Valdosta, Albany and the controversial 1929 football season, Part III

Continued from Part II

The SGAA waited to rule on the 1929 Valdosta-Albany football game until after head coach Mike Herndon and Valdosta returned home. After playing Albany, the team went to Athens to watch the Georgia-Georgia Tech game, which was played in the brand new Sanford Stadium.

One of the points of Valdosta contention was the name of an official. The Wildcats expected one of the men to be Lake Russell, Mercer’s head coach (coaches as officials was extremely common). Valdosta claims the man on the field was even introduced as Lake Russell, but Russell assured Valdostans via telegram that he was not in Albany. There was an official surnamed Russell on the field that day, it being Glasgow Russell.

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Valdosta, Albany and the controversial 1929 football season, Part II

1929-12-03 Valdosta Times (team)

The Valdosta High Wildcats of 1929, printed in the December 3, 1929 Valdosta Times. Head coach Mike Herndon is far left. To his immediate right is possibly city schools superintendent A.G. Cleveland. VHS is posed in front of its school building on Williams Street, which was its home from 1922-73. The building has since been destroyed by fire.

Continued from Part I

Valdosta was feeling quite confident heading into the 1929 football game with Albany.

Even before Moultrie was played, Valdosta’s local CRYING Out Loud column said it was in the bag.

“Albany will be disposed of next week,” said DeWitt Roberts’s column printed November 26, “unless some surprising upset occurs. That will leave the Cats the undisputed champion out of the conference, perhaps out of the entire South Georgia area.”

The column even said that Valdosta folks were looking into a game with Athens for what it called a state championship. The two had already had a so-called title game in 1920, which was won by the Wildcats.

Moultrie was duly conquered, 27-0, on Thanksgiving Day. It was on to Albany.

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Valdosta, Albany and the controversial 1929 football season, Part I

For as long as there have been sports, there have been controversies over plays. From kids arguing over fouls in backyard games, to the 2017 Georgia High School Association state championships, there have been disputes.

Every team has one they can point out.

The “Holy Roller” and “Immaculate Conception” are two from National Football League history. Georgia and Florida argue over the number of wins in their football series. Peach County feels they were robbed of the Class AAA football title last year.

One of the biggest controversies on the high school gridiron during the first half of the 20th century occurred in 1929 when Valdosta High disputed an Albany High touchdown and walked off the field.

Valdosta’s 1929 season was more than a single play. It was a season of incidents that affected multiple games. Many of the individuals from both season and game ended as big names in their communities and the state.

This is an attempt to tell what happened.

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Random box score: 1978 Dougherty-Valdosta

From the February 4, 1978 Albany Herald

Valdosta at Dougherty, played February 3.

This random box score was an eventful one for Dougherty as Martha Howard scored 54 points to lead the Trojanettes. The game went to overtime and Howard fouled out with 1:42 remaining.

Howard made many shots, but The Herald noted that it was two misses – from the free throw line – with six seconds to go helped send the game to the extra session.

1978-02-03 Albany Herald (Valdosta-Dougherty)


A two-city doubleheader and a mystery reference

Tift County Industrial opened its 1950-51 basketball season rather late – January 19 – but the Tigers didn’t hesitate in making up for lost time.

They played a doubleheader on the opening day (and night).

“[T]hey open the 1951 basketball season on the road against Hahira this afternoon and Dasher High, of Valdosta, tonight,” according to the January 19, 1951 Daily Tifton Gazette.

Hahira’s African-American high school closed in 1959 with the opening of Westside. At the time of its closing, it was known as Webb-Miller, but it is unknown if that name was in use in 1951. Dasher ceased being a high school in 1956 when Valdosta city built Pinevale.

Though doubleheaders seem quite rare, even in segregated basketball, this one would have been relatively easy to pull off. An afternoon game at Hahira almost certainly meant that the school lacked a gymnasium. Many segregated high schools played outdoors for that reason.

Dasher, being the nicer city high school, had a gymnasium. If not on their campus, somewhere in the community that allowed it to call home. The ride from Hahira to south Valdosta would have taken less than 30 minutes.

(Tift County’s black community was seeking a gymnasium a few years later, seemingly indicating that Industrial, too, lacked an indoor court.)

There is a bit of mystery from the 1951 Gazette article:

“Both teams will be seeking to improve their last season’s record which ended with the girls taking third place in the state tournament and the boys fourth.”

Neither placed in the Georgia Interscholastic Association’s Class B 1950 state tournament. Industrial played football in Class B, though that did not necessarily mean the high school was; Class C never had enough member schools for its own state tournament.

Being the only black high school in Tift County, Industrial was likely a B school, especially as they made the 1949 state hoops tournament in B. However, no information currently exists about the 1950 Class C boys tournament. The girls did not place in the other half of Class C, though, where the third and fourth place teams were Ellaville and Union Normal (Bainbridge).

Class B girls’ third and fourth squads were Liberty County and a Cordele school (or Carroll County Training – results differ). The boys’ third and fourth were Savannah Street (Newnan) and Lemon Street (Marietta).

Nor did Tift County Industrial place in 1949. The boys were knocked out in the first round in 1949 by Union Baptist of Athens. The girls likely weren’t in the tournament.

It could be that the unknown black correspondent to the Gazette confused district and state. Basketball game results for Industrial are nearly nil, especially during that era.