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10 May 2007

Jacksonville State’s First All-American Dies

From Staff Reports
The Sand Mountain Reporter

Reprinted here in its entirety.

Hall of Famer Heath Dies

George “Blackie” Heath, a member of the Marshall County Sports Hall of Fame, died last Friday at the age of 86.

Graveside services were conducted Tuesday in Gadsden for Heath, who was enshrined into the county hall of fame in 2003.

Born July 18, 1920, Heath came to Guntersville in 1940 because the assistant coach, Clyde White, had moved from Pine Apple.

White told Marshall County High School coach Henry Lee Burgett about a young halfback named George Heath, who had played at Moore Academy in Pine Apple.

A job was secured for his father, and the family moved to Guntersville.

The 1940 Wildcat season culminated with a 7-2 record, with the team holding all three county rivals scoreless.

In 1941, a team of Alabama all-stars played a team from Tennessee in Decatur.

High school coaches “Shorty” Ogle and Jim Glover teamed up with Alabama’s Paul Burnum and Auburn’s Jimmy Hitchcock against the Tennessee players and coaches. Heath scored a touchdown in a 12-0 victory and averaged 50 yards per punt.

The coaches from Union College in Tennessee noticed the outstanding young talent of Heath and soon had him signed up for the 1941 season.

The coach could not remember his name, so he just called him “Blackie” because of his thick, wavy black hair.

The 1942-45 war years were spent in the U.S. Navy building and maintaining a two-mile airstrip and other airfields and roads on Okinawa and Guadalcanal.

After his naval career, which included a 20-month stay on Guadalcanal, Heath resumed school and football at Jacksonville State University.

Don Salls was his coach in 1946 when Heath became Jacksonville State’s first All-American.

He was captain in 1947 of the first unbeaten Gamecock football squad.

Heath led the 1948 Gamecocks to within a point of a second perfect season and beat Troy State in Pensacola’s Paper Bowl.

Heath, as the Gamecock punter, averaged 39.6 yards at a time when statisticians subtracted 20 yards each time a punt went into the end zone.

His teaching and coaching career started in 1949 at Athens as an assistant to Furman Elmore.

He spent 1954-65 at Emma Sansom, including six years as an assistant and six years as head coach.

Heath was an Albertville assistant coach from 1966-67, and he served Worth County, Ga., as head coach from 1968-72.

In 1982, Jacksonville State selected him as one of the school’s top 100 athletes in the first 100 years.

He was inducted into the Jacksonville State Hall of Fame in 1988.

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