1959, receiving scholarship offers from 25 colleges and universities before electing to attend Duke University.

Dale Ramey was all-everything in football in the state of Virginia in 1959,” said Seabolt.

Seabolt noted Ramey’s success in sports, but also as a husband, father and businessman.

“He belongs in the family, husband, business and athletic hall of fames,” Seabolt noted, describing a situation where one of seven factories opened by Ramey had to close, putting almost 500 people out of work.

“He helped them all find jobs,” said Seabolt.

Ramey gave credit to his high school teammates for his success on the football field, and related a number of stories from his high school basketball and track career.

Ramey spoke with pride of his family, including the successful athletic endeavors of his grandchildren, while noting the changes in the sports landscape since his days in high school and college.

He credited local sportswriters including the late Hugh Moore and the late Addison Marable for “doing so much for us in the late 50s and 60s.”

“They took some of our bad faults and made us look good,” he said.

His Hall of Fame selection is an example of “better than I deserve,” admitted a humble Ramey. 

“I was more athletically gifted than I deserve and have a great family better than I deserve,” Ramey noted.