Skip to content

Martin football book draws cheers from avid reader and Panthers fan

Martin football book draws cheers from avid reader and Panthers fan

Posted: Monday, November 1, 2010 8:01 pm
By: By Donald Vowell

Is everybody reading Panthers, 45 Years of Martin High School Football by Dr. Hobart Beale and Mary Ann Davis Baxter? It is the best book I have read since I Couldn’t Say No, by the late Harold Wilson. It is a stupendous rendition of every Martin High School football team from 1924 through 1969. My favorite part so far is the 1939 team. (I am still reading the book.) For example, in the 1939 team picture, on page 202, sitting in the last row in between Peyton Weaver and Coach Russell Duncan, there is a dog. A real dog sitting there just as if he were a player!! If you are just looking at the book it is almost shocking. It is maybe the funniest thing I have ever seen. He is just sitting up there looking at the camera with the same expression as all the other players. 

Then if you look at the caption, where they have the player’s names, it says Billy Cate’s Dog! It is even in the index like that along with the names of all the other players and cheerleaders and whatnot who are in the book. It just so happens that Billy Cate is my very own uncle, but even if that were not the case, this would still be my favorite part of the book. As far as I know, this is the only dog in the whole book. His name is Mickey, but that is not stated in the book. Of course my Uncle Billy Cate is in the picture too, not to mention his friends Cactus Vincent and Bubba Warren and everybody else that was on the team. 

All my life Uncle Bill (we never called him Billy) never even told me about this. 

Not to dwell on my Uncle Billy Cate, but I will mention that he had the most spectacular injury in the 1939 football season. It happened in a beltline accident, according to the book. I don’t know exactly how a beltline works but you do it as an initiation for freshmen. But Uncle Billy Cate was injured as an upperclassman, that is, somebody who was operating the beltline. A wiseguy named Frank Howard decided to go through the beltline on a bicycle and ran over Uncle Billy Cate. That is described on page 222. That incident, like most of the rest of the book was written up in this newspaper, the Weakley County Press. I should add that the book says that Uncle Billy Cate’s injuries were “not serious” and that he made a “complete recovery,” which according to the mores of the time, meant that he was able to get up and walk away at the end of the day. In a recent interview with the writer of this article, Uncle Billy Cate reports that he was knocked out cold. 

Moving to the on-the-field aspect of the 1939 team, probably the most striking part mentioned in the book is the season ending game against Ripley when Cactus Vincent threw 20 passes completing 17 with an average of 35 yards per completion!! That would be 595 yards of passing offense! The crazy thing was that apparently Cactus Vincent was playing fullback. It is all reported in the book. 

But besides having a dog in the team picture, players getting knocked out cold in beltlines, and a fullback throwing for 595 yards, the thing that really sets the 1939 team apart from all the others is the nicknames. I have already mentioned William “Cactus” Vincent and Karl “Bubba” Warren. They also had “Sonny” Warmath, Harold “Shorty” Brundige, Bill “Bull” Hall, Billy Bob Arnold (that could have been his real name), Warner “Lughead” Miller, Eddie “Fed” Fuqua, Robert Neil “Paddlefoot” Glasgow (I am not making any of this up), James “Contact” Condra, and “Little Jimmy” Thurmond. 

As for Uncle Billy Cate, they called him “Bruiser.” (I think that was ironic because he was about the same size as Mickey.) And either on that team or the next one was a player called “Half Mammy.” His real name was James Willis Holman. They would say “Holman (Whole Man)…Half Mammy.” (Sorry if that help was unnecessary.) Half Mammy’s brother had an ordinary nickname: Bobby “Gut” Holman, but he didn’t play football until 1942. I will add that at the same time the town of Martin had a policeman named Creepin’ Jesus, although he did not play football and he is not mentioned in the book. Those were the days.

Although the 1939 team was my favorite, every team from 1924 through 1969 is covered in detail in the book, and each year is just as interesting as the 1939 team in its own way. For example, it is reported that Jim Bell White, of the 1924 team, scored the very first touchdown in the history of Martin High School. And yes, that team had a player named Aubrey “Cusser” Turner. And for another example, the book notes that Warren Caudle caught a touchdown pass against Sharon in 1964. The book of course includes the Streak, but so much has been written about it already that I will not attempt to improve the existing literature on that subject, except to mention that they have never given enough credit to Joel Clements. The book is replete with historical and local interest gems, for instance, it tells the very special story of why Harmon Field is called Harmon Field, which by itself is worth the price of the book. 

Now for the criticism of the book, and I do have one. It ends too soon. For reasons the authors will have to explain, it ends in 1969, the next to last year of the Streak. At the end of the book the Panthers have won 32 in a row on their way to approximately 42. I realize that in 1970 six students from Sharon had their mothers drive them to Martin for school, and that they changed the name of the school from Martin High School to Westview High School for a few years, but what the heck, let’s finish the book. It is like The Sword in the Stone ending with the sword still in the stone. 

So Dr. Beale and Ms. Baxter, what about an Epilogue?

The book is available at

Editor’s note: The author is a 1971 graduate of Martin Westview High School. He now resides in Knoxville.

Book Review: Panthers, 45 Years of Martin High School Football, by Dr. Hobart Beale and Mary Ann Davis Baxter.

wcp 10/26


Leave a Comment