Columbus has a new police chief today.
And he has a longstanding relationship with his old baseball coach – who happens to be the most well-known coach in the Chattahoochee Valley and the state of Georgia.
In the early 1980s, Freddie Blackmon played baseball for Bobby Howard at Kendrick. It was before Howard, now the head coach at Pacelli, started racking up state titles at Columbus High School.
Tuesday when Columbus Council approved Blackmon as the new police chief, Howard was there. He stood, arms folded watching as one of his players assumed command of the Columbus police department.
He could have just easily standing on the top step of the dugout, everything playing out in front of him.
For a guy who has produced five big league ballplayers, including Hall of Famer Frank Thomas, this was different.
“It is a blessing when you see them be this ultra successful,” Howard said. “It’s just like you talk about baseball players hall of fame. This is a citizens hall of fame.”
Blackmon, and his brother, Toney Blackmon starred on two Kendrick Region championship teams. Back in high school the new chief was listening to his coach.
“He would always say to us, never get too high, never get too low,” Blackmon said. “Stay between your peaks and valleys. In other words, put ourselves in a position where you are always striving to succeed, striving to be the best at everything you do.”
Those are lessons the new chief has used in a 34-year climb through the ranks of the police department.
Just like a hanging curve hit for a home run, Howard saw this day coming.
“I predicted this. He will tell you, 10-15 years ago. I said I don’t know when, but you are going to be the police chief.”
Blackmon was a catcher and two-time All-Bi-City selection in both football and baseball. And he was a leader back in high school.
Howard got ejected from a state playoff game against Valdosta in Golden Park for arguing a play at the plate. There was no assistant coach.
“”His teammates selected him to coach the rest of that game,” Howard said.
Howard played a big role in the success of the Blackmon brothers. Toney Blackmon, director of business and transportation services for the DeKalb (Ga.) School District, says Howard was a leader and mentor.
“He did things that coaches didn’t do in those days,” Toney Blackmon said. “He talked about things that weren’t about baseball.”
Freddie Blackmon says he will continue to lean on his old coach.
“For 35 years we have been connected and we will continue to be connected because I value his advice,” Freddie Blackmon said. “And I look forward to being able to continue to pick up nuggets from him as we continue to share as I develop my career and he continues to develop throughout his coaching.”
Leader then. Leader now. Phil.
The new chief was a catcher and also played for B.R. Johnson at Chattahoochee Valley Community College.