Early Players and Participants Deserve Special Thanks

November 24, 2009

It's Thanksgiving, and although many face tough times, we all have much to be thankful for in 2009.

(This story will also appear in this week's The Lincoln Journal.)

And in Lincolnton, one of the things we continue to be thankful for is the local high school football program. This year marked the 13th consecutive time that our Red Devils reached the second round; no school in Georgia has a longer active streak. This also is the 36th straight year that Lincoln County High has played in the post season; that's a state record, as are the Red Devils' 117 playoff victories.

As we say "thank you" to those involved in reaching those milestones of excellence, we would be remiss in not remembering those that played in the early years and supported the program since then. A prime example is William "Bill" Spires. Mr. Spires was born in 1915 in Lincolnton, and today is believed to be the oldest living Red Devil player.

Mr. Spires played right halfback on the 1932 and 1933 teams. His cousin Woodrow played fullback on four teams, from 1929 through 1932. Others on the 1933 team included Sam Roy Wilkes, Aubrey McGill, John Bunch, Norman Wansley, Inman Hogan, George McGee, Jesse Hogan, Ray Maddox, Bernard Murry, Harvey Albea, Mitchell Flint, J. C. McLain, Hugh Moss, Ben Hill Wells, H. W. Moss, and John Ward. That team had a marvelous season with 7 wins and no losses or ties and was coached by principal J. T. Garner with assistant coach Johnny Hammond. 1933 was the third perfect season in Lincolnton history.

Bill Spires moved to Augusta in 1951 to work at the Savannah River Plant, but never stopped supporting the Red Devils. He almost always made the trip to Buddy Bufford Field or to away locations, wherever his beloved Devils were playing. His nephew Neal Reed said, "Uncle William always bragged on Lincoln County Football everywhere he went. He would come to the games and bring some of his 'city' buddies along with him to show them how 'real football' was supposed to be played."

Mr. Spires always considered Lincolnton his home, and still owns property in Lincoln County because, as Neal Reed said, "he wanted to keep a little Lincoln County dirt of his own". He still has Red Devil season tickets. For his ceaseless support of football and other Red Devil sports, in 1988 he was the first recipient of the Booster Club Achievement Award, and in 1998 he was honored with the Frank Guillebeau Award. .

Mr. Spires turned 94 on October 22 and lives in the Atlanta area, close to his daughter Susan. Age has stolen much from him, but in moments of clarity his memories of his teammates and Red Devil football are as clear as they were when he played. For his birthday he was given a new Red Devil sweatshirt, and he quickly signaled a touchdown for his Devils. "During his birthday party he told his daughter that he was getting hot wearing the shirt but he didnít want to take it off...he wanted everybody to see it. Like I said he was always bragging," commented Neal. Over the years, Mr. Spires may have seen more Red Devil football games than anyone, according to his family.

His football legacy continued through his sister Mamie Neal Reed, who was a cheerleader from 1946 to 1948. Her son Don Reed played 1968-71. Her son Neal Reed played on the 1971-1974 teams, and his son Rex also played two years as a Red Devil.

When you see a former Red Devil player, coach, cheerleader, or other participant, whether from the 2000s or the 1930s or any decade in-between, tell them THANK YOU for the great football heritage they helped build.