By Jim Bailey
For The Herald Bulletin
I first remember Jerry Brandon playing quarterback on the then-Anderson College football team. The Ravens, as I recall, were then running the old single wing where the quarterback didn’t line up under center, giving the quarterback freedom to block or go out for a pass when the center snapped the ball directly to another back. Jerry took full advantage, often going out for a pass himself, invariably catching it for a big gain.
And football wasn’t even his best sport. The Alabama boy was an outstanding left-handed pitcher, throwing three no-hitters as he led his high school team and helped pitch his American Legion team to a state championship. He later threw a no-hitter for the Ravens during his college days.
His Legion team was in a national tournament the week he insisted on keeping a commitment to attend a national church youth convention. He then traveled directly to the tournament and went directly to the field where he pitched and won the game.
Major league scouts were camping on his doorstep. A future in baseball seemed to loom ahead. But he had other priorities. He felt a call to the Christian ministry, coming to AC and going on to the Anderson School of Theology. The rest of his life was spent in ministry at pastorates in Arkansas, Alabama and Indiana and 26 years with Church of God World Service. He was one of the church’s most successful missions-minded fund-raisers.
Brandon, who died Jan. 25 at age 78, never worried about what might have been. He felt he was working where he should be.
The jovial Jerry had a usually-humorous story for every occasion, loved to eat, loved sports and loved to have a good time. Most of all he loved his high school sweetheart, Normarie “Norma” Elmore, his high school coach’s daughter who was still in high school when they married 58 years ago.
It was his youngest brother Don who made a name in the athletic world, playing three different sports in high school and at AC, then becoming a career coach. Anderson University’s Don Brandon Field is named for the longtime Raven baseball mentor.
When Don Brandon was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame, people remembered his older brother’s exploits. “I was honored mainly for what I had done in coaching,” Don recalled. “But I remember one old guy saying, ‘Huh! He wasn’t even the best player in his family.’”
Jerry’s health began to deteriorate several years ago. But he wasn’t one to let it get him down. As long as he could, he continued to support his brother’s Raven baseball team as well as other sports.
Now Jerry Brandon has a new home. And I can envision him greeting friends and relatives, spinning yarns and inquiring where he can find a good meal. Hey, he might even be out there pitching a few innings.
Regarding my last column, Ike Weatherly Sr. and Buster Miller and matron Lena Ramey preceded Lucius Teague as African-Americans on the Anderson Police Department. Before my time, I suspect.
Jim Bailey’s reflections on Anderson’s past appear on Sunday. His regular column appears on Wednesday. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.