Reel enters Miss. Hall of Fame
JACKSON — It was a family reunion, a homecoming celebration anda birthday party, all rolled into one festive occasion. Sixstandout athletes joined the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame Fridaynight, among them former Brookhaven resident Dr. Anton Reel.
“This is a wonderful night,” said Dr. Reel, an 87-year-oldretired dentist, now living in Alphafredda, Ga., outside Atlanta.”I am thrilled to achieve this honor. Being national bench presschampion pales in comparison to this honor.”
Reel, a longtime weightlifter and health fitness advocate,continues to compete on the national scene in the bench press. Hisgoal is to compete as a 95 and 100-year-old lifter.
Reel joins an elite group of Brookhavenites who were previouslyinducted. They include Pro Football Hall of Famer Lance Alworth,Ole Miss football standouts Harol Lofton and Ralph “Catfish” Smith,and sports columnist/Mississippi ambassador Jimmie “Red”McDowell.
Also inducted Friday night at the Hilton Hotel in Jackson, wereOle Miss tennis coach Billy Chadwick, Ole Miss/Baltimore Coltsfootball star Ray Brown, Mississippi State/Houston Oilers linemanWalt Suggs, Southern Miss quarterback Vic Purvis, and Delta Statewomen’s basketball coach Lloyd Clark. Chadwick is married to theformer Julie Carr of Brookhaven and they have two sons.
Ed Reel, one of Dr. Reel’s five children, bubbled withenthusiasm. “Our family is very excited about this honor for dad.We’ve been looking forward to it. This is fantastic.”
Dr. Reel and his parents migrated to the United States fromNuremburg, Germany in 1929, when he was nine years old. Theysettled in New York City, in the Spanish Harlem district. Unable tospeak, read or write English when he arrived, the younger Reel soldnewspapers and shined shoes, earning nickels to help hisfamily.
Excelling in academics and athletics, Reel became a trackstandout, throwing the javelin and running the hurdles. He receiveda track scholarship to Dartmouth but a ruptured hamstring injurysidelined his college career for a year. Dartmouth revoked thescholarship.
Reel’s high school coach contacted Perkinston (Miss.) JuniorCollege about a scholarship. Reel found Perkinston on theMississippi map and soon began a two and a half-day bus ride to theGulf Coast.
He set several track records at Perkinston. When the Japanesebombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, Reel enlisted in the Navy,hoping to fly planes.
Because he had been a U.S. citizen for less than 10 years, Reelwas not allowed in flight school. Instead, the Navy recognized hishigh aptitude and placed him in Loyola dental school. He laterworked as a dentist for the Navy.
In 1947, he and his young wife, Louise Cowen of Wesson, moved toBrookhaven where he began his dental practice. They raised fivechildren, Anton III, Loyola, Linda, Pat and Ed. Loyola and Pat aredeceased.
Reel became interested in weightlifting and body building duringtime in college. He was named Mr. New Orleans. His life-longpursuit of athletic fitness continued during his 40-plus years inBrookhaven.
Gaining the interest of local athletes, Reel began coaching themin weightlifting. Brookhaven won a Big Eight Conference footballchampionship and other schools began taking an interest in weighttraining.
Ralph Smith recalled a summer when he and Dr. Reel liftedweights. “We did full squats with 300 pounds.” Smith later becamean All-SEC receiver and Ole Miss and played seven years in theNFL.
“My goal is to walk up there and compete in the bench press whenI am 95 and 100 years old,” said Reel. “I want to prove that it canbe done.”
Chadwick is recognized as the winningest coach in Ole Missathletic history. The Jackson native starred at Wingfield andBelhaven College tennis teams. His twin brother, Barney, alsoexcelled in tennis.
At age 26, Chadwick began his coaching career at Ole Miss,directing the women’s team. He was hired by then athletic directorWarner Alford for $125 per week, plus the opportunity to pursuehigher degrees of education.
Chadwick recalled a conversation with Alford during the jobinterview. “When Warner hired me, he said he knew I was a goodtennis player but he was concerned about my temper. He said heheard I threw my tennis racquet a lot.
‘I said, you must be mistaken. That’s my twin brother,Barney.'”
That story drew a loud laugh from the large crowd gathered forthe induction ceremony.
Chadwick said his fondest memory at Ole Miss was the 1995 men’steam winning the NCAA national championship. “We were playingGeorgia in the finals and we had a four-hour rain delay.
“It was after midnight before the final match was decided,” hecontinued. “The crowd gave us a standing ovation.”
He thanked his brother Barney, for “being my right-hand man.” Healso thanked Belhaven coach Charlie Rugg and his latefather-in-law, Judge Mike Carr, for showing him the how to dothings the right way.”
Chadwick and his wife, Julie, have two sons, Lyon and Carr, ages21 and 23 respectively.
The 44th annual Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame ceremonyincluded a parade of former inductees. Michael Rubenstein,executive director of the Mississippi Sports Foundation, Inc.,served as master of ceremonies.
This was the first year for BamkcorpSouth to sponsor theinduction ceremony.