Jacksonville Daily Progress
NEW SUMMERFIELD —
By Jake Tinsley
Special To The Jacksonville Daily Progress
NEW SUMMERFIELD – It's been awhile since B.R. Darby, 92, last played basketball.
But Darby, who is the last living member of the New Summerfield 1938 District Championship Team, still considers his days on the court among his most formative of experiences.
And he still remembers his very favorite coach from those days so long gone by.
Darby was honored Friday for his service to that team 75 years ago, to the United States Army, and to the community in general. Superintendent Gregg Weiss presented him with an autographed photo of the 2012-13 Varsity Boys Basketball Team to a standing ovation.
The presentation took place at the halftime of the New Summerfield Hornets-Alto Yellowjack-ets game, which the home team won 71-63.
Even though he's in his 90s, Darby still loves the game of basketball (although football is his personal preference).
He said watching his alma mater win Friday's game was a great addition to his autographed photo.
"When you are winning," Darby said, indicating the packed audience at the Friday night game, "you get lots of customers."
Coach Jason Davis, New Summerfield ISD Athletic Director and head boys basketball coach, said he considers it an honor to be able to recognize someone like Darby for his accomplishments.
"Darby is a veteran player," Coach Davis said. "He is not only respected in this town, but in the state and in the country. He was the first to play in the old gym and he is a veteran of the sport."
As Darby was about to be commemorated Fri-day, he shared fond memories of his former coach "Red" Adams, a figure so inspirational to Darby's team (and, like the name suggests, a redhead) that all members died their hair red as a show of solidarity.
Darby's hair used to be brown. Now it's fairly nonexistent.
"He's the best coach that I played for," Darby said. "He would really inspire us. Basketball took a lot of energy. We played hard until we were too tired to play any more. And this is before they had Gatorade."
Darby said he played for Red Adams for about five years. Roughly eight months of that was spent with the dyed red hair.
He considered it an honor to be on the team, as Red Adams tended to hand-pick his own players.
"I wasn't his best player, but I wasn't his worst, either," Darby said with a broad smile.
After high school, Darby studied agriculture at what is now Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches.
He joined the Army in the mid-1940s, with tours in the Philippines and Japan. After that, he came home to run his family business in the plant farming industry.
Over the years, he held many roles as a public servant.
He was a school board member for many terms and also served on the Cherokee County Soil and Water Conservation, Cherokee County Co-Op, and as a member of the state water district.
Married to a loving wife of nearly 70 years, Ana Lu, he has a son, Don, three grandchildren and two great grandkids.
He recently became a member of the First Methodist Church in Jacksonville with the philosophy, "You're never too old to better yourself."