Catfish Smith catches slot in Sports Hall of Fame

Published 5:00 am Friday, August 10, 2001

JACKSON – Ralph “Catfish” Smith felt right at home Thursdayafternoon at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum. Smithand Ole Miss quarterback/teammate Glynn Griffing were among theeight new inductees introduced at a special press conference forinduction into the MSHOF.

Smith, an All-SEC tight end at Ole Miss and a professionalplayer with the Philadelphia Eagles, the Cleveland Browns and theAtlanta Falcons, now makes his home in McComb. He was born inLincoln County and graduated from Brookhaven High School in 1958,credited with 15 letters.

The MSHOF is celebrating its 40th anniversary class on April 12,2002. It is the largest class on record. Smith and Griffing arejoined by the following athletes:

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The late Verlon Biggs, who played for Jackson State, the NewYork Jets and the Washington Redskins.

The late T.B. Ellis, Jr., who is recognized as the “Father ofJackson State Athletics.”

Carolyn Henry, star amateur tennis player from CrystalSprings.

Samye Johnson, a Mendenhall native who is the first person to beinducted into the MSHOF for the sport of volleyball.

Earl Leggett, native of Palatka, Fla., who played for HindsCommunity College and LSU before launching an NFL career thatspanned four decades as a player and coach.

George Sekul, Hall of Fame quarterback and coach from Biloxi wholed Southern Miss to a National Small College title. He alsocoached Gulf Coast Community College to state and nationalchampionships.

“I want to thank the Jackson Touchdown Club for selecting me,”said Smith. “It’s a special feeling to be inducted with ateammate.”

Smith is the fourth Lincoln Countian to be inducted. He waspreceded by Jimmie McDowell and the late Harol Lofton in 1999. thelate W.C. “Pop” Allen in 1994 and Lance Alworth in 1988.

“I hope I can live up to this honor,” said Smith. “It’s an honorto be here today and receive this recognition.”

Harken back to 1957 when Smith and Alworth were leading the BHSPanthers to the Big Eight Conference championship football game.They also excelled in basketball, baseball and track. Smith playedcatcher in baseball, forward in basketball and ran the relays and180-yard hurdles in track.

Smith and Alworth parted company when they graduated in May of1958. Alworth went to Arkansas where he earned All-American honorsand Smith headed for Ole Miss.

“All my life I’ve been leading interference for Lance,” saidSmith, breaking into a wide grin. “All he needed was a half-stepand he was gone.”

Smith, the father of three sons and two daughters, has retiredafter 25 years in the restaurant business. From Tuesday throughFriday, you can usually find him playing golf at the FernwoodCountry Club. He might play a weekend tournament once in awhile.

He recently visited Alworth for a few weeks in San Diego. Theywent marlin fishing off the southern California/Mexico coast. Whenthey weren’t fishing they were playing golf.

Smith has enjoyed several championships during his prep, collegeand professional careers. At Ole Miss, Smith played for thelegendary Johnny Vaught. The Rebels were national champions in1959. Smith also helped Ole Miss win an SEC title in 1960.

“I’ve been fortunate to play on several championship teams,”said Smith. “There were a lot of talented players at Brookhaven andOle Miss.”

McDowell, a founder of the MSHOF and executive director of theAll-American Football Hall of Fame, started writing sports inBrookhaven in the early 1940s. He gave Smith the Catfish nicknamebecause he resembled a Georgia player who was named CatfishSmith.

McDowell was present yesterday to congratulate Smith on hisselection. Brookhaven was well represented at the event. Former BHSstar Rodney Stokes was on hand for the ceremony, too.

For more information regarding the MSHOF Awards Banquet, contactTD Club secretary Glen Waddle at (601) 948-4471 or 1-800-682-6423,Ext. 229.