Weightlifting places Reel in Sports Hall

Published 5:00 am Friday, August 19, 2005

JACKSON — Dr. Anton Reel was a strong and humble hero Thursdayafternoon at the Mississippi Sports Museum and Hall of Fame. Theformer Brookhaven dentist was among six new inductees introducedyesterday during a press conference.

Joining Reel in the Hall’s 2006 induction list are RaymondBrown, Ole Miss star from Greenville; Billy Chadwick, tennis starat Belhaven and Ole Miss tennis coach; Lloyd Clark, Delta Statewomen’s basketball coach; Vic Purvis, Southern Miss starquarterback; and Walt Suggs, All-SEC and All-Pro offensive tacklewho played for Mississippi State and the Houston Oilers.

Reel, now 85 years young, is being inducted for his accomplishmentsin weightlifting. A national champion in the bench press, he stillactively competes. His next event is the national competition inSt. Louis, Mo., next month.

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Reel received a large round of applause from the audience. SeveralBrookhavenites were on hand for the ceremony, among them MSHOFmembers Jimmie “Mississippi Red” McDowell, creator of the Hall ofFame; Ralph “Catfish” Smith, and Salena Edwards Lofton, wife of thelate Harol Lofton. Also present were Brookhaven High School gradRodney Stokes who has served on the Jackson Touchdown Club’s MSHOFselection committee for several years; and Goat Hoff, a longtimefriend of the Reels.

Reel and his wife, the former Louise Cowen of Wesson, raised fivechildren during their 41 years living on McNair Ave. in Brookhaven.They now reside in Alphafretta, Ga., about 20 miles northwest ofAtlanta.

“I’ve adopted the South as my true home,” said Reel, who grew up inNew York City. “There’s no place on earth like Brookhaven. When Icompete in national weightlifting events, I tell them I’m fromBrookhaven, Mississippi.”

In high school, at James Monroe in the Bronx, N.Y., Reel became atrack champion in the hurdles and other events, setting city andstate records in 1938. Born Nov. 4, 1919, in Nuremberg, Germany,Reel and his parents migrated to America when he was 10 yearsold.

He had accepted a track scholarship to Dartmouth University hissenior year. However, a ruptured hamstring in the finals of the NewYork City Championships caused him to lose his scholarship.

Fortunately, Reel’s high school coach, Paul Courtois, knew thetrack coach at Perkinston (now Gulf Coast) Junior College. Reelreceived a letter from the Perkinston coach in September of ’38,offering him a scholarship.

“I didn’t know where Mississippi was and I had never heard ofPerkinston,” Reel smiled and remembered. Given another year to healthe injury, Reel blossomed as a track star, winning the 220-yardhurdles, anchoring the 880-yard relay team and placing second andthird respectively in the shotput and javelin toss in the statefinals.

Already a physical fitness buff, Reel won the Southern AAU NoviceWeightlifting championship in New Orleans in 1944 and later earnedthe title of Mr. New Orleans as a bodybuilding champion.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Reel enlisted in the Navy. Heplanned to enter the naval flight school in Pensacola, Fla. Planschanged when it was discovered he had been an American citizen forless than 10 years, making him ineligible.

The Navy recognized his high aptitude in the classroom and offeredto put him through dental school at Loyola University in NewOrleans. He later served in Germany during the occupation.

Reel started his dental practice in Brookhaven in 1947. Hecontinued the pursuit of physical fitness and introduced severalBrookhaven athletes to the benefits of weightlifting, among themMHOF inductee Lance Alworth.

“Lance, Catfish, Goat and Rodney Stokes were my boys,” Reel toldthe audience. As he continued to promote weightlifting inBrookhaven, Reel worked with Joe Tuminello, Don “Red” Estes andArnold Green who became LSU standouts.

The players trained by Reel proudly proclaim themselves as “Doc’sBoys.”

After LSU won the national championship in 1957 and ’58, legendarycoach Paul Dietzel presented Reel with a scroll designating him asan assistant coach and an honorary coach of the LSU footballstaff.

All of Reel’s athletic achievements are too numerous to mention.His powerful influence on the Brookhaven community continues toreap rewards.

Write to sports editor Tom Goetz, c/o The DAILY LEADER, P.O.BOX 551, Brookhaven, MS 39602 or e-mailsports@dailyleader.com