May 1997: Cordova football coach receives kidney transplant; woman's dream wedding takes place for 25th anniversary


The coach most closely associated with Cordova Blue Devils football in the 1990s is Brian Maner, who led the program from 1993 to 1995 and from 1997 to 1999. 

When Maner left for the top job at Class 5A Buckhorn, Randy Smith was promoted from defensive coordinator to head coach.

It was a tough year for the program. The Devils went 3-8 just one year after winning the Class 3A state championship. Several players left the team mid-season, which certainly contributed to the dismal record.

Smith had bigger troubles than football, however. After living with diabetes for more than three decades, his kidneys shut down in November 1996.

Smith received dialysis for seven months. In May 1997, the Daily Mountain Eagle reported some good news about Smith's health – he would be getting a kidney transplant.

The donor was his father, Tracy Smith. 

Father and son underwent a week of rigorous testing.

"My God, you've got to match about seven different things. We're just lucky my dad matched," Smith said. "It's nearly a routine operation now, when it used to be a real tough one. They say the success rate is 95 percent or better. If you get the kidney from a relative, it's up around 92 to 95 percent. All I'm praying for is that I don't fall into that five percent category."

Before the transplant, which took place on May 19, 1997, Smith told the Eagle that he expected to be back on the field for summer workouts.

"All three of my doctors told me to keep the football job and that I'll be able to maintain what I've got," he said. "I'm going to be back as quick as I can. The best I can hope for is two weeks. We're going to give our boys a week off, so maybe I won't miss but a week. That's the positive. Of course, if I have complications, I'll be out awhile."

On May 28, the Eagle reported that Smith had been moved from the hospital to UAB's Townhouse Apartments, where he could be observed closely before being released.

"I feel better than I've felt in 7 or 8 years," he said. 

At that time, Smith was still hoping to be back with the team in two weeks. 

The Eagle's annual sports review published in January 1998 noted that Smith's recovery took longer than expected. 

In the meantime, Maner had left Buckhorn for Jemison, but the football powers that be in Cordova asked him to come back and take over for Smith, who was not going to be able to coach in 1997. 

The Blue Devils rebounded with a 10-3 record that year under Maner but went 4-16 in the two seasons that followed.  

On a lighter note, beloved Lifestyles editor Jewel Brooks had an interesting story in the May 25, 1997, issue about a bride who waited 25 years for a church wedding.

Deloris Jackson was 18 when she married her husband, Dennis, at the Winston County Courthouse.

A formal church wedding was beyond their budget.

In the years that followed, Deloris would ask her husband to stop whenever they drove past a church where a wedding was taking place so she could see the bride.

Each year on her anniversary, she thought of renewing her vows, but raising three children took up all of their spare funds.

Year 25 seemed like her last chance.

"I said if it didn't happen then, I was giving up," she said.

The two had their own church wedding on April 26, 1997, at Pleasant Hill Community Church in Townley, where Dennis had previously pastored.  

The wedding party included the couple's three children, two grandchildren and one future daughter-in-law.

Deloris Jackson was the first of her nine sisters to have a church wedding.

There was no second honeymoon. Her husband was back in the pulpit the next day.

The ceremony did rekindle the couple's love for each other.

"Really and truly, we're closer now than ever. It's like starting out a brand new life," she said. 

Jennifer Cohron is the Daily Mountain Eagle's features editor.