Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 20, 2007
When Georgiana resident Gene Raines first began compiling the athletic history of Butler County, Greenville had only one football state championship, Greenville Academy was still up and running and most of the 2007 graduates were not even born.
Some 18 years later, things have changed in the county but Raines is still documenting all of it.
Armed with a yellow note pad and a pen, Raines first began his sports research by documenting Georgiana High School's football history up until the 1961 state championship season.
Once he completed the project, Raines turned the book over to Georgiana who, in turn, sold enough of the books to raise the necessary money to build a new fence surrounding the playing turf at Harmon Field.
From there, Raines embarked on a nearly two decade mission to document the athletic history of Butler and Conecuh counties and, in the next few years, he will turn over his research to each school.
After he acquires a copyright on each book, Raines plans to give each school his research findings in hopes the schools will sell the books for fundraisers.
Because he loves sports, he loves history and he loves his home.
Raines, who was a charter member of Sports Illustrated and 1957 Auburn University graduate, said sports has always been in his blood, just like his home is.
“I've always been a big sports fan,” Raines said. “I just want to give (each school) their history back.”
After being born in Monroeville in 1935, Raines moved around from Georgiana to Greenville to Chapman and eventually back to Georgiana where he retired nine years ago from Union Camp, who was bought out by International Paper just a month after his retirement.
With a Bachelor of Science degree from Auburn, Raines made a good living for himself at Union Camp, but it was time at Auburn, not his degree, that led to his recent research project.
While at Auburn, Raines spent a year as a journalism major, but quickly realized to make the money he wanted to make after college, he would need to hold a different degree.
Also while at Auburn, Raines witnessed the only national championship team in school history.
“It was the best four years of my life,” Raines said.
That 1957 Auburn team is a team often researched by the media, football scholars and fans and soon, because of Raines' laborious work over the past 18 years, citizens in Butler and Conecuh counties will be able to research their own football history.
Raines' 18 years of work has produced a complete football history with everything from scores, records, coaches, team members, cheerleaders, homecoming queens, etc., for the following schools: Greenville High, Georgiana High, McKenzie High, Fort Dale Academy, South Butler Academy, Greenville Academy, Hillcrest-Evergreen High and Sparta Academy.
Raines' work has also produced the complete basketball history of both boy's and girl's teams at Fort Dale Academy and Greenville Academy.
While the basketball research for the remaining six schools is not complete, Raines has included everything he could find about each school's basketball teams in the football editions.
During his research, Raines found, during some years, some of the schools did not even have basketball teams.
He also found many, many interesting facts and statistics that could produce books themselves.
His favorite findings during his research were the early years of football in Butler County in which traveling to the game was almost as challenging as the game itself.
“The early years were interesting with teams going on road games because there were very few paved roads and the way they had to go to the games was in cars,” Raines said. “There were very few bus trips.”
Raines also found during the World War II years, while most schools around the nation were suspending athletic events, every school in Butler County continued to play football.
In the future, Butler County teams will continue to play through wars, on and off the field, but soon they will have clear and precise knowledge of their past.
Because of Gene Raines, Butler County athletic programs will soon know not only where they are going, but also where they have been.
“I just want them to remember who did the research,” Raines said.