By Jerry Grammar
I find it ironic that the song came out a few years after the death of a dear friend who bore an almost identical name. Billy Joe McMurray would have graduated with the Class Of 1960 except for one wrong choice.
Dora was in the state basketball tournaments being held at the Auditorium in Birmingham now known as Boutwell Auditorium. Billy Joe played a great game that night and was asked to ride back in a private car by some friends. He could have taken the team bus with the rest of the players but chose to ride with his friends. He would never play basketball again. As the car topped the hill in Forestdale it was involved in a wreck, throwing him from the car. His body slid several hundred feet. Billy Joe lay in UAB for several months in a coma. It was uncertain if he would ever come out of the coma, but he did only to smile, speak a few words and slip away forever.
No one had ever seen a funeral service like his. Being loved by young and old alike the services was attended by hundreds and hundreds of loving, mournful friends.
I had known Billy Joe my entire life. We visited each others homes, attended the Sumiton Church of God together. Went from Elementary through Jr High in Sumiton on to Dora High together. He drove a beautiful red and white ‘55 Chevy.
Dora lost a great athlete and everyone lost a dear friend. When I hear “Ode TO Billy Joe” to this day, the first thing that comes to mind is not Billy Joe McAllister, but Billy Joe McMurray.