Bryan Hanks: January 12 is a pretty special day

Bryan Hanks: January 12 is a pretty special day

Today is Saturday, Jan. 12, 2019, just another day to many of you.

For several reasons – including one that is deeply personal to yours truly – Jan. 12, 1969 was a heck of a day.

On that fateful day, Broadway Joe Namath led the New York Jets to what is considered the biggest upset in professional football history when his American Football League team defeated the mighty Baltimore Colts of the National Football League in Super Bowl III.

Ol’ Broadway Joe had bragged to media during the week leading up to the game at the Orange Bowl in Miami that he and his upstart Jets were going to win the game. However, most – if not all – pundits just chalked it up to his braggadocious style and gave the Jets practically no chance at victory against eventual Hall of Famers Don Shula and Johnny Unitas.

He showed ‘em, though, as the Jets defeated the heavily favored Colts, 16-7.

On that very same day in 1969, four British musicians – vocalist Robert Plant, guitarist Jimmy Page, bassist John Paul Jones and drummer John Bonham – released their first album in the United States.

Their band, originally called the New Yardbirds, named their inaugural album after their new name for the group – Led Zeppelin. That group has gone on to sell an estimated 300 million units and is universally regarded as one of the most influential and successful rock bands in history.

One of these guys (the one on the right) is a distinguished law enforcement officer and the sheriff of Jones County, Danny Heath. We’re not sure about the dude on the left. Both were born 50 years ago today. Photo by Linda Whittington / Neuse News

On that seasonably cold January day and closer to home – in New Bern – Gerald Heath and Gayle Moore welcomed their first child, a boy named Danny Ray, into the world. Forty-one years later, following graduation from Jones Senior High School and distinguished service in the U.S. Navy, he was elected sheriff of Jones County, where he was reelected for his third term back in November.

Sheriff Heath is a true public servant who, yes, wears his emotions on his sleeve, but those emotions always exemplify his love and supreme dedication to his home county.

Through the years, January 12 has served as a birthday for some ridiculously successful and talented folks. Rush Limbaugh and Howard Stern – two radio icons whose styles are about as different as you can imagine – were born on Jan. 12 in 1951 and 1954, respectively.

Kirstie Alley, one of television’s biggest stars in the 80s on what is considered one of the best comedies of all time – “Cheers” – was born the same day as Limbaugh.

Jan. 12, 1951 turned out to be a heck of a day for births, though, as future Dallas Cowboys superstar and Super Bowl champion Drew Pearson joined Limbaugh and Alley in the world that day.

Other nationally-famous folks who blow out their birthday candles on Jan. 12 include boxer “Smokin’ Joe” Frazier (born in 1944, but passed away in 2011), kicker Tom Dempsey (1947), basketball star Dominique Wilkins (1960), founder Jeff Bezos (1964), musician Rob Zombie (1965) and baseball star Dontrelle Willis (1982).

Locally, there are several incredible people who celebrate their birthday today, including former Kinston High School, UNC-Wilmington and current Oakland A’s pitcher Chris Hatcher, the longest-tenured and most successful professional baseball player who has ever come from Lenoir County. Chris is also one heck of a good dude who hasn’t forgotten where he came from.

Other local Jan. 12 birthdays include Jones Senior head football coach Greg Hampton (who took the Trojans to the 2011 state championship game), former elementary school principal Jimmi Hobbs and current Kinston High School basketball star Isaac Parson, who has the potential to be one of the best point guards the Vikings have ever produced in their proud hoops history.

Finally, 50 years ago today in the early morning hours in the mountains of North Carolina, two young people were frantically driving from Galax, Va., to Elkin, which is in the northwestern part of this state. The young wife, whose parents lived in Galax, was in labor and getting ready to deliver her first-born.

That child, who has rarely been early – or frankly, on time – since, couldn’t wait any longer. He burst into the world at Alleghany Memorial Hospital in Sparta, right across the Virginia border in North Carolina and 29 miles away from Elkin, where he was supposed to be born.

You’ve guessed it, I’m sure, but that bundle of joy was the writer of this column. I’ve been richly blessed far more than I deserve over the past five decades with awesome family and faithful friends. After wandering through my life – earlier in the Army, then later in Charlotte, Gastonia and Shelby – in 2002, I found what I was looking for in this community that has embraced me and given my life meaning.

Thank you to all of you who have made a difference in my life. I love you more than you will ever know.

And to all my fellow Jan. 12 folks – happy birthday! Today is a good day.

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