Ingram builds career on telling others’ tales

Published 3:00 am Saturday, March 19, 2016

Ron Ingram, above left, says mentors like David Housel of Auburn University encouraged and nurtured him during his 40-plus year career as a sportswriter. The pair are pictured at the AHSAA Champions Challenge game between Gordo (Housel’s alma mater) and Glencoe last August.

Ron Ingram, above left, says mentors like David Housel of Auburn University encouraged and nurtured him during his 40-plus year career as a sportswriter. The pair are pictured at the AHSAA Champions Challenge game between Gordo (Housel’s alma mater) and Glencoe last August.

Ron Ingram could talk about himself. He could talk about his induction into the Alabama Sports Writers Hall of Fame or the Wiregrass Sports Hall of Fame. He could mention that he, a graduate of the University of Alabama, was named Alabama Community Journalist of the Year in 2012 by Auburn University.

If he wanted to, he could speak about being sports editor of the Dothan Progress and The Dothan Eagle and about starting and managing the Alabama Sports Writers Association All-State Football Team in 1978. He could take pride in that these rankings, first in football and then basketball, added excitement and anticipation to the various sports. If Ingram did want to talk about himself, he might say something about being called “Mr. High School Football” or being recognized as the most respected writer of high school sports in the state. Or about being the prep sports editor of the Birmingham News where he worked for 24 years.

The Alabama High School Athletic Association Director of Communications could exhaust himself talking about his awards and recognitions but he doesn’t. Somebody else will have to talk about Ron Ingram. He’d rather talk about others.

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Ingram is quick to say that he’s a Brundidge boy. He’s proud of his hometown and the Pike County schools he attend. “I grew up in Pike County, in the Enon community,” Ingram said. “I went to Banks Junior High School and that’s where I was first introduced to journalism. Mrs. Betty Hixon is one of the best teachers I’ve ever had. She encouraged me to be writer. She had a way of making me feel special and that I could do something special. I’ll always appreciate the confidence she placed in me.”

Ingram attended Pike County High School where he played four sports and was editor of the school newspaper, The Brupiala. This combination of journalism and sports was the beginning of a career that became a dream job for Ingram.

“By watching my brothers play, I learned, at early age, about the passion of high school sports,” Ingram said. “I graduated from Alabama with a degree in journalism/public relations and a minor in radio and television. But it was after I became a sports writer that I really understood where that passion comes from and how it motivates and drives athletes – student athletes – to accomplish more than they ever thought they could.”

Ingram said, as sports writer, he saw, first hand, how coaches not only teach players the skills of the game, but also life lessons that build character and a sense of commitment. “These coaches mold kids from all different backgrounds so that they focus on a common goal,” he said. “That is an amazing feat.”

As a sports journalist, Ingram realized that he could also help mold, young student-athletes with the stories he put on the pages of the newspaper.

When writing for the Dothan Eagle, Ingram looked closely at the newspaper’s coverage area. The City of Dothan was surrounded by smaller cities and towns. He was aware that, as the playoffs began to shape up, the coverage season was ending for the other schools.

“My philosophy then was to make sure that focus was placed on all the teams – the teams that weren’t going to be around at playoff time,” he said. “That way, every team was featured. Some teams might not be great but they had great stories. I was dedicated to finding those stories.”

Ingram said he was fortunate to have had opportunities to tell those stories throughout his 40-year role as a journalist.

For Ingram there are vivid memories of stories of hard-fought victories and heart-breaking losses – championships won and championships lost. But the stories that he will remember more than all of those are the stories that show the true character of student-athletes.

“The stories that mean the most are the stories of lessons taught,” Ingram said. “The story of a band that played when the husband of the director of a rival band was killed. And, the story of two Dothan High School higher jumpers is the most inspiring story between two student-athletes.”

Ingram said Dothan High’s Scott Brazell, a seven-foot high jumper, was the best in the state. His dad died of leukemia the day before he was to qualify for the state. So he didn’t attend the qualifying meet.  Therefore, he was not eligible to compete in the state meet.

“Under those circumstances, many coaches sent notes asking that Scott be allowed to compete in the state meet,” Ingram said. “But rules were important to the welfare of the organization, Scott was not eligible. He could not compete.”

Later, at the Dothan High School sports awards banquet, Carl Mitchell, who jumped 6 feet and 9 inches at the state meet, was awarded his gold medal.

“But, he hung the medal around Scott Brazell’s neck. He said Scott deserved the medal, not him,” Ingram said. “That was the mark of a true champion.”

Ingram said those stories – the ones about life – are the real stories. Those stories and the stories of those who touched his life. Stories like the one of David Housel, former director of athletics for the Auburn Tigers, who took Ingram under his wing. And Coach Bob Booth at PCHS who saw something in Ingram he didn’t see in himself.

And, the story of his brother, Jimmy, that has yet to be told

“Jimmy was killed in an accident in 1969,” Ingram said. “His high school letter sweater is one of my greatest treasures. Things become important when they become a part of your heart.”

Ingram has written two books. He has another written in his heart and he plans to put it on paper. It will be the story of his brother’s life – the life that would have happened if it had not been for a tragic accident.

Until he stops long enough to pen that book, Ingram will continue to do what he loves – “watching kids do something that will amaze you.”

“I have a job that doesn’t seem like a job,” he said. “I’m blessed to have had the opportunity to tell so many stories and blessed to have been a part of so many stories. It has been a incredible journey.”