The Liberty County Athletic Hall of Fame inductees, representing the Class of 2014, shared memories during their induction Thursday night. Club Stewart hosted the ceremony when four former local athletes were honored and praised.
Before the introductions, attendees dined and were treated to the comedy of Wayne Ates. The Jesup native travels the world speaking about caring for others, being kind and generous and the value of laughter.
Former Liberty County High School, Georgia Tech and professional basketball player Metra Walthour, was introduced by her mother Theresa Lingard, who said she often wondered how her timid daughter managed to play basketball in front of thousands of people.
“But she did it. She played,” her mom said.
Walthour is back at Georgia Tech, working on a master’s degree and is as an assistant coach for the Lady Yellow Jackets.
She thanked her family and the committee for choosing her. Walthour admitted she is quiet, but said, “This is such a great honor for me that I am going to give you as many words as I have.”
Walthour praised her late uncle, Ernie Walthour.
“He is the reason I ever picked up a basketball,” Walthour said, saying he took her to a basketball camp when she knew nothing about the sport.
“That night I laid out my school clothes, that is how much I knew about basketball camp,” she said. She said she was terrible at first but quickly became enthusiastic, making a basketball hoop out of a box that they hung it on a tree. She started to practice every day.
“Basketball became a lifestyle for me and it is because of basketball that I’ve been able to meet so many great people and travel to so many different places that probably would not have been possible,” she said.
Carmen Latimer spoke about her brother, James Latimer Jr., describing him as a menace on a field, but different off the field.
“He was a force to be reckoned with on the football field, but that was such a contradiction of his personality,” she said. “He was a gentle giant to those of us who really knew him.”
Latimer died a few years ago and his sister said he left behind two beautiful daughters and two grandsons.
“And tonight this is just another legacy,” she said. “I am glad that the county and his hometown are sharing this with us, and that we are able to continue to share him with you.”
Latimer’s father, retired Sgt. Major James Latimer Sr., accepted the award and was moved to tears. He could barely speak to thank the audience.
Latimer played football at Bradwell and at the University of South Carolina.
Former BI and Valdosta State University basketball players Candice Ferrell was introduced by her mother, Sherry Ferrell, who said she is continuously surprised by her daughter’s strength. She said her daughter started playing basketball at 11. Overcoming the obstacles of the game was just one lesson that helped her later during a life-altering trauma.
“One of the hardest challenges she faced came on July 7, 2007. A year after graduating from Valdosta State, she had a sudden cardiac arrest death,” Ferrell said. “She was dead for eight minutes and in a coma for three days. By the hand and the grace of God, she fought back… being the winner that she is.”
Ferrell spoke about the rigors of the sport and how it taught her to fight for what you want in life. She cried as she spoke about her ordeal but said being an athlete meant she was a fighter. Ferrell said she is scheduled for surgery this Tuesday to change out the defibrillator in her chest.
Former BI Principal Ed Edwards introduced the final inductee, John Barbee. He was a member of the 1965 state winning football team and played at Davidson College, including in the Tangerine Bowl. Barbee was a career military man and Army chaplain as well.
He said his calling to serve God came in Liberty County.
“I got a new life, a full heart and living hope for what lies ahead when I came to Liberty County,” he said. “But athletics also changed my life.”
Barbee admitted he never thought of sports until a classmate pointed out that it might impress a girl he liked, Julie. He joined the football team and eventually married his high-school sweetheart.
He said sports and the lessons from them carried him through life.
“If you are going to win or succeed in life you have to practice like you want to play,” he said. “You have to be, when nobody is watching, what you want to be when everybody is watching. You have to study intently before the test and you have to develop character for the challenge. You can’t just wing it when it comes to facing the very difficult t and the very real test of life.”