Red Level to induct new HOF members

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 23, 2015

Walter Johnson Red Level class of 1981.

Walter Johnson Red Level class of 1981.

Red Level will induct three individuals and the Tigers’ 1957 state championship team into the Red Level High School Hall of Fame tonight before the Tigers’ home game against Georgiana.

Jimmy Lee and Walter Johnson will be the two former players inducted along with James Milton, who was an assistant coach for the 1957 state championship team.

Johnson was a 1981 graduate of Red Level High School and wrecking ball on the defensive side of the ball for the Tigers’ football team.

Johnson played both ways for the Tigers, but said that defense was his strong suit.

“I played pretty much every position on the defensive line and even played some linebacker at times,” Johnson said. “If we played against someone with a standout player I would play a rover position and just shadow them the entire game. I remember one game against Fort Deposit my 10th grade season where they had a really good running back and Coach Godwin told me, ‘Follow him to the restroom if that is where he goes.’ I shut him down and ended up having a really good game.”

After that game, Johnson said he began to receive letters of inquiry from several SEC schools.

Between his sophomore and junior season, Johnson broke his foot and he said the injury slowed him down a bit.

“After the injury, the letters stopped from the SEC schools,” Johnson said. “I still had some interest from Troy State, but they only gave me a partial scholarship.”

Johnson attended Troy State briefly before transferring to Wallace Community College.

“Coming from a big family, it just got to expensive at Troy with just a partial scholarship, so I left and went to Wallace Community College in Andalusia,” Johnson said.

After finishing school, Johnson started his career in law enforcement.

“I started Trooper Academy in 1985 and when I got out I was stationed in Florence and that is where I have been since,” Johnson said.

After serving as an Alabama State Trooper for many years, Johnson retired and become a pastor. Although Johnson retired as a trooper, he still works part time at the St. Florian Police Department.

Johnson married his high school sweetheart, formerly Patricia Cowen, who was a 1986 graduate of Red Level. The couple have been married for 30 years and have three children.

Johnson’s mother, Clara Johnson, still lives in the River Falls area.

Jimmy Lee was a 1958 graduate of Red Level and a key member of the 1957 state championship team.

“It’s a great honor and a big accomplishment to be included in the Hall of Fame,” Lee said. “That was a great season. We were able to accomplish all the things we did because of how well we worked together, and I enjoyed every moment that I played with them.”

Lee said he was able to get so many yards because of the big offensive lineman the Tigers had and the Tigers’ offensive scheme.

“We ran a single wing and it confused a lot of the teams we played because they had never seen it before,” Lee said. “They would always over shift and leave me huge holes to run through.”

Lee played running back the state championship team and racked up nearly more than 3,000 yards during his career at Red Level.

“Jimmy was a really good running back,” teammate and 2014 Red Level Hall of Fame inductee Jimmy Coxwell said. “He was one of four Red Level players on the 1957 team that made all-state, and he went on to sign a scholarship to the University of Alabama.”

Lee was injured while at Alabama and ended up transferring to Jacksonville State University. Lee later returned to Tuscaloosa to work as a hospital administrator.

James Milton served Red Level High School for 29 years, including 18 years as principal and nine years as an assistant coach.

Milton’s first season as assistant coach was the with 1957 state championship team.

“I had only been out of college a year when I was hired at Red Level in 1957,” Milton said. “I was green as a gourd. I didn’t have much to do with the development of the guys on that team. They were mostly juniors and seniors that had been playing together for so long, that they were well prepared for that season.

Milton said one of the best things about his time at Red Level was watching the kids grow up and become contributing members of society. Milton also said that the 1957 state championship was pretty special as well.

“It’s honor to be inducted in to the Hall of Fame, but if we can beat Georgiana tonight that would just cap it off,” Milton said.

Georgiana just happens to be the only team that the 1957 state championship didn’t beat, as the two teams battled to a 6-6 tie in the opening game of that season.

Red Level then went on to win nine-straight games and finished ranked No. 1. The Tigers’ offense rolled up a school record 510 points on the year.

“We did pretty good that year,” Coxwell said. “After tying Georgiana, went on to win the rest. We just didn’t have it all together in that first game, but after that it just clicked.”

The Tigers’ offense that season scored at least 41 points for the remainder of the season, and scored more than 60 points in five games.

Along with a high scoring offense, the Tigers had a shut down defense.

The defense never allowed more that 7 points in a game, and had five shutouts, including a 41-0 win over Andalusia.

“One game we will never forget, was beating Andalusia 41-0,” Coxwell said. “That was the last time Andalusia and Red Level played each other in football.”

An interesting fact that Coxwell pointed out, was that there were six sets of brothers on that team including, Jimmy and Harry Mitchell, J.C. and J.B. McClain, Winston and Dobbie Foshee, Lee Ray and Vernell Berry, Ron and Rudon Taylor and Billy and Jerry Sellers.

Four players on the team were named to all-state teams including, Carroll Chesser, Ford McClelland, Harold Spivey and Jimmy Lee.

Four of the players also went on to sign college football scholarships. Spivey signed with Auburn, Lee signed with Alabama, McClelland signed with Southern Miss and Billy Odom signed with Tennessee.