Note: This is the second in a series of profiles of donors to the artificial turf project at Scrapper Stadium.
By John R. Schirmer
One of Howard County’s oldest businesses and a rapidly growing educational institution have donated $50,000 each to the artificial turf fund at Scrapper Stadium.
Superintendent Doug Graham said the Coca-Cola Bottling Co. of Nashville and the University of Arkansas-Cossatot are Gold Level donors to the turf fund.
“We’re so proud to have these two local firms step forward. We’ve had several partnerships with CCCUA and the Wilsons and the Coke plant,” Graham said. “For them to make this a priority is a blessing for us, and we hope it’s a feather in their caps too.”
Cossatot and Coca-Cola are among 10 donors which provided a total of $675,000 to install turf. The entire project is funded by local donations.
The fund-raising effort began earlier this year after Coach Mike Volarvich made a turf presentation to the school board. He and Athletic Director James “Bunch” Nichols began contacting prospective donors and had the necessary sponsors lined up by early May.
When Volarvich and Nichols approached UA-C Chancellor Dr. Steve Cole, “I felt it was a great opportunity. Nashville is one of our biggest feeder schools. Fifty percent of this year’s Nashville graduates will attend Cossatot. We also have many concurrent students from Nashville.
“When we had this opportunity, it was a win-win. We support the school and want the school to support us. It was a great opportunity when Bunch and Coach V hit me up. It’s an investment for us. We’ll be marketing to students we have a relationship with,” Cole said.
Cole describes himself as “an old [Lockesburg] Blue Darter. I played basketball on a really good team. We averaged 25 wins a year.”
He was recruited by Arkansas Tech and Henderson State, among others, but “ended up not playing college ball.”
Cole’s wife, the former Leslie Reed, is a member of a family with “many connections to Nashville athletics. Leslie is the two-time state champion in cutting. She played basketball. My brothers-in-law [Clint Reed and Lee Reed] played football here. Granny Reed was at every game. I’m a Blue Darter who married into the blue bloods of Scrapper athletics.”
Leslie’s daughter Maddison Horton graduated from NHS in May after four years of Scrapperette softball and basketball.
Cole has served seven years as UA-C chancellor and has been in education for 20 years. “I’ve held just about every position at Cossatot,” he said.
“I get to do what I always wanted to do, and I’m at home. I didn’t have to move. I have a big interest in the community and southwest Arkansas.”
Cole is a member of the Rotary Club and Lions Club, and he serves on the state review board for the Arkansas Historic Preservation program.
“We were glad to do it,” Coca-Cola President Kenneth Wilson said of his company’s donation to turf. “The Nashville schools and Coca-Cola have been together since the beginning. My grandfather [Forrest Wilson] moved here from Arkadelphia around 1900. This has always been a football school even before the Scrappers. They’d throw the ball on the playground, and everybody would tackle. He graduated in 1907.”
Forrest Wilson eventually bought a grocery store and “started bottling flavored soda pop. In 1911, he got the Coca-Cola rights. That’s when Coke started here.”
Coca-Cola recognizes “the need to support the school and community,” Wilson said.
In the late 1940s, Forrest bought the land where Wilson Park is located. He deeded the facility to the Nashville Baseball Association, which maintained it until 1966 when it was given to the school for Scrapper baseball.
Wilson’s father Ramon graduated from Nashville High in 1941. He served in the military in World War II and fought at Iwo Jima. Ramon then worked for Coca-Cola and took the plant over in 1967 when Forrest died.
Kenneth started working there in 1977 and became president in 1986.
The Wilsons have long been interested in higher education along with the local schools, Wilson said. They helped Cossatot in a number of ways and gave $50,000 to the college for its administration area.
The family also supports Howard Memorial Hospital, where Wilson’s mother Nelda served on the foundation’s board of directors and hospital auxiliary.
“We’ve tried to give locally,” Wilson said.
Wilson’s lifelong friend and Scrapper teammate James Jamison has worked at Coca-Cola for 34 years. “We grew up together. We played the last game at the old Scrapper Stadium and the first game at the new stadium where they’re putting the turf,” he said.
The final game at the old stadium saw the Scrappers facing Mena. “It was a pretty heated battle. There was a fight on the next-to-last play. Both sides emptied on the field,” Wilson said.
When Wilson and Jamison were seniors, the Scrappers won the district championship in football, basketball and track. Their football team took on Atkins in the state playoffs and lost an overtime heart-breaker.
Jamison was Scrapper quarterback and a member of the track team. He said two football games stand out for him. “One was Alma. They were two classes above us and number 1 in their class. We won 40-0. It might have been the best game we played. We beat Prescott 23-21. It was a knock-down drag-out. We had a goal line stand and kept them out of the end zone.”
Wilson said 19 of the starters that year were seniors.
A number of athletes from that Scrapper team still live in Nashville, Jamison said. He and several others played college ball.
Wilson and Jamison said they are looking forward to the Scrappers’ first game on the new turf Sept. 9.
“It’s amazing how much the facilities have evolved,” Wilson said. “Mr. Graham has made major improvements, including the Scrapper Dome and Scrapper Arena.”
The arena “just blows me away. It’s the nicest I’ve ever seen,” Wilson said.
Graham thanked Coca-Cola and UA-C for their support for the school district.
Cossatot is “very interested in being involved at the local level. We partner with them on several educational agreements to serve students in our area. We look forward to continuing that relationship,” Graham said.
Coca-Cola “has been one of our leading scholarship donors through the years. Any need that comes up, we sit down with the Wilsons and they’ve been generous to meet any need,” according to Graham.
“We’re fortunate to have Coca-Cola and Cossatot in town. We look forward to many more partnerships,” Graham said.
Silver Level sponsors of the turf project will be featured in a future issue of the News-Leader.