Many people recognize Ernie Walthour as founder of the Coastal Crew Rebels AAU basketball program and sports director for the St. James Center. But Walthour has done much more for the youth in Liberty County. Now he’s earned the honor of being inducted into the Liberty County Athletic Hall of Fame this year in the at-large category.
Walthour was nominated by Joan Hollingsworth, who said, "Ernie’s involvement and contributions to athletics in Liberty County have helped to make it possible for many young people who would not have had the opportunity to compete in sports at a higher level to do so. Many young men and women who do not take part in sports at the high school level or college for various reasons have been able to do so because of Ernie’s leadership in the St. James Sports Center, the AAU basketball program the Youth Challenge Program, or the YMCA Program."
Walthour spent his earlier years as the Bradwell Institute football team manager under coach Clifford Johnson from 1979-1985.
Walthour graduated from BI in 1985 and went on to become the recreation assistant at Youth Services on Fort Stewart until 1996. During that time, he coached boys basketball at Youth Services, guiding teams to five straight championship titles.
Walthour also volunteered at the Liberty County Recreation Department, where he announced the kids football games from 1985-2007.
He also coached LCRD boys basketball teams to five championship titles.
Seeing a need for more youth recreation, Walthour started a yearly event known as Summer Slam in 1989. The event began as a free basketball and softball tournament featuring local teams and has grown to offer local vendors and musicians a place to showcase their wares and talents.
In 1993, Walthour founded the Coastal Crew Rebels AAU program, which has produced 42 college scholarship signings to date. Last year, the Rebels expanded their program to include girls teams in an effort to expand local athletes’ exposure to potential scouts and college recruiters.
Walthour has always emphasized education before athletics and makes sure his student athletes attain good grades and pass all the required exams necessary to get into higher education programs.
Walthour continues his association with the folks at Fort Stewart as head basketball coach for the Youth Challenge Academy, a role he has held since 1994. Under his leadership, the YCA basketball team has won seven national titles.
In addition to the LCRD, Walthour aided the youth sports programs at the Liberty County Armed Services Family YMCA from 1999-2004.
Walthour became the sports director for the St. James Sports Center in 1996 and continues to work in that capacity, serving the community of Holmestown with youth sports programs, after school programs and special events.
He was selected by Savannah TV station WTOC as a Home Town Hero in 2006.
In addition to running the center and AAU programs, Walthour has volunteered with the First Presbyterian Christian Academy Highlanders basketball program since 2005, seeing the team blossom and earn three straight Georgia Independent School Association state titles.
Correction: In Sunday’s Coastal Courier, HOF inductee Jerome Smith was identified as being from the Liberty County High School Class of 1963. He was from the class of 1959. During this time, the school’s mascot was the Tigers. The Courier regrets the error.