Coach Abson, McMinn will enter Tigers HoF
The late Coach Bennie Abson and athlete Chris McMinn are both inaugural inductees into the South Panola High School Athletic Hall of Fame. While they both share a love for the school, they were nominated for completely different reasons.
While Abson and his wife, Doris, also a teacher, had no children of their own, uncountable students and players were their offspring “surrogates” over long careers beginning at Patton Lane in 1968 until they retired from South Panola decades later.
McMinn, on the other hand, was raised on the practice fields of South Panola and J.P. Hudson Park as his father, Ronald “Runt” McMinn, coached students and Little Leaguers for over a half century.
A three-letter high school athlete, Chris followed a career path that led to coaching high school baseball.
Coach Bennie Abson
Fellow Hall of Fame inductee Detris Whitten fondly recalls Abson’s encouraging spirit.
“He always had more faith in me and my abilities than I did,” she said. “He would always tell me a certain time that he thought that I could run and I would always doubt it. After I would run that time he would always look at me and say, ‘I told you.’”
“One memory that sticks out is him driving some of us to track meets in his van . . .and bribing us with pizza if we won our races,” Whitten said, adding, “I also remember it being a bus load of kids with just him and he always seemed to be in control of everything and everyone. He was always so happy and proud when we did good. He would always try to be tough, but from time to time I would see him with a huge smile on his face.”
Whitten said she would not have done as well, or made it to Ole Miss on scholarship, without Coach Abson and his leadership and encouragement.
Abson was a graduate of Mississippi Valley State University, coming in 1968 to Patton Lane where he served as head football and basketball coach.
He would selflessly move over to South Panola when those schools consolidated and served there as head basketball and track coach and assistant football coach.
Having 400 wins in anything as a coach is very remarkable, especially if that record includes eight Mississippi Private School Association State Baseball titles over 15 years while once being ranked number two nationally and finishing seventh ranked by Max Preps.
But, Magnolia Heights School head baseball coach Chris McMinn enters SP Athletic Hall of Fame as an athlete.
“Ninety-nine percent of who I am…came from growing up in Batesville and the South Panola school system,” he was quoted as saying in a Batesville Magazine story by Jeremy Weldon.
“From the time I could walk I was in the gym and on the field at South Panola and it completely shaped me for what I am doing now.”
What he is doing now is shaping young men and women, having over three dozen of his baseball players recruited for college baseball from 22 different colleges, with two having been drafted by Major League Baseball.
While at South Panola he played baseball, basketball and football. He was recognized as All-Conference 1990-92, and his senior year produced one of the winningest teams South Panola has fielded in the past 40 years.
He was also chosen to play in the Mississippi All-Star game that year.
As a senior he received All-Chickasaw Conference honors in both basketball and in football as a wide-receiver and punter.
He attended Northwest Mississippi Community College on a baseball scholarship and went on to play at Delta State University where an arm injury ended his playing career. He finished there in 1997 with a degree in secondary education.
He coached at Senatobia, Horn Lake, and DeSoto Central in various sports, including girls basketball, volleyball, softball, and led his Senatobia softball team to three district championships as well as the basketball team to a district championship.
His volleyball team at DeSoto Central was state runner-up and his girls basketball team made it to the state semi-finals.
Both Abson and McMinn will be honored along with eight other inductees, including the late Robert Lightsey, Whitney Kiihnl Hickman, Brenda Miles Gray, Pete Robertson, Darrell Arnold, Jason Chrestman, Detris Whitten and Deshea Townsend.
The banquet will be held Saturday, March 28 at South Panola High School’s Mall at 6 p.m.
Tickets, $30, are available through March 1 from Susan Jefcoat at First Security Bank’s main office on Eureka Street, and at Mettesave Drugs on Hwy. 6 (278) E.
Tickets may also be purchased by mail at: Attn. George Carlson, P.O .Box 749, Batesville, MS 38606.