As I sat in the audience during a presentation to the Winchester Rotary Club, it occurred to me that the young man doing the presenting was a leader and definitely reminded me of his father.
I have made it a lifelong habit to study leadership in all its forms and fashions, so I can recognize a good leader when I see one.
This guy, however, has a particularly important mission to accomplish.
As the area director of the Chattanooga Fellowship of Christian Athletes, which includes Franklin County, Jay Fowler makes an impact on the lives of thousands of young people and their coaches in leading them to be encouraged in their faith.
Through their many camps and “huddles,” the FCA strengthens the Christian walk of these athletes and their coaches.
Jay was the guest of “Commodore” Jim Cunningham, as Jay referred to him, one of the original members of the local FCA chapter and a lifelong Rotarian.
Cunningham and fellow FCA members Stanley Bean and Jimmy Davis were on hand as well. The local chapter is in its 55th year of continuous operation in Franklin County.
It was not my first opportunity to witness Jay Fowler’s leadership skills.
As a sportscaster in Chattanooga for 22 years, I had the privilege to cover the senior season of quarterback Jay Fowler, the son of Jim and Judy Fowler, at Tyner High School. His outstanding season ended in the playoffs with a loss to rival Rhea County High School, whose quarterback was another well-known prospect, Andy Kelley.
“I tried to convince Coach Majors that I was the one he should sign to UT,” Fowler told me after the meeting, “but Kelley got the scholarship and had a great career.”
Indeed, but that was not the end of Fowler’s leadership training.
He went on to accept an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, and served until reaching the rank of captain in the United States Army.
Having had a son of my own who graduated from the academy, I know that USMA is covered up with leadership from top to bottom, so this was no surprise.
Accepting a call to serve in the FCA, Jay subsequently used his leadership skills honed over a lifetime to promote and develop local chapters, rising eventually to his current position as Chattanooga area director.
His area is one of the largest in the Southeast, larger even than the total of several other states combined.
His presentation to Rotary was spell-binding, full of facts and figures and an amazing memory of people like Jim Cunningham who have meant so much to FCA’s success.
I said Jay reminded me of his father, and that brought back memories of my own.
Long ago, Jim Fowler and Judy Rogers matriculated through Columbia Central High School in Maury County where Jim was the center on the football team, two years ahead of me in class.
I followed Jimmy as a center on coach Jim Cartwright’s teams and played baseball and other sports with Judy’s brother, also named Jimmy.
Jim and Judy later were married and moved to Chattanooga, where I lived for 22 years and covered Jay in sports.
The elder Fowler enjoyed a successful career at the TVA and is now retired and playing golf regularly with his son.
My final words to Jay that day wrapped-up all the emotions I was experiencing.
“I’m proud of you,” I said, knowing that Dad was proud of him, too, and that’s the way it oughtta be.
Alan Clark played football, baseball, and tennis at Columbia Central High School, a teammate of Jim Fowler and of Jimmy Rogers. His award-winning editorials for the Herald Chronicle placed second in the Best Editorials category at the 2019 Tennessee Press Association State Press Contests. They are also available as podcasts on Apple Music.