Wednesday, July 2, 2008


-click to enlarge-

One of the hottest teams around Northeast Mississippi in '57 and thence one of the fiercest competitors for the Bearcats and others were these players for the Wheeler Eagles. This is their photo from the yearbook. I believe this was the team that won the state championship that year, and within a short period of time from a previous team from that school winning it.

My recollection of the players: The Saylors twins led the scoring and were the crowd draw. Billy Powell was a fast floor man and could scoot around with the ball and get others good lay-ups. The Coats brothers were good brute-force guards, and James "Pete" Dixon was an excellent forward. Although he doesn't look tall in the photo, he was and had a tremendously long reach.

Barron, Hill, and Childers were excellent shooters, and usually had a large point record after a game. Charles Brigman was a better shooter under pressure than anyone I have ever seen. When about to go across the outside line with guards crowding him, he had an excellent hook shot that usually connected with the net only, not the rim. I don't know how he could do it - he could barely see the net at times.

Wow, what some good players we had all over NE Mississippi in those days. Wheeler didn't have football, so their concentration was on round-ball almost the entire year, even in the summertime. Richard Arnold was coach that year, and for several more.

One more item; they were masters at stalling the ball, and at the last moment a toss to Dixon would cause him to do his long reach and put it near the net for an easy lay-up to any of the other players that managed to break into range. Sometimes and often, he would just turn around and toss it in himself.

At least one member of this team has passed away, M. C. Saylors.


  1. Carl, do you remember the nicknames that Pete Dixon had? His full name was James Archie Dixon, Jr. He had really red hair and a little short girl was chasing him, Evelyn Beasley. He started wearing his hair long with sideburns, so we started calling him "James Archie Pete Red Elvis Presley Dixon Beasley Junior", much to his dislike, but he laughed about it, too!
    He lived in Memphis near us for many years, but lost track of him.

  2. I sure do remember that nickname, and he didn't like it at first, but gravitated to it later. Miss Beasley didn't even stand as high as his elbow!
    Thanks for the reminder.

  3. The other close state champoinship was in 1954, I think. They were a hot item under Richard Arnold, and like you said, played and practiced basket ball the year round almost

  4. I heard that Pete ended up in Bowling Green, KY - don't recall what he was doing. This was one of the great Wheeler teams and included the best of all high school pure shooters in my opinion: Grandle Barron. He was good this year that is in the picture, moved to New Site the next year, then Richard Arnold got him back for his senior year, when they won it all in 1959, I think only losing one game all year. He worked at Mid South Packers a couple of years, then went to Delta State, I believe.

    I think it was 1955 when Wheeler also won State Championship with Jerry Keeton, Richard Hill, Dan Lynch and those guys. The Saylors twins were on that team.

    Joe C.

  5. The Arnold family of players and coaches were a legend in the Baldwyn, Booneville and entire NE MS area. Bonner, Harrison, Jimmy, and Richard produced not only winning players but winning coaches such as DeVoy and Cecil Graham, Googe Prather, The Ricks, John Ray and Arliss, and as Joe stated, Jerry Keeton and others.

    There was a lady coach from the Arnold family that achieved some fame, does anyone know of her?

    BTW, bumped into Jerry Keeton at SeeSaw's funeral. Still has his sense of humor, and did well after school.

  6. I may be wrong, but we had an Arnold teaching science (7th, 8th, or 9th) at BHS. Harrison, maybe?

  7. Carl, didn't Jerry Keeton make general in the MS National Guard?


  8. TO JC:

    He did, Joe. I believe he was AG under one or more of the administrations. He had on a tie clip with his rank at the funeral, and that was a reminder.

    I will find out more and let you know.

    Happy Independence day to you and all! God Bless America.

  9. Wheeler was an unusal team and if you played in twice or more, you got a chance if one of the Saylors missed a game (short jail time for drinking). For some turn of events, the North Half was played in old Whitfield Gym on Delta State campus. Their school bus pulled into Lambert (my school) that Spring of '57 on the way to Cleveland the very first afternoon of the Tournament. They were issued a STALK of BANNAS while they filled all the pool tables---I recall they were wearing warmups. ...Dave Heflin

  10. Not only for drinking, Dave, but drag racing as well. The school bought them a new 1957 Ford Galaxie 500 with the 332 Thunderbird engine (not the standard 312) and they were tearing the streets of Booneville up!
    Sheriff Orphus Elder would always let any player out in time to prepare for a game. Jail was the place to keep any of them so they would be available when it came time to play...
    Thanks and hope your trip went well.

  11. OOPS! I meant 1957 FAIRLANE 500. Not Galaxie 500, that was a model 4 years later...

  12. I agree that Grandle Barron was the best HS shooter I ever saw from those days. They were almost unbeatable in 1959 when they won the overall championship. I was surprised he didn't have the college career that he should have had. And Richard Arnold knew how to get the best out of them.