By R. Alan Richardson
There have been many greats in the annals of Morgan County High School’s storied athletic history. The ‘Morgan’s Finest’ series delves into those individual players and coaches who have excelled at their craft above and beyond the everyday. We’ve been away from this series for quite some time now. We thought it fitting to reopen it during this time of concern over whether there will be a fall sports venue as we know it. Will there be Friday night lights? Will the runners test their grit on the cross-country trails? Will Morgan’s spikers pass and set to new heights in 4-AAA?
Will the Lady Diamond Dogs continue to be the dominant team in AAA they’ve proven themselves to be over the years? That last question brings us to this week’s Morgan’s Finest. We all can attest to the fact that the Lady Dogs have put a competitive team on the diamond for many years, but how did it all begin? Look no further than Coach Julie Jameson if you want to start answering that question.
Jameson spent 27 years in the system as a health and physical education teacher as well as department head. Her legacy lives on through her former players, coaches, parents, administrators, and community members. During her tenure at Morgan County Middle School she coached girls’ basketball, boys’ and girls’ track, started an archery team that won a state championship, and even coached boys’ baseball. She also headed up the girls’ slow pitch softball program at MCHS and became the very first head coach of the fast pitch softball program in its inaugural season. She was the long-time Health and Physical Education Department Head and later became the first female Piedmont Athletic Conference Commissioner.
Jameson comes from a long line of teachers that includes her mother, Claire Jameson, a career first grade teacher who retired in 1982. That was the same year that she began her own teaching and coaching career. She told us, “I never thought I’d do anything else except teach. I also knew I loved to play the games. PE fit right into that. I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”
The 1976 Thomas Sumter Academy (Dalzell, South Carolina) graduate was no stranger to competition when she arrived at MCMS. Her senior softball team brought home a state championship that year in slow pitch where she was a star short fielder. She was awarded the Most Dedicated on that team. For those who knew her well and worked alongside her, that comes as no surprise.
Jameson said, “I probably would have never gotten into coaching had it not been for Andy Ainslie. We worked together in the PE department at the middle school, and he encouraged me to coach the girls’
basketball team.” She also had high praise for principal, Alfred Murray, and Bill Corry, who hired her into the school system after she graduated from the University of Georgia. “Mr. Murray was the biggest professional influence in my life. He encouraged me and gave me confidence when the first middle school girls’ basketball program was getting started. If we needed something…anything, he made sure we got it. Mr. Corry actually hired me as a PE aide to begin with. That summer he called me to let me know that the Board of Education had agreed to pick up the additional tab to pay me as a
full-time teacher. That was a blessing.”
Coaching for Jameson came as somewhat of an afterthought. She credits many players, coaches, and others for any success she might have had saying, “When it came to coaching softball, there were two main people that really helped me along in my career. The first one was Bill Wood. I played softball for him and I trusted him. He became my personal coach and mentor. I would go to him and bounce questions off of him, especially about the rules. I always knew he would tell me the truth, and that’s what I wanted and needed. He was a powerful coaching influence on me. The second was Eddie Burden. We coached alongside each other in softball for many years. He probably knows the coaching side of me better than anyone. I wouldn’t and couldn’t have done it without him.”
We caught up with Burden. He gave us this insight on his close coaching friend, “I had the honor and privilege of coaching with Julie on middle school softball and baseball teams. She was great at teaching fundamentals while keeping it fun. She taught discipline, focus and a never give up attitude. In every sport, things do not always go your way. When those times happened, she always pulled the team together, regrouped and pushed through the adversities. She gave great, awe-inspiring pregame and postgame talks. She wasn’t just teaching the sport but the game of life. She has won many championships but her greatest accomplishments were inspiring all those young people to become outstanding and successful adults.”
After 11 years at MCMS Jameson left MCMS to pursue a job at Winder-Barrow High School to coach alongside her close friend Jeannette Looney. After three years with the “GG” Bulldoggs in Winder as their softball and JV basketball coach, she was ready for a change. “Andy (Ainslie) was working at the board office and called me one day. He wanted to know if I was ready to come back and take my old job. I told him I would be running back the next day if I could. It wasn’t that anything was wrong with Winder-Barrow. They had a great coaching situation and philosophy. I just wasn’t happy teaching high school kids. I loved my middle school kids, and that’s what I wanted to do again.”
Jameson returned to finish out an illustrious 30-year career with the Bulldogs and retire in 2012.
One former player who starred as a catcher for Jameson was Tara Young Stephens. She remembers the lessons well that she learned from her coach. “I can always hear her voice telling us that you play like you practice. Mind you I wasn’t practicing very well at that moment. That really stuck with me. I started to practice like I played. In the dirt every day. I never came home clean either from a game or from practice. Hence the name DIRTDOBBER. Once she told me, ‘I want to see you start diving for balls.’ I was like uhmmm, ok. So, I started diving for foul balls. I stretched all five foot of me out to grab a foul after that.”
Jameson made these comments about her time spent here saying, “There were so many things about Morgan County that made it special. My philosophy was to give every middle school child an opportunity to explore different avenues in sports and encourage them all to play two or three sports. This school system gave me the chance to do that. I do know one thing about my career teaching and coaching…I LOVED IT! I had such great kids to coach and teach, fabulous school support and family support. I am sure there were bumps along the way, but I just don’t remember those. I remember those kids…they were all special, the school system is special and the support I had was wonderful. I LOVED IT! Thanks for thinking of me.”
The Coach is now living in North Carolina where she is taking care of her 95-year-old mother and tending to the family property where she grew up. She says she is enjoying retirement and staying busy. There’s no doubt that Julie Jameson belongs on our short list of Morgan’s Finest. Congratulations and welcome to this elite club.