Ceremony commemorates coach, celebrates statue
October 7, 2016
On Friday, Oct. 7, friends and family of former Decatur coach and teacher Eddie Fowlkes gathered to dedicate the bulldog statue in the stadium.
Fowlkes taught graphic design, coached baseball and cross country and cataloged Decatur High’s history. He died last spring of brain cancer.
Susan Riley, Fowlkes’ former colleague, appreciates his work as Decatur’s “historian.”
“Everything we have, we have because of him,” she said.
His wife, Anne Fowlkes, agrees with Riley.
“When a coach leaves, the history of that team leaves,” Anne Fowlkes said.” Nobody knows what that team did, there’s no records. He found records of those teams.”
Eddie spent countless hours flipping through ancient yearbooks and rediscovering forgotten scorebooks, uniforms and memorabilia. He fixed broken trophies and stored trophy cases in his basement while the school was under construction.
“He glued little feet back on [trophies] and created little basketballs to go with the basketball players,” Anne said.
He spoke with reunion groups and Decatur alumni to find relics that had been removed from the gym and basement. The Sharian brothers, owners of Sharian Rugs and longtime Decatur fans, gave Eddie one of his greatest pieces: an old metal Decatur “D.” The piece was displayed with a section of the old gym floor that Eddie himself salvaged.
“That was the floor we used to sweat and bleed on,” Neale Elliot, DHS alumni and Eddie’s friend, said.
Along with Freddy Bailey and Doug Armistead, Elliot helped Eddie with his sports restoration project. The three men donated the money for the bulldog statue.
Eddie wanted a bronze bulldog statue on a pedestal that would bring the players good luck, like Clemson’s Howard’s Rock. Elliot found the company that produced the University of Georgia bulldogs and ordered a fiberglass statue.
Chris Billingsley, Eddie’s friend and former colleague, spoke at the memorial and called Eddie a “true Son of Decatur.”
He was raised in Winnona Park, graduated from Decatur High School and taught at DHS for 29 years. Riley nominated him as a Hometown Hero in 2012. Billingsley believes his strong connection to Decatur may have been why he was so interested in the town’s sports history.
Anne believes his love sprung from his time as a coach.
“He was a coach that loved sports and loved history,” Anne said.
His colleagues, former students and family agree he was a wonderful coach. When he died in April, some former cross country athletes ran the course at Winnona Park in his memory.
According to Billingsley, Eddie’s greatest coaching moment was at a cross country state championship meet in the early 2000s. The team performed well, and they thought they had won. When the scores were announced, the team finished only second by a slim margin.
“It’s harder to be a great coach when you’re second,” Billingsley said. “It’s easy when you win, but when you’re number two you have to explain what was good. That’s what Eddie did.”
“He influenced a lot of kids and gave them heart,” Elliot said. “That’s what a great coach does.”