During halftime of last week’s contest against Blountstown, Port St. Joe High School inducted six new members into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame, which already features greats such as Adrian Gant, David Langston and Vernon Eppinette.
The six run the gamut, from a player on the school’s first state championship football team – when the game was played six a side – to a long-time announcer, two of the great coaches to ever walk the halls of Port St. Joe High and one of the great female athletes in school history.
The six were:
Named “Most Athletic” in 1949, Fleming became the voice of the Port St. Joe Sharks shortly after graduating high school.
During a span of four decades, Fleming’s voice, described as a steady baritone, announced every Port St. Joe game from 1952-1987. Fleming was known to his accuracy and for his naming players and numbers, no matter the talent level.
On those rare occasions he missed the play, Fleming was known to simply say, “A host of Sharks in on the play” and leave it at.
While at Port St. Joe, Fleming played and was a standout in football and basketball.
After his retirement as Shark public address announcer, he was succeeded by his son-in-law, Teedy Nobles, and grandson, Bobby Nobles, - all Sharks themselves.
Fleming was also known for his famous fourth-quarter pronouncement, “Following the game, there will be a [Victory Dance] at the Centennial Building…$2 stag and $3 drag.”
Holly M. Russ
Holly Russ was the youngest of 10 and a 1988 graduate of Port St. Joe High School where she excelled as a student/athlete, particularly in basketball. She was a three year MVP, a member of the state Class 2A first team as a junior and senior, named first team All- Big-Bend in Class 2A and she finished her high school career in the regional finals.
After graduation, Russ received a scholarship to Chipola Junior College, where she attended 1988-1990 and received an AA degree and was voted to the Panhandle Conference first team both years.
The University of Texas El Paso followed and Russ received a BA degree in Liberal Arts/Journalism and was selected to the first team all-WAC Conference and set nine school records during her two years. She was UTEP Athlete of the Year for the 1990-1991 season. Holly continues to hold school records for the highest scoring average (21.9 ppg), most points scored in a single game (40), and most 3-pointers in a game (7 of 13).
She is a member of UTEP’s 1,000 point club, and, in 2002, UTEP opened the doors to the Larry K. Durham Sports Center which features a Hall of Champions mural; in it, Russ’s image is part of the mural honoring UTEP’s athletic heritage, and she is a Hall of Fame inductee for the University of Texas at El Paso.
There were offers to continue playing the game of basketball professionally; however, Russ decided to enter into what turned out to be a successful career in finance and banking.
Holly is a member of the Florida High School Athletic Association as a participating sport official for the West Coast Official Association in Tampa, where she is entering her 11th season. She was recognized as the 2011 Meritorious Award recipient for achieving a Rank 1 status in the sport of basketball by the FHSAA. She received certificates of merit as a contest official in the 2009 and 2011 FHSAA Girls’ Basketball State Finals. She is an Executive Board member serving as the EEOC Chairperson for the West Coast Officiating Association where she oversees the Evaluation Committee which helps officials in advancement in their officiating careers.
Harry Lee Smith
At any given event or school related festival in Port St. Joe, Smith is likely to be spotted donning his iconic outfit as “Uncle Sam” and spiriting the emotions of those gathered around.
Born in 1936 to Sanders and Pearl Smith, Harry Lee is a life-long resident of Port St. Joe. Like so many others during this period, the Smiths moved to Port St. Joe from Georgia to pursue work at the paper mill and other related businesses that had just started up. After his father’s death in a railroad accident in 1942, Harry Lee’s mother never re-married, but chose to remain in Port St. Joe, the only place Harry Lee would ever call home.
In the ensuing years, Harry Lee would play football, basketball and track at Port St. Joe High School. After suffering a broken leg during the 1953 football season, Smith, one of the tallest kids in school, would shift his athletic playing focus to basketball, where he became one of the star players.
Smith’s standout year was the 1955 season when he garnered 59 rebounds, dominated at the “center” position, and earned the Babe Ruth Sportsmanship Award for basketball and the nickname “Bevo” from Coach Marion Craig, after basketball great, Bevo Francis.
Smith was a member of the 1953 football team; 1954 and 1955 basketball teams; a multi-year letterman at track and field; he participated on all intramural teams at that time; served many years as statistician for football during the Coach Wayne Taylor years; and game clock operator for basketball at Port St. Joe High School during the Coach Bill Dickson years; Harry Lee also spent many years as a registered official with the FHSAA.
Smith’s years of achievement, service and dedication to Port St. Joe are testament of why he’s is one of the Greatest of Sharks, friends said.
In 1969, “Coach” Kesley Colbert left Tennessee for Florida to join the coaching staff of Port St. Joe High School. Coach was a History teacher for PSJHS from 1969-1982. Colbert as coach was known for instilling hard-working ethics and a caring attitude that shaped hundreds of lives.
He attended Suwannee (The University of the South) where he was a three-sport standout and played every inning in every game from 1965-69 in baseball.
At PSJHS, Colbert was the only common denominator of all three modern football state championships, he coached football at Port St. Joe in six different decades, was part of two undefeated regular seasons, eight district championships, one state runner up, one rural state championship and state championships in 1971, 1984 and 2005.
Colbert’s true love is baseball. His coaching tenure includes four conference titles, six district championships, two regional championships, one Final Four and one state runner-up. Colbert was the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference coach of the year 1981.
Colbert has coached in over 600 PSJHS ball games while being a part of over 400 Shark victories.
Ken Whittle (5)
As a junior, Whittle was the quarterback and leader of the 1971-72 Football State Champion Sharks!
Whittle was a two-sport athlete and he was a three-year letterman in football and a four-year letterman in baseball.
He was known by his coaches as a humble, hardworking, intelligent and a fierce competitor. Whittle graduated from Port St. Joe High School in 1973. He went on to play college baseball for Cumberland College and Huntington College.
Whittle contributed much of his success in high school and college athletics to his coaches.
"I was surrounded by so many great coaches who were such a tremendous influence on the lives of so many young men, and I wanted to be like them. They were hard, they were demanding, but they were men of character and I knew they loved us."
In 1978, Whittle accepted a position with Trinity Presbyterian School (in Montgomery, AL) as a physical education teacher and he also coaches football, basketball, and baseball. He became the head baseball coach in 1981, and his teams have won 15 area championships and have advanced past the first round of the state playoffs 19 times. They have won four state championships and Whittle has 602 career wins.
He has won the Montgomery Advisory Baseball Coach of the Year eight times, Alabama Sports Writers Association 3A Coach of the Year in 2009 and in 2012 and was chosen Fellowship of Christian Athletes Coach of the Year in 2010. Ken was inducted into the Alabama High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame and the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame in 2012.
Port St. Joe High School has fielded a football team for nearly 75 years. In 1938, the Sharks would play Carrabelle as its first ever opponent in a football game.
In his modesty, Dave Maddox would say that he didn’t do anything great – other than, his part. He would probably contend that his early teammates were more deserving of honor.
As with this and so many other treasured stories, Dave Maddox has kept the memory for so much of our past alive, for us all to treasure and enjoy. He is the complete timeline for our community… and for so many years, has served as our unofficial community historian
Dave Maddox, son of Fred and Zola Maddox – pioneer residents of this area - was raised here when we were still a part of Calhoun County. He played football 74 seasons ago wearing a leather helmet. He would letter in football and basketball in 1938 and 1939 and go on to graduate from Port St. Joe High School in 1940.
During World War II he served his country in both the Merchant Marine and the U. S. Navy in the South Pacific. He would return home to serve as harbor pilot for Port St. Joe for over 41 years. He married Sara Duke, the love of his life, and they raised 4 children, Charlotte, David, Donnie and Eva – all SHARKS themselves.
After his - and many others - return from the War, Maddox became the ramrod that sparked the building of Shark Field into reality … the same field we enjoy here tonight!
In September 1955, the first game was played on this field against the Walton County Braves. Since then, given Friday nights each fall are reserved for uniting our community to root on its Sharks to victory.