Friday, August 1, 2014

Today in History for Aug. 1, 2014

William Barrett Travis
Aug. 1, 1498 – Italian explorer Christopher Columbus set foot on the American mainland for the first time at the Paria Peninsula in present-day Venezuela.

Aug. 1, 1809 – William Barrett Travis was born in Edgefield District, S.C., near Old Fort Ninty-Six. He would later live in Conecuh and Monroe County, Ala. before moving on to Texas, where he would become famous for being the commander at the ill-fated Alamo. (Some sources say he was born on Aug. 9, 1809.)

Aug. 1, 1819 – “Moby Dick” author Herman Melville was born in New York City.

Aug. 1, 1823 – The Federal land office officially opened in Sparta, Ala. Prior to that date, land grants in the vicinity of Conecuh County had to be filed in the land office at Cahaba. Johnathan G. Shaw of Massachusetts was the first receiver at Sparta, and Mark Travis, the father of Col. William B. Travis of the Alamo, bought the first land sold by the Sparta Federal Land Office. (Some sources say this office opened on this date in 1822.)

Aug. 1, 1838 – Confederate soldier and physician Calvin Calhoun Nettles was born at Blacks Bend. He enlisted in the Monroe Guards on March 15, 1861 and enlisted in the 5th Alabama Regiment on July 28, 1861 at Bells Landing. He was listed as sick at Richmond General Hospital between Sept. 1, 1861 and Oct. 31, 1861. He was taken prisoner at South Mountain, Md. on Sept. 14, 1862, but later paroled and furloughed. He was listed as missing in action at Chancellorsville on May 2, 1863 and was taken prisoner at Gettysburg on July 1, 1863. He was discharged on Feb. 14, 1865, became a doctor after the war and moved to Mobile. He died sometime after 1921.

Aug. 1, 1864 – During the Civil War, Union General Ulysses S. Grant appointed General Philip Sheridan commander of the Army of the Shenandoah.

Aug. 1, 1908 – Prof. W.W. Hall resigned from his position as President of the Southwest Alabama Agricultural School in Evergreen, Ala. to accept the position of Vice President of Cokers College for Women of South Carolina.

Aug. 1, 1914 – World War I erupted as, four days after Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, Germany and Russia declare war against each other, France ordered a general mobilization, and the first German army units crossed into Luxembourg in preparation for the German invasion of France. During the next three days, Russia, France, Belgium, and Great Britain all lined up against Austria-Hungary and Germany, and the German army invaded Belgium. The "Great War" that ensued was one of unprecedented destruction and loss of life, resulting in the deaths of some 20 million soldiers and civilians.

Aug. 1, 1918 – During World War I, Army Pvt. Clifford Cunningham of Atmore, Ala. “died from wounds.”

Aug. 1, 1938 – The Evergreen Greenies baseball team beat the Dothan Browns, 7-6, in Evergreen, Ala.

Aug. 1, 1938 – Former Cleveland Indians pitcher Paul Kardow took over the Evergreen Greenies baseball franchise.

Aug. 1, 1947 – Starting at 1 p.m., WEBJ 1240 in Brewton began broadcasting for the first time and at that time this station was the only broadcasting station between Montgomery and Mobile.

Aug. 1, 1953 – Conecuh County Sheriff John H. Brock arrested Willie D. Merrill on murder charges in connection with the shotgun slaying of his wife around 8 p.m. at their home in Brownville.

Aug. 1, 1953 – “Shane,” considered by many critics to be the greatest western movie of all-time, is released by Paramount Pictures. The movie is based on the 1949 novel by Jack Schaefer.

Aug. 1, 1966 - Charles Whitman shot 46 people, killing 14 and wounding 31, from the observation platform atop a 300-foot tower at the University of Texas.

Aug. 1, 1995 – “Circumstantial Evidence” by Pete Earley was released for the first time. 

Daily Weather Observations from SW Alabama for Fri., Aug. 1, 2014

Temp: 71.6 degrees.

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.00 inches

Humidity: 78 percent (Humid)

Conditions: Partly Cloudy skies and sunny; birds audible and visible; dogs and crickets audible.

Barometric Pressure: 29.49 inHg.

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.00 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 0.00 inches

Summer to Date Rainfall: 2.30 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 45.65  inches

NOTES: Today is the 213th day of 2014 and the 42nd day of Summer. There are 152 days left in the year.

Readings taken at 0700 hrs Central Standard Time (1300 GMT) daily, just west of the Monroe-Conecuh County line, near Excel, Alabama, USA, in the vicinity of Lat 31.42834°N Lon 87.30131°W. Elevation: 400 feet above sea level. CoCoRaHS Station No. AL-MN-4, Station Name: Excel 2.5 ESE. 

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Today in History for July 31, 2014

July 31, 1777 – French aristocrat Marie-Joseph Paul Roch Yves Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette, then age 19, was commissioned a major general in the Continental Army by the U.S. Congress – without pay. He would visit Claiborne in Monroe County on April 6, 1825.

July 31, 1806 – Rev. Pitts Milner, the founder of Georgiana, Ala., was born.

July 31, 1816 - Union General George H. Thomas, who deserves a share of the credit for the Union success in the west, was born in Southhampton County, Va.

July 31, 1864 – During the Civil War, a skirmish occurred near the Watkins’ Plantation in Northern Alabama.

July 31, 1918 – During World War I, Army Pvt. William F. Atchinson of Thomasville was killed in action.

July 31, 1930 - The radio mystery program “The Shadow” aired for the first time.

July 31, 1938 – The Dothan Browns baseball team beat the Evergreen Greenies, 10-0, in Dothan. Also that day, Evergreen’s amateur baseball team beat the Atmore prison team, 7-6, behind the pitching of Bill Seales and Wendell Hart.

July 31, 1964 - The first close-up photographs of the moon were sent back to Earth by Ranger 7.

July 31, 1990 - Nolan Ryan won the 300th game of his career, throwing 7-2/3 strong innings with eight strikeouts to lead his Texas Rangers to an 11-3 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers.

July 31, 1998 – Local weather reporter Harry Ellis reported a high temperature of 100 degrees in Evergreen.

Nine UFOs were reported in state of Alabama during the month of June 2014

It’s the last week of the month, so this week I’m giving you an update on UFO reports in Alabama from the previous month, courtesy of the Mutual UFO Network. A search for UFO reports in Alabama between June 1 and June 30 on MUFON’s website,, resulted in nine reports from within our state during that time, including one in Atmore.

The incident in Atmore occurred on Sun., June 29, around 9:30 p.m. The witness in this case had just parked his car at his house, and when he got out of the car, he saw a strange light about 500 feet or so above a tree near a school building. The witness described the strange light as an “orange, moving ball.” The light moved about one mile in 45 seconds and eventually disappeared, the witness said.

On Mon., June 2, around 9:42 p.m., a man and his young son saw a “bright, star-like object” over Bessemer, which is just outside Birmingham. They were loading something into the man’s car when they saw this strange object about 100 to 200 feet over the tree line. The object grew brighter, as bright as a car’s high beam headlights, and then began going up and down and moving in different directions. They watched the object for several minutes before it disappeared behind some trees.

The man called relatives across town to see if they could see it, but they could not. However, while on the phone, the caller watched as another “star-like” object appeared at a much higher altitude in the eastern sky. This object appeared to flash every three seconds and followed the path of the first object. His relative on the other end of the phone confirmed that he could see this object as well.

On the night of Tues., June 3, a husband and wife in Gardendale, a northern suburb of Birmingham, reported seeing a “massive, bright, glowing orb” moving slowly across the sky. The husband noticed that the object was moving much slower than other planes in the sky, and it appeared to be “emitting its own light source.” They watched the object for a few minutes before it eventually disappeared behind some trees.

On June 3 around 4:12 a.m., a man in Centreville, which is in Bibb County, was awoken by dogs that were “barking and growling fiercely” outside. The man went to a window, looked out and saw a “dull, orange orb” rise slowly out of a wooded area to the north. The object rose to about 100 feet over the tree line then began moving slowly to the northeast. The man watched the object for about two minutes until it disappeared behind some distant trees.

On Wed., June 4, around 9:15 p.m., another witness in Centreville reported seeing a “dull, red, glowing object” just above the treetops, traveling north. Several minutes later, the witness saw what appeared to be an “almost cross-shaped object” descend out of the western sky. This object was “dull red” and moved northeast above the trees.

On Thurs., June 5, around 4:12 a.m., the same witness in Centreville that reported seeing a UFO on June 3 saw a “very brightly lit object” that slowly passed almost directly over his house. The dogs in his yard were again barking wildly and growling, and when he went to see what was the matter, he saw a “very brightly lit object” approaching slowly and silently from the northwest. It eventually drew to within 20 feet of his house and was about 200 feet off the ground.

On Tues., June 17, around 9:20 p.m. in Gulf Shores, a man and three of his family members were sitting on a balcony facing the Gulf of Mexico and saw a “bright, orange light” to the south just above the horizon. This light appeared for only a few seconds and faded away. A few moments later, another orange light appeared to the southwest and then a few seconds later, a series of four more orange lights appeared. The lights eventually disappeared, but reappeared a little later further southwest. In all, the witnesses saw the lights for about five minutes.

On Wed., June 18, around 9 p.m., another witness in Gulf Shores reported seeing unusual lights over the Gulf. This witness was sitting on the beach with his family, and there was a thunderstorm out over the Gulf, far to the east in the direction of Florida. Suddenly, they saw a “reddish, orange ball of light” to the south that vanished as they watched. Two more lights appeared and were followed by six more. “I got the impression they were part of the same craft,” the witness said, but the craft would have had to have been several hundred feet long.

On Thurs., June 19, around 9:02 p.m., the man who reported seeing a UFO in Gulf Shores on June 17, saw the same sequence of unusual lights. However, this time, the lights seemed further away and less bright. This time a total of five family members watched the unusual lights.

Before closing out this week, I just want to put it out there again that I would be very interested to hear from anyone who have witnessed a UFO, especially in Conecuh County. I think a lot of other people would be interested in hearing your story too, and I’m willing to accept your report anonymously. You can contact me by e-mail at or by phone at 578-1492.

The Evergreen Courant's Sports Flashback for July 31, 2014

Evergreen's Ottis Johnson
JULY 31, 1977

“These youngsters took part in Red Cross approved swimming lessons at the Murphy Club with Mrs. Fred (Alice) Stevens as instructor: IV Wolff, Jeff Brundage, Cynthia Pugh, Meredith Wilson, Dawn Baggett, Stacy Holmes, Kim Brooks, Amy Hendricks, Kenny Bledsoe, Abbie Till and Truman Hyde; Harold Jeffers, advanced beginner, David Jeffers, Donnie Jeffers, advanced beginners Leanne Wall, Rodney Pugh and Michael Bledsoe, and Tracy Holmes, Page Whatley and Kelly Whatley. Rob Stuart was not present when the picture was taken.”

“Peacock drowning shocks all county: The drowning Monday afternoon of Jerry Willard Peacock, 18, shocked this entire county.
“Jerry was a popular member of this year’s graduating class at Sparta Academy. He was an outstanding athlete and student and took an active part in all school and extra-curricular activities.”

JULY 26, 1962

“Sr. League Stars To Play Tonight: Evergreen Senior League President Byron Warren Sr. has announced that the League’s All-Star Game will be played at 7 p.m. Thursday night, July 26. Members of the champion Braves and the fourth-place Indians will oppose members of the second-place Tigers and the third-place Pirates. Each team will have 15 members.
“The Braves-Indians combination will be composed of Claude Aaron, Ronnie Jackson, Sammy Brown, Johnny Brown, Larry Ellis, Terry Coleman, Eddie Moseley and Grover Jackson of the Braves, and Jimmy Warren, Bob Ivey, Jimmy Ellis, Mike Minninger, Jimmy Weaver, Stan Coker and Paul Deason.
“The Tigers-Pirates aggregate includes Sid Lambert, Joe Sasser, Willie Mack Pate, Mitch Kilpatrick, Mike Fields, Wayne Tolbert, ‘Bubba’ Faulkner and Calvin Smith of the Tigers, and Benny Burt, Robert Rigsby, Steve Baggett, Scott Cook, Ronnie Hayes, George Fontaine and Eddie Thornley of the Pirates.
“The players were chosen by League officials.”

“EHS Loses Ramsey To Brookwood Hi; Allmon Is Named: Lewis Ramsey, assistant football coach and head baseball coach at Evergreen High School this past year, has resigned to accept a position as head coach at Brookwood High School, Tuscaloosa.
“The announcement is made today by Principal Morris Ward and Head Coach John Law Robinson. Both state that they regret very much to lose the services of Coach Ramsey, but at the same time rejoice in his promotion.
“Principal Ward termed Ramsey an excellent coach and fine teacher and said that he had rendered valuable service to the school program here.
“Robinson said that he had enjoyed working with Ramsey and found him to be not only a fine man in his profession, but also a wonderful leader of youth. Ramsey has worked in the city recreation program this summer concentrating on the junior and senior baseball programs.
“A new assistant has been named although he has not yet been officially confirmed by the County Board of Education. He is Fred Allmon, a 1962 graduate of Livingston State College.”

JULY 31, 1947

“Greenies Take Loop Lead; Play Here Today: By virtue of two victories last week, the Evergreen Greenies moved into first place with a slim lead of 1-1/2 games. With only nine games remaining to be played, the Greenies will have to hustle all the way in order to stay on top, since Atmore and Flomaton are still in striking distance.
“Atmore will furnish the opposition for the Greenies Thursday in a twin bill at Brooks Stadium. Manager Hart (11-2) and Edsel Johnson (4-0) are slated to start for the locals while ‘Root’ Lowery will send ‘Lefty” Vickery and Charlie Lowery to the mound for the visitors. Manager Dick Fore will bring his rejuvenated Flomaton nine to two for the week’s second doubleheader and will probably call on Gatlin and Vickery to handle the pitching chores. Manager Hart had not named his starters when this paper went to press. Game time for both Thursday and Sunday is two o’clock.
“Edsel Johnson ran his winning streak to four games last week as the Greenies came from behind in the last inning to down a stubborn Monroeville outfit, 5-4. Trailing 4-0 as the final stanza came around, the Greenies stated a five-run rally after Tolbert had lined to short for the first out. Carpenter started the fire works with a double and took third on Floyd’s muff of a grounder by White. Harper walked and McDonald grounded out to first, scoring Carpenter. Bolton then drew a free pass to fill the bases with two outs. Whit two strikes against him, Ottis Johnson, lined a base-cleaning triple into left field that tied the score. A single by Edsel Johnson drove in the winning tally and the ball game. Ottis and Edsel Johnson and Wade Nobles shared the batting honors with two bingles each.
“The Greenies came from behind again in the last frame of Sunday’s contest to rack up their twentieth win of the season against six setbacks. With two outs and nobody on board, Greenies started a five-run rally after Newell, Atmore shortstop, made a bad throw of Carpenter’s easy bounder. Edsel Johnson drove a single out into short right field and Carpenter held up at third. Ottis Johnson’s Texas Leaguer into left field cleared the bases and gave the Greenies a one-run margin. Carpenter and Ottis Johnson were the big offensive guns for the Greenies with four safeties equally divided between them while Edsel stole his eighth base of the season.”

JULY 28, 1932

“Evergreen Defeats Greenville 5 To 4 (From Greenville Advocate): What was probably one of the best ball games of the season was played on Black’s Field last Thursday when Evergreen defeated Greenville, 5-4. Greenville’s team made several errors in the first part of the game which were responsible for the first two scores made by Evergreen. With the exception of the errors made in the first few innings Greenville played ‘heads-up’ baseball. Evergreen also played a very good game. Greenville made 10 hits against Evergreen’s six. On the other hand the locals made six errors to the visitor’s three.
“Claude Dees, pitching for Greenville, played a game that would be a credit to anybody’s ball team. He struck out 14 men, got one hit, and made one run. He made two putouts and five assists.
“Tom Melton, Greenville’s catcher, played a very good game.
“Edward Howard, playing in left field, was in the game from the start. It was hit two-bagger in the fifth that brought Jones in for one of Greenville’s four scores.
“Claude Wilson, playing in center field, made one put out and one hit. He also got a free trip to first, being hit by a pitched ball.
“Willie Black, first baseman, played a good, consistent game, being credited with 10 put outs.
“Joe Stewart at second made two of the longest hits of the afternoon, both being good for two bases. Another time at the bat he hit a ball that fouled just out of the left field. This ball was the longest hit of the afternoon, and, had it been fair it would have been good for a home run.
“Foots Brown did good work at shortstop. He got two hits and made one run. Joe Hartley, in right field, got one hit. Sam Jones, at third, got two hits and made one run.
“The players in the field didn’t get a chance to enter into many of the plays as Dees allowed so few to be hit at all and only a very few went to the outfield.
“The Evergreen team, like the Greenville boys, all played a good game. Hyde pitched for the visitors and struck out six, allowing 10 hits. Moorer, shortstop, was outstanding in the infield. He was responsible for two put outs and six assists. Moorer made one run. Gaston, center field, made two, but didn’t get a hit. Dunn, first base, put out 12 men, got one hit and one run. Hansen, second base, got one hit, as did Gaston, third base and Northcutt, right fielder.
“Even though the breaks seemed to go against Greenville, the game was a clean, hard fought one, and one that pleased the fans.”

JULY 25, 1917

“Miss Roberta Johnston spent last week fishing down on the coast of Florida.”

Bullock County native Billy Hitchcock played nine seasons in the majors

Alabama's Billy Hitchcock
Alabama has a long, unique history when it comes to its connections with the sport of baseball. Today, July 31, is the birthday of baseball great William "Billy" Clyde Hitchcock, who was born in the tiny community of Inverness, which is in Bullock County, not far from Union Springs.

Hitchcock’s legacy has somewhat faded into the past these days, but in his heyday he was something else. When it comes to baseball, he pretty much did everything but sell peanuts at the game. He even played all four infield positions during his nine-year pro career.

Hitchcock made his Major League debut with the Detroit Tigers on April 14, 1942, but his baseball career was interrupted by World War II. Like a lot of pro ball players, Hitchcock served in the military during WWII, putting in three years with the Army Air Force in the Pacific theatre of the war.

The war ended in September 1945, and Hitchcock resumed his pro baseball career in 1946.

Hitchcock went on to play for the Boston Red Sox, the Philadelphia Athletics, the St. Louis Browns and the Washington Senators before ending his career in 1953. His last official appearance as a Major League player was on Aug. 27, 1953 with the Detroit Tigers. His involvement in baseball didn’t end there however.

He went on to coach, manage and scout for various Major League teams and later served as the president of the Southern League, the minor league organization that now consists of such teams at the Mobile Bay Bears and the Montgomery Biscuits. Sadly, Hitchcock passed away in Opelika at the age of 89 on April 9, 2006.

Diehard Auburn football fans in the reading audience will be familiar with Hitchcock because he first became famous for his performances on the gridiron at Auburn. In fact, he was so good that he was an All-SEC tailback and led the Tigers to their first ever bowl game, the 1937 Bacardi Bowl in Havana, Cuba.

This game was somewhat historic because it marked the first time that two U.S. college football teams ever played outside the United States. Auburn played Villanova, and the game ended in a 7-7 tie. Hitchcock scored Auburn’s only touchdown on a 40-yard run in the first quarter.

Interestingly, Hitchcock’s older brother, Jimmy, was also an outstanding athlete and was Auburn’s first All-American in both baseball and football. Nicknamed “The Phantom of Union Springs,” he played quarterback, running back and punted at Auburn and helped lead the team to a SEC title in 1932. After college, he played seven seasons of pro baseball for the Boston Bees, which later became the Atlanta Braves.

When his playing days were done, he went back to Auburn and was the head baseball coach and an assistant football coach. Like his younger brother, he also served in the military during WWII, spending his years in the service with the U.S. Navy. Jimmy Hitchcock would precede his brother in death, passing away at the untimely age of 47 on July 23, 1959.

If you go to a baseball game in Auburn today, you’ll be watching the game at Samford Stadium-Hitchcock Field at Plainsman Park. In 2003, Auburn added “Hitchcock Field” to the venue’s name in honor of both Hitchcock brothers. 

Daily Weather Observations from SW Alabama for Thurs., July 31, 2014

Temp: 65.5 degrees.

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.00 inches

Humidity: 79 percent (Normal)

Conditions: Partly Cloudy skies and sunny; birds, cows, dogs and crickets audible; bees audible and visible; dew on the ground.

Barometric Pressure: 29.53 inHg.

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.00 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 2.10 inches

Summer to Date Rainfall: 2.30 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 45.65  inches

NOTES: Today is the 212th day of 2014 and the 41st day of Summer. There are 153 days left in the year.

Readings taken at 0700 hrs Central Standard Time (1300 GMT) daily, just west of the Monroe-Conecuh County line, near Excel, Alabama, USA, in the vicinity of Lat 31.42834°N Lon 87.30131°W. Elevation: 400 feet above sea level. CoCoRaHS Station No. AL-MN-4, Station Name: Excel 2.5 ESE.