Porterdale Mill on the Yellow River
NAMED for: Oliver S. Porter, Mill Owner

 

 

The legendary B.C. Crowell brought sports to Newton County youngsters



 

By JOEY PETERS
joey.peters@newtoncitizen.com

B.C. Crowell bows out of Newton’s recreation commission, but not before making an ever-lasting change in the lives of thousands.
Photo by Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith

Editor’s note: This is the first in a two-part series chronicling the achievements of B.C. Crowell. Part one focuses on his career, while part two will focus on his wishes for the future of Newton County.

COVINGTON — After 60-plus years of tireless dedication to the children of Newton County, the old ball coach is hanging up his whistle.

Billy Carl Crowell, better known as B.C. to the estimated 50,000 youngsters he has influenced over the years, will be stepping down from his post at the Newton County Recreation Commission at the end of this month.  “I just decided it was time to move on and get of the way,” Crowell joked as he sat in a sprawling conference room at the Turner Lake Complex named in his honor.  Decorating the walls of this room are dozens of plaques and awards Crowell has earned over the years from various organizations, plus an oil painting that shows him when he returned to Newton County in 1949 after a stint with the United States Navy.

“I graduated from Oglethorpe University in 1944 with a physical education degree, and then I decided to continue my education. ... I was told that Emory was geared more towards medicine, so I chose South Carolina.”
 
Crowell, an already established baseball player who had played in the New York Yankees farm system, proceeded to talk about one of the many incredible sports-related events he has achieved over his life. “I was able to play in one football game while I was there they called Big Thursday. ... turns out it just happened to be against Clemson. I do not know if it was really an accomplishment because there were not that many players on the team, anyone could have made it,” Crowell said.

After a lucky assignment from the Navy that brought him back to Newton County, Crowell took a job with the Bibb Manufacturing Company as Porterdale’s athletic director. Operating on a shoestring budget with only one field along the Yellow River, Crowell is regarded by many as the one man who brought sports to the children of Newton County.
“Getting football started is an expensive venture, but I knew that I had one huge fan of football in this town and that was Bibb president Robert ‘Choo Choo’ Train, who was a Yale graduate. ... He told me that if I was going to start football that he would certainly be the money man,” Crowell said.

Besides being viewed as an almost iconic figure in the community, Crowell has had the opportunity to rub elbows with some of the most famous baseball players who have ever lived, including the Babe himself. “The man I credit with introducing me to sports, Sherrod Smith, asked me if I wanted to go meet Babe Ruth when I was 12 years old. ... We left at 4:30 a.m. heading to Thomaston to meet his train and watch him play. ... when we got there 30 minutes passed and finally he stepped off the train and gave Sherrod a big bear hug,” Crowell said. “We went to the game, and all of a sudden Ruth came up into the stands in full uniform and gave me an autographed baseball. I was speechless.”

Crowell also had a good friendship with legendary Red Sox slugger Ted Williams. “I played baseball with Ted in the Navy when we were stationed in Atlanta, and he was one of the finest men I have ever met,” Crowell said. “I remember one time he asked me if I saw the ball hit the bat when I hit it, and I said ‘No, do you?’  He responded by telling me ‘Every time.’”

Perhaps the best thing that ever happened to Crowell while in the Navy came one night when he was refereeing a basketball game and one of the players caught his eye. “I met my wife one night when I was refereeing a women’s basketball game at Oglethorpe, and she fouled out of the game. ... Needless to say, she was not too fond of me at that moment” Taking a chance, he said that he asked if she would go to a football game between Georgia Tech and LSU with him. She said yes and 57 years later they are still married.

Coach, father, Boy Scout leader, baseball player, community leader, and more than anything else, friend, are some of the words used to described Crowell during interviews with various members of the community. However, with his legacy forever etched into the memories of thousands of people, there is one title that might fit him better than anything else – “Legend.”

Crowell looks to future of rec dept.

B.C. Crowell shares a few fond memories with Newton County Recreation Commission Vice Chairman Johnny Presley at an open house retirement party held in honor of Crowell’s retirement on Monday.
Photo by Shannon Peacock

Editor’s Note: The following is the second in a two-part series covering the career of B.C. Crowell, one of Newton County’s most beloved sports figures.

COVINGTON — As legendary local resident and coach B.C. Crowell prepares to step down from his post at the Newton County Recreation Commission after six decades of service, he leaves behind a department that has grown by leaps and bounds during his storied career.

New parks, better equipment and a renewed focus from county officials towards the importance of maintaining recreational areas has helped the recreation commission achieve goals that Crowell said were only dreams in the past.
 
“This facility here at Turner Lake Park is unbelievable. ... I hope that in the future we can continue to build more places like this in Newton,” he said. Situated on a 158-acre tract of land near the 26-acre Turner Lake, the complex has been heralded by numerous environmental organizations and has become a magnet for residents since opening in the late 1990s. While Turner Lake has become the rec department’s centerpiece since its opening,

Crowell still holds a fond place in his heart for the field where it all started for him in the late 1940s – the Yellow River Ball Field. “It sat right on the river in Porterdale, and we used that field for everything,” Crowell said. “ It is a real shame what’s become of that place. All of the bleachers have been torn down and it has gone unattended for years. ... It really is a shame.”

Local residents who had Crowell as a coach during their childhood also shared a fondness for the old field, but most added that they did not miss the sandspurs that were prevalent all over the field. “They would stick to your clothes all the time, and heaven forbid if you fell down out there,” one resident said while reminiscing with Crowell last week.

Despite the field’s present condition, Crowell said he was hopeful that in the future officials with the city of Porterdale and the recreation commission could work towards refurbishing the park for the next generation of youngsters.

The hopes and dreams that Crowell has for the future of the rec commission may seem ambitious to some, but he said that ultimately he would like to see Turner Lake-type facilities in every corner of the county.

“I would like to see our efforts expand to the four corners of the county. ... There should be more facilities like Turner Lake in this community, which was made possible by the Arnold Grant and money generated from Newton’s SPLOST program,” Crowell said. “This commission is in great hands with Tommy Hailey, though. He’s more like me than any other person I know.”

He added that in the past, coming up with money to finance projects was a difficult task, but with SPLOST money, the possibilities for the future are limitless. “People are getting smarter around here about the benefits of SPLOST. ... Just look at the recent vote we had where 90 something percent of the vote was in favor. ... If we were to have another SPLOST dedicated to recreation, we could build some more complexes in this county,” Crowell said.
He added that although more recreational complexes and open space areas are needed, the commission has issues that demand addressing first.

“We really need to add more ball fields to this county, and I am really not interested in swimming that much, because it is so expensive to maintain,” Crowell said. “I am not against swimming in any way, but we need to fund the big three sports first.”

When it comes to the future of sports in general, Crowell said one sport in particular is catching on quickly.
“Kickball is going to be the greatest sport we have ever seen, you wait and see. ... It is like playing baseball, but you use your feet,” he said. “ We just injected it into our recreation program, and it has taken off.”

Reflecting on a legacy that has touched the lives of thousands and helped mold the fabric of Newton County, Crowell fought back tears during an interview last week. However, when it came to summing up all that he has accomplished, his words were straight to the point and in classic Crowell style. “I guess I have had myself quite a career,” he said.