NO BONES ABOUT IT: Jernigans compete in family domino tradition for 40 plus years

Published 9:15 am Saturday, July 22, 2023

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For the Jernigan family, the game of dominoes carries a lot more significance than others, as it has become a family tradition for over four decades.

The family attends the Rotary Club’s annual World Championship Domino Tournament at the Kiwanis Community Center each year.

“My family lived in the Industry community of Georgiana, which was only 35 minutes away from Andalusia, and dominoes was my family’s biggest hobby. We heard about the tournament, and my parents entered me in it when I was 9 years old in 1981. My sister Jennifer Jernigan Coker started competing in 1984 at the age of nine,” T.J. Jernigan said. “Our girls playing and winning in this tournament is a family tradition,” Jodie Jernigan added.

The Jernigan family has either won or placed over 50 times in the WCDT. T.J. competed seven times in the children’s and teen division with a third-place finish in the adult doubles division. He also placed in a round-robin tournament. His sister Jennifer Coker participated four times with a second-place finish in the adult division of a round-robin tournament. His father James Jernigan won a round-robin tournament in the adults division. His wife Jodie Jernigan placed second once in the adults division of a round-robin tournament. His cousin Chase Smith competed four times in the children’s and teen divisions and placed once in a round-robin tournament. The couple’s niece and nephew, 20-year-old twins Charleston and Virginia Coker, have competed and placed over the course of many years. Charleston won in adults in a round-robin tournament.

T.J. and Jodie’s daughters, Emma Cate and Maggie Jernigan, have followed in those footsteps.

“It has become a wonderful time of not just competing but making new friends, catching up with old friends we met at previous tournaments, and also learning good lessons like sportsmanship. One of the best for my husband and myself has been watching our girls show kindness and patience as they teach the younger kids to play. Sometimes, this has meant pointing out to their opponents the importance of voicing their points made. Most people would likely stay quiet and watch their opponent miss out on their points. As the rule says, you must call your points in order to have them written down. Our girls have learned that while winning is great, showing character, integrity, and kindness is better,” Jodie said.

T.J. stated the domino tournament is similar to a family reunion.

“We meet up for two days once a year to play dominoes, laugh, catch up on everyone’s life, and just have a good time. It means a lot to get to compete in the tournament. You get to test your skills and luck against people from all over.”

The biggest highlight this year occurred when both of his daughters won the world championship in the doubles competition.

“One of my daughters won in the children’s division, and the other won in teens. This year was my 12-year-old Maggie’s third year at winning the championship and my 17-year-old Emma Cate’s first year at winning the championship. I was excited for Emma Cate because it was her first championship, and she only has two more years in the teenage division,” he said.

T.J. feels dominoes is an enjoyable experience for everyone in his family.

“It is a great activity because it is something the whole family can be a part of. At family gatherings, the dining room table is reserved for domino players and not for a place to sit and eat. Playing dominoes is very fun, challenging, and competitive. It also helps with math skills and statistics.”

The family has already made plans to compete in the tournament next year and encourages others to continue competing.

“Every July, my family and I head to Andalusia to the World Championship Domino Tournament. I love playing dominoes because it’s something I’ve grown up doing since I was about 4 years old. Winning the tournament makes my family proud, and that’s the most important thing to me,” Emma Cate said.

The opportunity to play dominoes with their loved ones means everything.

“I don’t remember learning to play but just always remember playing. I grew up playing with my parents, my grandmother, my sister, and my neighbors. It is becoming more difficult to find other families to play with and against because not as many people play anymore,” T.J. said.