Seven outstanding citizens will be inducted in the Atmore Area Hall of Fame April 28: Athletics – Willie Parker and Earl Miller; Government – Stephanie Bryan and Weldon Vickrey; Business – Dale Ash and Bill Farr; Medicine – Ima Joan Helton-Crawford
The induction ceremony and dinner will be held Saturday, April 28, 6 p.m., at The Club, Highway 21, Atmore. Tickets, $25 each, are available at Atmore News and United Bank. Note: Everyone must have a ticket to attend the ceremony and dinner. All former inductees are invited to attend at no cost, courtesy of the Hall of Fame Committee.
Please note: The deadline to buy tickets is Friday, April 20.
This week, Atmore News features inductee Weldon Vickrey. Information and photo provided by the Hall of Fame Committee and the inductee.
Weldon Eugene Vickrey was born in Huxford, Alabama – the second child of “Bunk” and Myrtle Vickrey.
When Vickrey was five months old, he began walking. Their family doctor at that time said that was the youngest he knew of anyone walking. Since that time, Weldon has never slowed down.
With all of his experience playing corncob baseball in “Barnyard Stadium,” as many have read about in Lou Vickrey’s book, at the age of 15, Vickrey gained an opportunity to play baseball with the inmates at Atmore Prison Farm. He played high school baseball for five years. He graduated from Escambia County High School in 1954.
After this, Vickrey played for an industrial league for one year. He would have continued to play for this league, but he was called for active duty in the National Guard.
After the National Guard duty, he never returned to play baseball. He went to work at Container Corporation of America in Brewton, where he worked for 44 years – 41 of which he worked without missing a day.
During his time with Container, Vickrey spent 40 years coaching youth baseball. He helped many young boys who might otherwise have not had a chance to play. Nine of these years he also coached youth football. Not only did he devote countless hours practicing with these boys, but he spent many dollars out of his pocket to pay for gloves, shoes, and fees, and provide transportation for them to and from practice. In the 1970s, he drafted the first African American kids into the youth baseball program in Atmore. In 1983, with the help of the African American players he drafted, the Atmore 14-15-year-old Babe Ruth All-Star team – with Vickrey as head coach – won the State Championship. He was instrumental in helping young boys learn more than the games of baseball and football. He taught them many lessons about life. Many of these – now men – still return to thank him for being a positive influence in their lives.
From 1984 to 2000, Vickrey was elected to serve as Escambia County Commissioner for the Atmore district. He worked tirelessly during his tenure in office.
Throughout his 16 years in office, he never missed a meeting and he never failed to vote on any issues. With the help of the other County Commissioners, he saw 15 major developments within the county. Some of these include the 187-acre lake in the east end of the county, the Department of Human Resources building, remodeling the County Courthouse, building the new Health Department, building the new Ag Center, the $4 million jail, Atmore Satellite Courthouse, change from the old district system to the unit system (which resulted in saving hundreds of thousands of dollars), closed the old asphalt plant (which saved a million dollars a year), the landfill in Escambia County (which resulted in income of over a million dollars a year), many new badly-needed bridges, Escambia County was the first to use state prison inmates to help clean roads and ditches, and oil severance tax money ($6.5 million) was placed in a trust fund which would generate 80 percent interest each year.
Of course, Vickrey’s accomplishments would not be complete without mentioning his work with Purple Martins. He began working with J.L. Wade in 1965. He and 11 others worked together with Nature Society to help restore these once-endangered birds. In 1989, Vickrey worked through the Alabama Legislature to have Atmore named the Purple Martin Capital of Alabama. After that, 28 states followed suit. Following this, interest in Purple Martins grew 25 percent, and the numbers of birds began to grow dramatically. When their work began in 1965, there were fewer than 90,000 birds. In 1995, there were estimated millions, and they were taken off the endangered list. Alabama Public Television came to Vickrey’s home in March 2013 and made a film of the process of growing gourds and preparing them for the Martins. Of course, the stars of the show were the Martins. The show has aired several times since the fall of 2013. Vickrey continues to grow hundreds of gourds each year and gives them away. He also continues to educate youth and adults in the importance of the Purple Martins.
Vickrey has 2 sons by his marriage to Judy Stokes – Todd (wife Dana Hamilton) and Danny (wife Faith Wilson).
Todd has three sons, Cody, Clayton, and Conner. Cody graduated from Huntingdon. Clayton will graduate in May from the University of Alabama. Conner has gone on to be with the Lord.
Danny has a son, Travis (wife Bethany Veal), and a daughter, Emily. All three graduated from the University of Mobile.
Weldon has a step-son with his wife, Kay, Scott Robinson (wife Ruth Ginder). Scott graduated from Auburn University, and Ruth graduated from Illinois State University. They have two daughters, Mary and Lydia, and one son, Elijah. Weldon and Kay (Etheridge), his wife of 20 years, reside in Monroe County.