(Town Crier photo/Revis Blaylock)
The All American Red Heads gathered in Jonesboro July 13 and 14 for a reunion. The pioneers in women's basketball came from all over to share memories with fellow teammates and lifelong friends.
Orwell Moore, coach and owner of the All American Red Heads, was on hand to welcome players and guests.
The group started holding reunions every other year in 1996 in Jonesboro. Since then they have had reunions in Kansas City, Mo. (1998 final 4), Knoxville, Tenn. (1999), Jonesboro (2000), Knoxville, Tenn. (2002), Oklahoma City, Okla. (2004), and Little Rock (2005).
The Red Heads toured the United States, Mexico and Canada, including Nova Scotia and Alaska, playing men's teams for 50 years, 1936-1986. Moore started coaching the team and became owner in 1955 moving the headquarters to Caraway. His wife, the late Lorene "Butch" Moore, was part of the team for many years.
The All American Red Heads Alumni Banquet was held Saturday evening with keynote speakers, Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame historian Matt Zeysing, and women's basketball historian and preservationist John Molina.
Jesse Banks, filling in for president Brenda Moon Davis, welcomed everyone and introduced guests. She introduced Curtis Newton, who is working on an emblem in an effort to have a postage stamp featuring the All American Red Heads.
As she introduced Coach Moore, the lifeblood of the American Red Heads, he received a standing ovation.
Red Mason led the group in the "Red Head" song they liked to sing as they traveled into the different cities.
Banks announced the next reunion in 2009 will be held in Indianapolis, Ind.
"Moving the reunions around gives us a great opportunity to travel as we did when we were Red Heads," Banks said.
Speakers Zeysing and Molina are co-authoring a book about the All American Red Heads and have been gathering information, talking to former Red Heads and Coach Moore to get true stories.
"I can say with the utmost sincerity this is one of the best basketball experiences I've ever been a part of," Zeysing said.
He thanked the Red Heads for their help.
"We can't tell the story without you," Zeysing said.
He went on to call the Red Heads pioneers who paved the way for future generations.
Molina has spent years compiling information on the team as he has been collecting research on women's basketball for 12 years and has a great collection. He was a 2004 honorary member of the All American Red Heads and a 2007 inductee of the Connecticut Women's Basketball Hall of Fame.
Molina shared an interesting history of women's basketball from the 1800s.
"Women got the right to vote in 1920 and the Red Heads started in 1936," Molina said. "The Red Heads broke down the stereotype of the early days," he said.
Molina read a letter to the Red Heads.
Excerpts from the letter read, "You exploded the myths of the day about women's ability to play sports, especially the commonly held belief women were too selfish to play as a team. The All American Red Heads shattered these stereotypes and misconceptions. You showed everyone that women could be extraordinary athletes."
Molina revealed the letter was from Billie Jean King, tennis star.
Banks said paperwork has been submitted to have the All American Red Heads induced into the Naismith Hall of Fame and for Coach Moore into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame.
"I feel we will get there," Banks said. "One day we may have a movie of our own. If a League of Our Own can do it, we should. A screenplay has been written."
Coach Moore expressed his appreciation to Molina and Zeysing for the upcoming book.
"In time there will be a great movie about the American Red Heads," Moore said. "There was magic in those uniforms. This is not about me; it is about you -- the girls who came to play basketball."
Moore shared several stories bringing back memories of the 50 years of the All American Red Heads -- the longest continuous longevity of any women sports group.
Coach Moore recognized the members of the 1986 team, the last All American Red Heads team. It was coached by Moore's son, Burnie Moore.
A commemorative game was played 10 years after the team quit touring in 1996 at the Caraway School gymnasium.
Coach Moore gave several awards including: Outstanding Coach Awards -- Jack Moore (accepted by his son, Travis), Dean Lorrance and Ben Overman; Coached the last Red Head Team -- Burnie Moore; Media Awards -- Larry Stroud and Revis Blaylock; National Historian Naismith Hall of Fame -- Matt Zeysing; Historical Award -- John Molina; Red Head Historian Award -- Jolene Ammons; The Heritage Family Award -- Brenda and Kay O'Brien Family and Shelby and Joe Faulkner; Alumni Awards -- Pat Overman, Charlotte Adams, Becky Harp Prichett; all time Comedian and Entertainment -- Willa Faye "Red" Mason; Spirit Awards -- Alice Washington Dockins, Tammy Moore Harrison, Katie Watson Ingram, Barbara Wells Gwinn, LaVella McWilliams, Alice Kilgore, Brenda Hubbard Watson, "Winkie" Barnett Gray; Aaronette Housley; President Award -- Jesse Banks; Anchor Award -- Brenda Moon Davis.
The evening closed with Rebecca Lee Molina (John Molina's daughter) playing Auld Lang Syne on the trumpet.