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Mother Mary Mission Inc. Board of Directors kicked off Black History Month by hosting its Inaugural Sports Banquet, which recognized former area athletes and coaches who broke through barriers in a time when change was not welcomed by all and who continue to contribute to their communities with service. The event began with Master of Ceremony and radio personality Edgar Champagne who regaled guests. Alabama State Representative Jeremy Gray was the guest speaker, associating sports with mind and character building.
Phenix City Mayor Eddie Lowe, himself a former professional athlete, presented a proclamation naming Saturday, Feb. 9 as Mother Mary Mission Renewal Day in Phenix City. Columbus, Georgia Councilman Pop Barnes read a Columbus Council resolution commending several of the honorees for their ongoing work with youth athletes in this area, especially a recent Super Bowl experience for 90 area kids.
Mother Mary Mission Legends Hall of Fame proudly honored inductees, active and in memoriam.
Several of the honorees, many of who graduated from or attended Mother Mary Mission, went on to play professional sports – some in the National Football League and Major League Baseball, such as Jessie Hill, Chicago Cubs; Lester Sims, Cleveland Browns; Otis Sistrunk, Los Angeles Rams and Oakland Raiders; Frank Brown, Albany State University drafted to play in the National Football League by the Dallas Cowboys.
A very special honoree, Rudolph “Rudy” Ingersoll, Semi-Pro Baseball – The Mission Invaders, attended Mother Mary Mission from the first to the twelfth grade. He was the Salutatorian of the first graduating class in 1951. He lettered in Basketball and Track. After graduating from high school he was selected to play Semi-Professional Baseball with the Mission Invaders.
The Invaders won tournaments in Montgomery and Mobile. The Mobile team that they would win against had one well known player named Hank Aaron. In spite of all that success in baseball, Ingersoll continued his studies at Xavier University. He lettered four years in baseball and was Team Captain for two years. He was the top shortstop in the Southern Interscholastic Athletic Conference (SIAC) his junior and senior year. He later returned to Mother Mary Mission as a teacher and coach and was asked by Father Gregory to start the first football program. He successfully did.
Ingersoll was the first Black coach to win the William Henry Shaw Basketball Christmas Tournament in 1968, first coach to take the Carver Basketball Team to the State Tournament, first Black coach to coach the South Georgia High School All-Star Baseball Team. Ingersoll ended his career as a teacher and a coach at Richards Middle School.
Others excelled in college sports including: William “Pete” Ingersoll , Ft. Valley State – Baseball and Basketball; Ken Johnson, University of Alabama – Basketball; Sammie Sims, Villanova – Basketball; Henry Goshay, Ft. Valley State – Baseball; Robert Green, Ft. Valley State – Football; Shirley Golden Turner, Columbus College – Basketball; and Otis Spencer, U.S. Army.
During this event, Mother Mary Mission Inc. Board of Directors unveiled and dedicated the gym: The Jerry M. Barnett Gymnasium in honor of the late Master Chief Jerry M. Barnett a former student athlete and 1960 graduate of Mother Mary Mission. Barnett was one of the Missions’ “Best Long Term Supporters”. Over 30 members of Barnett’s family attended along with over 200 guests, cheering at the unveiling of Barnett’s portrait in his naval officer uniform.
Roderick Howard welcomed everyone. Rev. Dr. Mary A Hudson delivered the Invocation. The Honorable Judge Michael Bellamy offered the greetings. Ethel Ashe and Lillie V. Bell revealed the unveiling/dedication/briefing. Oliver Davis presented the recognition of inductees. Yolanda Lewis provided remarks. Father Thomas Weise said grace and delivered the benediction.
Mother Mary Mission Inc. thanked its sponsors for the event.
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