It was the sectional high school track meet when 18-year-old Carl Cole got word that his friend and teammate would be taken off life support four days after suffering fatal injuries in a car crash.
The red-rimmed eyes of his grieving teammates turned to the team captain that day, searching for strength and direction. Cole can recall the pressure an entire community placed on him in the meet's last race, which would determine the winner. It was then that the only child of a broken home first learned how heavy the burden of leadership is and how it's placed only on those who are willing and strong enough to bear it.
As Cole crossed the finished line, winning the meet for his team and nabbing the most valuable player award, his friend Jeff Mashburn died in the hospital.
"Carl led his team to victory that day and then he led them in prayer," remembers Earl Wynn, Cole's grandfather, who watched from the stands as the brown-haired boy he raised showed the first signs of the man he would become.
"Carl and his team dedicated the win to that boy who died. Everybody looked to him that day, and he, even in his grief, stepped up." [Read more of this story.]
Billy Prince and Don Kyle share of a love of the Tennessee River, fishing and boating.
The two Decatur natives have been friends for two decades after stumbling upon another shared interest: antique fishing lures and tackle. Prince had amassed a collection that Kyle offered to display in the boat shop he used to operate. The two often went fishing together along the banks of the river, talking about their families, current events and everything in between. It was on one such leisure outing that their conversation turned to the defunct shipyard off Alabama 20.
"We started talking about what it could be, envisioning its possibilities as a boat launch," Prince recalls. "He talked about how it could be used to bring large fishing tournaments, like BASS and FLW Series, to town and all the tourism that it could create for the city. Well, I guess the rest is history, as they say. We see now how that idea turned out."
National fishing tournaments roll through town regularly now, filling up hotels and restaurants. After getting elected mayor in 2004, Kyle turned his focus to the project and structured the financing to convert the 75-year-old former shipyard into Decatur's Ingalls Harbor, which now features a massive conference center called Ingalls Pavilion. He pursued and got the city a $500,000 federal grant to fund a portion of the harbor's construction.
"Don has always looked for ways to make his community a better place and things we can do to complement the natural resources we have already," Prince said. [Read more of this story.]
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