I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to the city of LaFayette for reigniting my passion for many things, among them high school sports, live bands, small towns, warm Friday nights and newspapers. Let me explain.
Thank you for the smell of hot dogs fresh off the grill at Bulldog Stadium. That smell always drags me kicking and screaming back to my youth and to the block parties on the street I grew up on back east. More on that later. Thank you for the sweet sound of the LaFayette High School band before, during and after football games. Win or lose (The Bulldogs are 4-2 at home and I feel like the band is as responsible for that success as any other non-playing entity) the Bulldog Band always brings the goods and in attendance is better for it in my opinion. Thank you for reminding me that I’m never too old to get wrapped up in a game but experienced enough to know that this “job”-newspaper Sports Editor-is pretty cool and I’m the lucky one.
Thank you to the citizens of LaFayette, the people that have welcomed me into their schools, onto their fields and into their kid’s lives as first a sports reporter and now as the Sports Editor of the LaFayette Sun. With a population of 2,999 (according to current numbers by city-data.com) I would like to immediately submit my application for town citizenship in order to be number 3,000. In fact it would be my honor. Originally named “Chambersville” and established in 1835, the town got its current moniker from a French military officer, Marquis de Lafayette, who fought on the side of the Americans during the Revolutionary War. Newspaper Editor Johnson J. Hooper was influential in changing the spelling of the town’s name using the now famous “capital F” and away it went. The tie in: Hooper created a southern character for his columns named Captain Simon Suggs who pronounced the name of the town as “La Fait.” My surname and its relation to that fictional character predates my father’s father by at least 60 years so the name “Suggs” and the fact that I am now writing for the paper that helped establish the town’s name will connect me with LaFayette forever. When you see me at a football game or at basketball practice or down at Jack’s feel free to let me know how I’m doing. Thank you people of LaFayette for welcoming me home.
Back in August on my first trip into town I noticed a statue in front of the Chambers County courthouse. What I didn’t know was that the bronze masterpiece (an 8-foot statue by Casey Downing of Mobile) was of one of my heroes, Joe Louis, the Brown Bomber, the champ. I’m a huge boxing fan and Mr. Louis’ career is one of legend. He and his family-named Barrow before the boxer would drop it as an amatuer and go on to world fame as simply Joe Louis-moved to Detroit during the Great Migration efforts of the 1920’s, 30’s and 40’s when he was 10 years old. Ten years later he would be the lightweight Golden Gloves champ of Detroit and turn professional. The rest as they say is history. Joe Louis Barrow is not just a native son of Alabama, he was from LaFayette, went to school in LaFayette, walked the streets and dreamed of becoming a star like all 10 year old kids dream, in LaFayette. How can that not be a source of pride for anyone that’s ever stepped foot in this town. It is for me and I have only been here for three months. Joe Louis, forever a Heavyweight Champion of the World, died in Paradise, Nevada in 1981, is immortalized in Detroit, Michigan (see: Joe Louis Arena), buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia and was born in LaFayette, Alabama. Thank you city of LaFayette for bringing me closer to my boxing inspiration. Rest in peace Champ.
The first time I called LaFayette High School to get some information on the upcoming football season head football coach and Athletic Director James Lucas made me feel like we were old friends catching up on even older times. It still feels that way whenever we meet on the football fields in LaFayette, Lanett and most recently in Beulah. I look forward to our next meeting. LaFayette Offensive line coach and head baseball coach Michael Pattillo and I have a good laugh every pre-game, I also look forward to those laid back moments before we both put on our hard hats and turn into adults coaching and covering a kids game under the ‘Friday Night Lights’. Those moments have been few and far between during my decade long career covering the NBA, NCAA and high school sports in Georgia. Thank you for that coaches, I needed it.
Dear state of Alabama, I know your history with my people, the African-American men and women of this great state and the 49 others of the Union, has been checkered to put it lightly. Scenes from the Oscar winning ‘Mississippi Burning’ was filmed in downtown LaFayette, I guess the film’s producers and director believed a small town in Alabama looked more like Jim Crow Mississippi than an actual town in Mississippi. For the record the film did win an Oscar for cinematography so I guess they were right. I wanted to let you know that I have fallen for one of your cities, LaFayette. It’s been good to me and I to it, so we’ve decided to continue our relationship as sports writer and town, writer and inspiration, journalist and news beat. History is the only thing that never dies. The history between you and my people won’t ever be forgotten but it has gotten better and that has a lot to do with some really hard work from some good people who are no longer here to see the rewards of their work in action. It’s my job as a reporter to make sure the next generation doesn’t forget but also enjoys the diversity of a new Alabama. At the Homecoming festivities this past weekend at Beulah High School there was an African American female, a junior, being escorted to midfield by a white male, also a junior. This isn’t possible in Alabama fifty years ago, maybe not even 20 years ago but was on a Friday night in 2015. I like the new Alabama, I respect the old Alabama and will keep both in my mind whenever I put pen to paper for the LaFayette Sun. Thank you Alabama for NOT staying the same.
My Publisher is from Michigan, the glue that holds the newspaper’s office together, Mrs. Lisa Edge, is a native Alabamian, I’m from Brooklyn, New York. We all have one thing in common that stands above everything else-our humanity, religion, color, faith-we all love newspapers. The newspaper I speak of is the LaFayette Sun, it’s office sits on 116 LaFayette Street S. less than 100 feet from the STATUE, a few blocks away from the school that the COACHES work and teach in and in the heart of downtown LaFayette, ALABAMA where all the CITIZENS can find it if they need to. The newspaper allows me to be a member of a small group of specialist, journalist. For that I will be a loyal member and representative. Thank you LaFayette Sun for allowing me to once again join the fold of newspaper men and women, the ink stained few who every week (in our case) try to entertain and inform in the only way we know how, with words. Speaking of words here are two more: Thank You.