County Hall of Fame celebrates some bygone values in the current athletics landscape (2024)

  • Columnist Sid Salter spotlights Dr. Jim Ashmore who used his prodigious talent as a basketball star as a means to an end to build his life and his life’s work.

It was my privilege a decade ago to speak at the inaugural Scott County Sports Hall of Fame induction when the organization was founded. For the induction of the 2024 class, organizers invited me back to help honor this year’s class.

The evening was also marked by the accompanying 50thanniversary of one of Mississippi’s most enduring sports stories – the so-called “Un-Team” – Lake High School’s 1974 football squad’s unbeaten, untied, unscored-upon season under the tutelage of the brash and legendary Coach Granville “Bear” Freeman.

There were 29 members of the team. Three have since died over the ensuing half-century, but the other 26 returned for their anniversary salute – one traveling from Germany to attend.

The 2024 Scott County Sports Hall of Fame honored 11 new inductees: Forest and MSU basketball great Dr. Jim Ashmore; Scott Central football announcer Roquel Barber; SCHS/Belhaven women’s basketball standout Brittany Burks; Sebastopol coach, teacher and principal Charles Brown; Morton/Belhaven basketball star John Eichelberger; Forest High and Mississippi College three-sport letterman Jimmy Goodwin; Scott Central/Midwestern State two-way footballer Chris Ficklin; Forest publisher and youth sports volunteer Erle Johnston; Good Hope/MC basketballer James Edgar Johnston; Former Scott Central/current Madison Central coach and MSU football standout Mike Hendershot; and Sebastopol football announcer Guy McGarrity.

All were winners in sports and life. All had compelling stories. All had families, friends, former students and grateful communities to remember them. It was a great afternoon, particularly for the announcers and parks and rec youth sports volunteers who were honored.

But of all the honorees, the one that I believe bears some additional consideration given the modern climate in professional, intercollegiate, and even local sports, is Dr. Jim Ashmore.

There was no Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) deal for Jim Ashmore, and no transfer portal. Nor was the lure of the highest echelons of pro sports the top thing in his life. No, Ashmore used his prodigious talent as a basketball star as a means to an end to build his life and his life’s work.

Ashmore was a remarkable man in every way – as an athlete, as a physician, as a husband, father and grandfather, and as a Christian citizen. He died at the age of 88 in 2023, but not before a productive life filled with accomplishments. He was a caring family physician for 52 years, retiring at the age of 80. Jim was married to his Forest sweetheart Beverly Jo McKenzie Ashmore for 64 years. She died in 2022.

Jim graduated from Forest High School as a straight-A student, lettering in basketball, baseball, and football, excelling in basketball at the point guard position. He received the Babe Ruth Sportsman Award, was chosen for the Scott County All-Star Basketball Team, represented Mississippi in the North-South High School All-Star Game and his 35-point per game scoring average was the highest in the nation.

Jim then attended Mississippi State University from 1953 until 1957 on a basketball scholarship, graduating summa cum laude with a Pre-Medicine degree.At MSU, he broke 11 MSU basketball records and three SEC records. He was a three-time All-SEC Team selection and, as a senior, was named Associated Press All-American, and played in the East-West Games.

He was MSU’s first All-American player, was named SEC Most Valuable Player in a player’s poll and was the SEC Player of the Year his senior year. Finishing his senior year in the NCAA Top Ten in scoring, he was drafted in the NBA Draft by the Boston Celtics. During the Celtics tryouts, he was selected second string point guard behind the great Bob Cousy, however, he chose instead to play in the AAU Basketball League so he could earn money half the year and attend medical school half of the year.

Jim was inducted into the MSU Sports Hall of Fame, the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame, the SEC Sports Hall of Fame, the NCAA Sports Hall of Fame, was named to the NCAA Basketball Coaches’ 25th Anniversary Team and was named an SEC Legend at the SEC Basketball Championship Tournament in 2000.

Ashmore chose to use his athletic talent to equip him to dedicate his life to medicine, serving the people of Leighton and Muscle Shoals, Alabama – because when he graduated medical school, those communities needed a doctor.

Sports aside, that’s a Hall of Fame life.

County Hall of Fame celebrates some bygone values in the current athletics landscape (2024)
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