On Saturday, September 10, Jack Bailey of Oak Ridge and Demeco Ryans of Bessemer, Alabama, received the University of Alabama’s Paul W. Bryant Alumni-Athlete Award during halftime of the Crimson Tide’s first home game against Western Kentucky.
The award, presented by the University of Alabama National Alumni Association, was bestowed on the two men at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa.
Bailey, past district governor of Rotary District 6780 (which has 3,200 Rotarians in 65 clubs in East Tennessee) and a graduate of Oak Ridge High School, is the first male track and field athlete to receive the award in its 29-year history.
Ryans played football for the Crimson Tide from 2002 to 2005 and in the NFL for 10 years.
The award honors them for “their exceptional accomplishments regarding character, contributions to society, professional achievements, and service to their fellowman.” Past recipients include Bart Starr, Ozzie Newsome, Lee Roy Jordan, Bill Battle, Mal Moore, Joe Namath, and Sylvester Croom Jr.
Both men have been active in serving humanity. Ryans founded the Demeco Ryans Foundation, which builds innovative programs for youths in Bessemer and provides them with access to educational, recreational, and healthy living initiatives. He also is endowing a full scholarship for a student-athlete at the university’s Culverhouse College of Commerce and Business Administration.
Bailey and his wife, the former Pat Hensley, are both 1962 graduates of ORHS. While there, Bailey was a member of the 1961 and 1962 state champion track teams. Bailey ran on the two-mile relay team, which set a new state meet record.
He was team captain in 1962, and he placed fifth in the 1961 Tennessee Cross-Country Championships. He then received a full, four-year, track scholarship to the University of Alabama.
Bailey was a member of the University of Alabama track and field team from 1963 to 1966, and its cross-country team from 1962 to 1965. He graduated in 1966 with a bachelor’s degree in marketing from the Culverhouse College of Commerce and Business Administration.
He spent his entire 38-year business career with the JCPenney Co., retiring in February 2005. He has worked across seven different cities and is a five-time recipient of the Chairman’s Award of Excellence, JCPenney’s highest award for store managers.
Bailey continued to run competitively until age 50, completing seven marathons, including the Boston Marathon. He is now a certified track and field official at the master level and has officiated at eight of the last 10 Southeast Conference track and field championships and four NCAA national championship meets.
Bailey is a former president of the East Tennessee chapter of the University of Alabama National Alumni Association, which has a chapter foundation corpus that exceeds $900,000, enabling the chapter to provide scholarships to many prospective UA students from East Tennessee. He also served on the A-Club (letterman’s club) executive committee.
Long active in the communities where he worked and lived, Bailey is past president of the Rotary Club of Brandon (near Tampa, Florida) in 1986, as well as past president of the Rotary Club of Oak Ridge.
He served as Rotary District Governor for East Tennessee in 2012-13.
During his career, Bailey served as chairman of the board of the 4,000-member YMCA in Valrico, Florida, chairman of the United Way board there, and president-elect of the Chamber of Commerce in Statesville, North Carolina.
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