Remember When: A Domino Tournament story

Published 2:00 pm Friday, July 7, 2023

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The Andalusia Rotary Club is ready for the World Championship Domino Tournament to be held this weekend of July 7 and July 8, the 47th year that this club has sponsored it.

Begun as a celebration of the American Bicentennial, the tournament has grown and flourished over the years as an annual event. Dr. Charles Tomberlin is credited with posing the idea of a local tournament for a fund raiser for Camp ASCCA, and the story begins in 1976.

Riley Taylor, president of T P S, Inc., was the Rotary Club president at the time. It is remembered vividly how he pursued that idea pushing ahead with excitement setting up committees, motivating the membership, and planning such a venture from the bottom up. The community businesses purchased the ads sold by the members, and citizens helped to publicize and promote the tournament. Large styrofoam dominoes were made and placed in business storefronts all around town. The WCDT finally kicked off with a running start.

Caroline Cavanaugh who was the Executive Director of the Andalusia Area Chamber of Commerce at the time was a genius in inviting people from all over the United States to come and participate in the local tournament. You might say she had “connections.” The word quickly spread about the “world championship” game, and each year new domino enthusiasts from various states along with many locals showed up to play.

1978 was no exception when Travis Newsome from Kansas City, Missouri arrived with four other brothers along with one of his employees. He stated, “My eight brothers and three sisters grew up in Texas where all twelve of us were taught the game of dominoes by our parents. When we came that first time to Andalusia, there were 400 people there signed up to play. We were the only black people present, but we were well received by the South Alabamians and visitors. We got eliminated that first year and actually for three years in a row, but we kept coming back.”

Ten years later in July 1988, I was highly motivated to attend, however, a month before the tournament was scheduled for, one of my brothers, Robert L. Newsome, was shot four times and had to undergo a serious surgery. We all helped him daily to regain his strength in many ways so he could accompany us that year. And he did. There were two of us left standing in the ‘singles’ competition, and I was actually the winner beating Mr. Sno Edwards from Arkansas.”

“My brothers and I were in the real estate business for many years (1973-2010) as agents and as appraisers. After graduation from the University of Oklahoma with a degree in Finance, I created a course in ‘Domino Theory and Strategy’ and have written two books on the game of dominoes which helped to teach some after-school programs to young people. Those books are ‘DONIMOES GAME NIGHT – 65 Classic games to Entertain and Excite and PLAY DOMINOES Like a Champion.’”

“In 1995, 19 years after the tournament started, the first black team won the “doubles,” Robert and Jerry Newsome. In 1996, for various reasons, the club changed the format, and it was required to used random partners in lieu of familiar partners. That rule still holds today.”

“Since 1978 my brothers and I have only missed coming in July to the tournament only three or four times. For one reason, in 1997 our mother passed. In 2006, we were part of a professional tournament in another city. We are proud to say that we have been to Alabama to play dominos more than any other state in the union. We just love coming to Andalusia, Alabama! We have told many of our friends in St. Louis and California about the tournament, and, not surprisingly, they have come to participate including a minister friend of ours and a number of other business associates.”

“In addition to winning the ‘singles’ in 1988, we won the ‘doubles’ in 1999 and the ‘singles’ again in 2003. In 1991 my son Travis Alexis Newsome won the children’s ‘doubles.’ We’ll be bringing granddaughters next year.”

“Yes, all of us will be looking forward to seeing our many friends that we have made in Andalusia and acquaintances from other places who always come to play like we do. I’ll be flying in from Chicago, my two sisters will be coming in from Houston, my niece and my brothers from St. Louis and New York will meet us at the airports, and we will arrive on Thursday into Pensacola. It is almost like a family reunion and more for us.”

“There are a lot more motels to lodge in today in 2023 as opposed to that first year we came. The Town Line Inn was the only place available if I remember correctly. I was only 28 years old that first year we came. Thank you to Andalusia and to the Rotary Club for their hospitality and their genuine South Alabama welcome. It’s been great fun! PLAY DOMINOES!”

Sue Bass Wilson, AHS Class of 1965, is a former choral music teacher, local real estate broker, and long- time member of the Covington Historical Society. She can be reached at