From atmore magazine

The Boys of the Summer of ’61: Where Are They Now?


   RONNIE HEADLEY, or Ron as he’s known today, played second and third base for the ’61 All Stars.

   #FunFact: Ron was busy in the summer of 1961. Shortly before the All Stars big trip to Williamsport Pa., Ron won Atmore’s Tennis Tournament for boys 15 and under. He still has the trophy – and his racquet.

   He played baseball and basketball all three years at Escambia County High School. A member of the

National Honor Society his senior year, Ron was also on the Atmorala yearbook staff.

   Ron and his future wife, Margarita Earle, were both Student Guides as seniors and graduated from ECHS in 1964. They married in 1967.

   Ron and “Rita” spent most of his three-year US Army service in Germany followed by attending the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, and later the University of South Alabama in Mobile, where Ron majored in Finance. After earning a Master of Arts Degree in Christian Education from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Ron served as Youth Minister and Associate Pastor in churches at a variety of locations.

   In 1991 he began serving First Baptist Church in Brewton, Ala., as Youth Minister and Associate Pastor.

He also coached Little League there for several years. In 2011 he retired with 20 years from FBC Brewton. “Brother Ron” then became Associate Minister at Elim Baptist Church, a position he still holds.       

   Married for 54 years, Ron and Rita still live in Brewton. They have two adult daughters and three grandsons.

   WAYNE LOWERY played first base and sometimes outfield for the ’61 All Stars. He remembers how big the stadium in Williamsport seemed and how many people filled the stands.

   When we talked back in July, Wayne laughed as he recalled, “ … And everything in Washington DC seemed a lot bigger than Atmore.” Very clever. Not one other All Star mentioned noting this interesting perception.

   After playing baseball for the Escambia County High School Blue Devils and graduating from high school in 1965, Wayne attended Faulkner State Community College (then Yancey State Junior College) in Baldwin County.

   #FunFact: Back in the day, had there been a title for “Student least likely to join the military,” Wayne Lowery would have won, hands down. But everyone would have been wrong. WAYNE LOWERY JOINED THE NATIONAL GUARD! He originally joined in Bay Minette. He was first sent to Fort Bragg in North Carolina for three months of artillery training. Yes. Someone gave Wayne Lowery a gun! After three weeks at home for Christmas, he was sent to Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, where someone allowed Wayne Lowery to drive tanks for training. About which he said, “No! Really. Driving the tanks was FUN!”

   After that, he served one weekend a month for six years at his local NG Armory. Eventually he was able to transfer to Atmore’s NG unit. All kidding aside, we sincerely appreciate Wayne’s service.

   Most of Wayne’s civilian career was spent with Monsanto in Pensacola, Fla. Early in his career, he met his future wife, Sue. Wayne retired after 35 years with Monsanto. Sue and Wayne settled down in her hometown, Pensacola. Now married for 52 years, the Lowerys have a daughter, a son, two grandsons, and two granddaughters. And PaPa Wayne no longer drives tanks.

   LEON “LEAPY” PHILLIPS played pitcher and shortstop for the ’61 All Stars.

   #FunFact: Pitcher Leon was dubbed “Leapy” by his Little League catcher, Donnie Watford. When the ball was hit, Donnie said Leon “leaped” all over the mound trying to field the ball. The name stuck through three years of baseball at Escambia County High School, where he was Student Guide Captain and voted Best School Spirit as a senior. He graduated from ECHS in

1964 with his favorite fellow Student Guide, Elaine Smith.

   Elaine and Leon married in 1966. After graduating from Auburn with a Physical Education degree, Leon taught PE and coached football and basketball in middle school in Panama City, Fla., and later in Columbus, Ga., before becoming an assistant principal. After he earned

a six-year degree in Administration, he became a principal and later Director of Student Services at a Columbus middle school. After retiring from Muscogee County (Ga.) Schools in 1998, he became Assistant Principal at Russell County High in Alabama and eventually retired again. However, working from his home base in Columbus, he spends his spare time driving 18-wheelers, charter buses, private school buses, and cars for dealers.

   Elaine Phillips retired after teaching 32 years in Muscogee County, Ga. Unfortunately she passed away in 2013. Leon is thankful for their 47 years of marriage and for his two adult sons, who he coached in Little League, plus their granddaughter and grandson.

Atmore native Bonnie Bartel Latino is a former columnist for Stars and Stripes in Europe, and an

award-winning novelist and journalist.