'Blonde Bomber' left big legacy at Jordan High


Joe Harrell was one of the best athletes to come out of Jordan High.

Harrell helped lead the Red Jackets to a state basketball championship, played college football at South Carolina and played professional baseball in the St. Louis Cardinals organization.

Harrell died Saturday at age 89. His funeral is scheduled for 2 p.m. today at St. Luke Methodist Church.

Harrell excelled in all three sports while at Jordan in the early 1940s. He earned Ledger-Enquirer All-Bi-City honors in football, basketball and baseball.

Harrell watched a retrospective of his athletic career prior to being inducted into the Chattahoochee Valley Sports Hall of Fame in 2011.

"It brings back a lot of pleasant memories," he said, "of a lot of fun that I had."

Harrell, who was given the nickname "Blonde Bomber" by Columbus media, said he was humbled to be inducted into the hall, but others who saw him play said he definitely belonged.

Classmate Jimmy Griggs told the CVSHF committee, "Joe was the greatest multisport athlete of my era. He set a level that we all strive for. Joe was an outstanding player and great leader. In football, he was known as a triple-threat runner, passer and kicker. In baseball, he was an outstanding fielder and hitter. In basketball, you could always depend on Joe to be the scoring leader."

Harrell led Jordan to the 1943 state basketball title. The Red Jackets finished as the state runners-up the next two seasons. He missed the state title game in '45, his senior year.

His coach knew how valuable a player Harrell was.

It was reported in the Columbus Ledger that at a school ceremony the week after the game, Jordan's legendary coach, B.F. Register, said "The score may have been different if Harrell had played, but you know as well as I that Joe means more to us than any championship."

Harrell was the Jordan football team's Most Valuable Player for the '44 season. He was captain of the baseball team, where he played shortstop.

After finishing his senior year, Harrell was chosen as "Most Athletic" male athlete at Jordan.

Georgia Tech, Georgia, Auburn, Florida, Vanderbilt, South Carolina and Texas A&M were among the 11 schools that offered Harrell college scholarships, mostly in football.

Harrell planned to play at Georgia

Tech, but he received his draft notice to the U.S. Army on June 21, 1945. He joined the Army's Special Assignment Operation in Germany where his task was to entertain the troops by playing football, basketball and baseball games.

After a year-plus in the Army, Harrell returned and went to South Carolina to play football. The St. Louis Cardinals drafted Harrell after his freshman year, but a family illness cut his pro baseball career short.

Harrell worked with Royal Crown Bottling Company upon returning to Columbus.

He remained with Royal Crown for 34 years and bought a Royal Crown franchise in Augusta, Ga. He also worked with Kinnett Dairies.

Harrell became an avid golfer and was a member at the Country Club of Columbus as well as Peachtree Golf Club and Bobby Jones Golf Course in Atlanta.

He also was involved in youth sports and coached both Little League and Pony League teams.