The Smithsonian Hometown Heroes Sports Exhibit documents Alapaha, the little Georgia town with a big heart

Sisters Joan Drawdy and Norma Gaskins happily pose behind a poster depicting the latter’s eldest daughter Michelle Jones on Friday, September 16, 2016, in Alapaha, Georgia. The Smithsonian Hometown Heroes Sports Exhibit welcomed residents from the small town with a big heart to the recently renovated, original Bank of Alapaha building situated adjacent to Becky’s Beauty Salon. The “Ms. High School Softball” has notched an impressive 600-plus wins, a state championship, and coached over 30 players who signed scholarships to play college softball in her 29 years at Berrien High School. Photography by Jeremy Roberts [featured in The Berrien Press]
Charles Matthews joins little brother Wesley Matthews during Friday’s once in a lifetime Smithsonian sports exhibit. Drafted at short notice to deliver a brief keynote presentation, Wesley was warmly received by the appreciative crowd, especially when joking about his former skinny physique. Believe it or not Wesley would complete football practice and then run the 12 miles from Nashville back home to Alapaha. Earning the appropriate nickname “Alapaha” as well as a football scholarship to the exclusive Citadel — the Military College of South Carolina — Wesley played 73 consecutive quarters on offense and defense. Throughout his management career in the textile industry, folks never failed to ask Wesley where he was from. Usually clueless as to the city’s location or proper pronunciation — “Alfalfa” and “Al-a-pa-ha” are pretty common first tries — the imposing gentleman had a clever retort: “Alapaha’s between Enigma and Willacoochee.” “Where in the world is that?” “Pretty close to Plumnilly.” Sensing further puzzlement, Wesley added, “It’s plum out of Florida and nearly ‘bout outta Georgia!” Photography by Jeremy Roberts

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Jeremy Roberts

Retro pop culture interviews & lovin’ something fierce sustain this University of Georgia Master of Agricultural Leadership alum. Email: jeremylr@windstream.net