Inaugural “Big John” Classic honors late Lowndes County Sheriff

Published 8:00 am Saturday, February 10, 2024

The Lowndes County community honored the late Sheriff “Big John” Williams on Jan. 19 with the inaugural Big John Williams Hardwood Classic. 

The event was held at the Central High School in Hayneville gymnasium and featured three exciting mash-ups between the Central-Hayneville Lions and the Calhoun School Tigers. 

This special basketball event was hosted as the first of many planned to honor the memory of the late Sheriff. 

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Brian Coleman, Central-Hayneville’s head basketball coach, said that the Classic is one of the most special events to be held in the county. 

“This classic was and will always be important to me because it carries on the motto we have on our respective courts saying that we are 45 Strong,” Coleman said. “We will not let the legacy of Sheriff Big John Williams be forgotten.” 

The basketball event featured a series of games, including varsity boys and girls as well as junior varsity. The junior varsity game came to an end with a final score of 37-31, with the Central Lions taking home the victory. 

The next game, the varsity girls’ match, ended with a score of 35-19 with the Calhoun Tigers clutching the win. The final game of the night was an exciting one, ending with the Tigers taking home their second victory with a score of 75-54. 

At the classic, Mr. Leon Bennett, who was president of The Calhoun School’s Class of ‘76, delivered a few words welcoming all attendees and speaking on behalf of the Big John Scholarship Fund. 

Along with Bennett, District Judge Adrian Johnson and the Lowndes County Children’s Policy Council were able to raise funds for the scholarships that will go to students within Lowndes County. 

The scholarship, created in honor of Sheriff Williams, is coming up on its fourth year and awards $2,000 to one student from each Lowndes County school each year. 

Nickles Rankins, Lowndes County athletic director, was one of the organizers of the event and said that he was pleased with the outcome of the Big John Williams Hardwood Classic. 

“It was great to have Big John’s daughter, along with his former classmates, there to present each winning team with the trophy after each game,” Rankins said. “It’s always significant to give honor to those that were dedicated to our schools and student athletes.” 

Williams, who was a highly respected figure in the community, was slain in the line of duty in November 2019. He was a Lowndes County native and served in law enforcement over a span of several decades, during which he held various positions within the Hayneville Police Department and the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office. 

The classic is an event that is extremely important to members of the community and expresses the long-standing rivalry between Central High School and The Calhoun School. The event has and will continue to bring the people of Lowndes County together with a sense of light-hearted fun.