Morgan County Sports Hall of Fame announces 2023 class
By David Elwell
Team success has been a big part of the Falkville track and field program.
It’s fitting that the team at the top of the program that won 10 state championships will be honored with induction into the Morgan County Sports Hall of Fame.
The husband-and-wife team of Keith and Karen Wilemon are part of the Class of2023 that will be inducted on May 6 at Ingalls Harbor Pavilion.
“Thanks so much to the (Hall of Fame) for choosing us,” Keith said. “What a tremendous honor. We were surprised.”
Falkville was the next step in Keith’s coaching career when he arrived in 1989 as an assistant coach for football and track and field. Eventually he took over the track and field program with Karen serving as assistant coach. The first state championship came in 2001.
Keith added three more state championships before he handed the head coaching duties over to Karen after he moved into school administration. Falkville won two more championships with Karen as head coach before she handed the program over to their son Jace. He’s won four state championships with his parents continuing to help as assistant coaches.
Along with the 10 state championships are 14 runner-up finishes for the powerhouse program.
Keith was inducted into the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame in 2021. Now he and Karen will share the Morgan County Sports Hall of Fame honor.
“This is so neat that it is both of us,” Keith said. “Karen was the one at practice every day and always handled a lot of the things before I knew about it. It was a family for us.”
In 1992, Tom and Lynette Calvin were the first husband and wife inducted into the Morgan County Sports Hall of Fame. They were inducted in different sports. Tom coached football. Lynette coached gymnastics.
“This is a tremendous honor and it is even more special because I am being selected with my husband,” Karen said. “We always tried to treat our athletes like a family. We celebrated with them on their successes and hugged them when they were disappointed.
“Our success as coaches was simply a reflection of the hard work and dedication of not only our athletes, but their families as well. This honor for us is an honor for all of them and also Falkville High School.”
The Wilemons are part of the largest class ever for the Morgan Sports Hall of Fame with 11 inductees representing seven different high schools.
Falkville is also represented by the late Myles Hammon, who started on the varsity in high school for six years and later played at Auburn in the 1960s.
Decatur is represented by baseball star Mike Burns and basketball star Shondra Fuller. Basketball brings Austin’s Gary Spivey, Austinville’s Kathleen Slaten, Danville’s Robert Pope, Priceville’s Joe Edwards and Cotaco’s Gary Couey to the Hall of Fame. Slaten and Edwards are deceased.
Also being inducted is Dr. Frank Sykes, who was born in Decatur in 1892. The Howard University graduate was a star pitcher in the Negro Leagues before moving back to Decatur in 1924 to open a dental practice.
In 1933, Sykes became involved in the Scottsboro Boys Trial in Decatur as a witness against the racial inequality in the proceedings. After having a cross burned outside the building where he had his practice along with other threats, Sykes moved his family to Baltimore. There he became an elder spokesman of Negro League history before he died in 1986.