By R. Alan Richardson
There are a lot of things in Toy Sims’ life that he can be proud of. Being a star halfback on the first State Championship football team at MCHS in 1955 is just one of them. You can tell he enjoys talking about that magical season some 64 years ago. He said, ““We had a good time playing. No doubt about it. I had some really good linemen in front of me. They were just stubby, tough old country boys that came out of the field to play some football. They would hurt you. We only practiced three times per week then. We all had to work on the farms. It was five miles home after practice and sometimes I had to walk, but Coach Brake and some of the others would usually give me a ride.”After high school he married his wife Barbara of 63 years just a few days after they graduated. He enlisted in the Navy and the couple raised five children over the next several years; Cathy, Sherri, Toy Jr., Mike, and Julie. They now have 24 grand and great grandchildren. After his enlistment was up, Sims returned home and began working. He could never get sports out of his life working 44 years for the Morgan County Recreation Department as a football and baseball coach, umpire, passing the hat to pay for the lights, and running the concession stand. His resume included 34 years working for Wellington and the City of Madison, 12 years with Top-Notch Supply, 25 years as a high school football official, and a bus driver for the Morgan County School System for 21 years where he and his wife (bus monitor) are both still active. The once avid golfer was a starter on the first tee at HLC when they first opened for 12 years. Sims said, “I’m still in good shape for 83 years old. I still do what I can and should around here.”
He shared several stories about those days during our visit. “I had my share of injuries, but they don’t seem to affect me now. I remember getting hurt at Newton County. They used raw lime at that time to line the field. It was raining so hard you could hardly see. I got soaked and that raw lime ate me up like a dog. At halftime, Coach Brake had to strip me down and rub me down with pure vinegar. I also broke my collar bone once. It’s taken me about 80 years to heal, but I have. I’ll say this about Coach Brake. He took care of his boys.” Sims played alongside his twin brother Roy during those years. He added, “Coach Brake would take Roy to clinics for treatment of his swollen feet every week just so he could play on Friday nights. We didn’t know it at the time, but he had diabetes from an early age. It wasn’t diagnosed until after he had been in the Navy for two years and he was discharged. Diabetes is what eventually caused his passing.”
Another claim to fame for the former star is that he saved his twin brother’s life by donating him a kidney 33 years ago in 1986. Complications from the transplant arose for Sims like a staph infection, ‘busted’ stitches, a mesh put in, and several surgeries, but he told us, “I’d do it all again. Absolutely.” Roy Sims passed away some 13 years later due to complications from diabetes. He was the other half of the halfback story in 1955. They started side-by-side on that 1955 team.
Toy Sims played two years for Coach Hartwell Weaver. He was on the varsity roster that freshman season, but played sparingly on a team that went 8-2 and made the playoffs for the first time in school history. His sophomore year, the Dogs fell to 2-6-2 before Weaver resigned. It was then that Coach Charlie Brake stepped in to take the program to new heights. The Bulldogs went 8-2 during the 1954 campaign before going undefeated at 13-0 and winning the State Title in 1955. Brake left after that season to spend the next 40 years at Westminster as a teacher and football coach.
The 1955 State Champions were the first in Morgan County history with him at halfback and some as nose guard on defense. The diminutive speedster was a three-year starter in the backfield that also featured Bill Corry, and Jack Gnehm as assistant coaches. He was a 5-5 135 scatback in those days. “When people asked me how and why I ran so fast, I told them I didn’t want to get hit by those big boys. I was running to get away from them,” he laughed.
Not many know that Sims was also a track star as well. He was the only runner in MCHS history at the time (not many to this day that can say that) to go to the State track meet all four years. He ran the 100 yard dash and 220 yard dash. He could fly. “I never won State, but finished second a number of times in both events,” he commented.
Sims told us, “We mainly ran the split-T offense and were one of the first to run the Swinging Gate. It was hard to stop.”
Asked what made him such a successful runner, he admitted he was fast, speedy, had good quickness and lateral movement. “I ran fast because I didn’t want to get hit,” he laughed. I didn’t even know what football was when I got to the high school. Some of the guys talked me into playing. I’d never even seen a game. We didn’t have TV, but some folks had radios. We all just came off the farm, cotton fields, and dairies to play.”
The 1955 backfield consisted of Snooks Saye, Bobby Mason-all state fullback, Roy and Toy Sims, Marvin Ruark, and Donald James. He did get an invitation to come to the University of Arkansas and some Junior College tryouts and other small colleges, but was in the Navy and married at the time. Barbara said, “No way,” he laughed
The linemen included Donald Hilsman, Frank Eaton-275, Bo Orr, Sony Sidwell, Eugene Sidwell, James Harold Smith, Luke Cleveland, JT Sidwell, Chester Thomas and Richard Jones. Brake was named Class B Coach of the year
Some of his memories were a little faded after all these years, but he shared some with us.
“In Elberton at the Granite Bowl dedication night, I remember Bobby Bone got all his teeth knocked out and Harold Capes and Whitey Whitehead broadcasted it on the radio. One if my best games might have been on the last night of lights at Sanford Stadium when we played North Habersham. They were so mean; a mean team. We were behind by one touchdown and it was do or die. We ran the swinging gate play to win a close one14-7.
The coldest night ever was when we beat Vidalia for the first-ever state championship. It was so cold we had to leave the busses running in the end zone to get warm at halftime. My daddy hardly ever drank, but he had him some corn liquor in his pocket to get warm with it was so cold. You’d have to look it up, but the Madisonian said we set loose the ponies in the backfield in the second quarter.” That would have been Sims, Sims, Saye, and Mason pounding the ball for the State Title.
Indeed it was a magical season and only the first Title of several to follow under Bill Corry.
You can read more about Sims and the 1955 State Championship in Alvin Richardson’s book, ‘It’s a Dawg’s Life’.
Many thanks to Richardson for allowing us to use his photos and detailed summaries going back some 60 plus years that chronicle Morgan County football.