His obituary and an all-too-brief mention in this newspaper’s sports section, when he recently died at age 91, noted some of the highlights: football scholarship to the University of North Carolina, minor league baseball with the New York Giants, Northwest Georgia Textile League (baseball) stalwart.
The July 1996 edition of this newspaper’s “Past Times: Hometown Heroes of the Playing Fields” details much more. One of several articles describing J.M.’s athletic accomplishments, “Culbersons Were Family of Athletes,” describes how the five Culberson boys from Shannon — Maurice, Leon, J.M., Ken and Dennis — all exceeded in a variety of sports in high school, college and professionally.
J.M. Culberson, devoted family man, church-and-community leader, veteran, was of a generation of athletes whose pursuit of athletic careers was complicated or curtailed by World War II. His brother, Leon, made it to the big leagues with the Boston Red Sox; arguably, if not for the war, J.M. would have, also. Maybe he’d have played professional football instead; he was pretty good in that sport, too.
“Doc” Blanchard, the U.S. Military Academy’s “Mr. Inside,” was the first ever junior to win the Heisman Trophy, the Maxwell Award and was the first recipient of the James E. Sullivan Award, all in 1945. Blanchard began his college career playing freshman football at the University of North Carolina where he mostly sat on the bench behind his roommate J.M. Culberson.