Walter Davis Haney, age 86, of Hamilton, Alabama, was welcomed into Heaven on Monday, July 27, 2020, passing from this world at his residence, where he was surrounded by his loving family.
He was born in Lamar County, Alabama, on Friday, March 23, 1934, to Roland Oakley Haney and Annie Young Haney. He was preceded in death by both his parents and his younger brother, Leo Haney.
He leaves many fond memories for his wife of 64 years, Mary Sue Mixon Haney; along with their children, Deborah Taylor (husband, Phillip), Wally Haney (wife, Tonya Kay); and grandchildren, Jessica Taylor Spears (husband, Exie), Andrea Cantrell (husband, David), Valerie Marie Taylor, Jennifer Burns (husband, Jeff), Ashton Wilbanks (husband, Chris), Allie Taylor; and great-grandchildren, Lydia, Ella, Jack Davis, Josiah, Micah, Asher, Will, Max, brother: Coy Haney; and a host of nieces, nephews, and friends.
Mr. Walter was raised on a row crop farm in Lamar County, surrounded by farm animals, his two brothers Coy and Leo, and lots of love. He also began the 80-plus years of his work career on the family farm, as a 6-year-old boy plowing off seed beds and picking up sticks and stalks.
He attended school in Sulligent and his lifelong passion for sports was instilled while playing football and baseball for Sulligent High School. His team positions included being a guard in football and a pitcher in baseball.
During his senior year in 1952, he met the love of his life, falling in love with Mary Sue Mixon and marrying her four years later. Mr. Walter truly cherished his bride and felt blessed to enjoy 64 wonderful years by her side. He declared in 2019 that she was still “the prettiest girl he has ever seen.”
After high school, Mr. Walter interned at the “Progressive Farmer” magazine, to see how reality lined up with a dream he had of being a writer.
That fall, he became a member of an elite Army unit, the Army Security Agency. He also served his country during the Korean War, as part of the 28th Infantry, which was sent to Germany to augment NATO forces. His overseas action included 16 weeks in the Golden Arrow Division (8th Infantry), which was stationed in West Germany. He received military honors at his funeral.
After his time in the military, Mr. Walter attended Auburn University, known then as the Alabama Polytechnic Institute. Besides his studies, he also participated in sports. His long-standing enthusiasm for the university’s athletic programs was put into motion with his first step on the field as a “walk-on” with the baseball team.
In 1956, knowing of his work with the “Progressive Farmer,” the owner of the “Marion County News” gave Mr. Walter an opportunity to become Managing Editor for the newspaper, located one county over from Lamar.
And so began his residency in Hamilton and his appreciation for Marion County; its beauty, its people and its communities. His original plans to stay for one year turned into two years… And then the rest of his lifetime.
In 1957, Mr. Walter and Mrs. Mary Sue became the proud parents of Deborah Ann Haney Taylor, joined two years later by her little brother, Walter “Wally” Davis Haney, Jr., in 1959.
With a growing family to support, Mr. Walter decided to return to retail insurance, a vocation which he’d briefly explored between college and his newspaper position.
He spent many lucrative years as an agent with Liberty National, qualifying annually for their Torch Club recognition. He continued to advance in that field, even owning an independent agency with five offices, before changing careers for the last time.
In 1979, Mr. Walter created American Risk Managers, Inc., an independent Risk Management Consulting Firm, which was designed to act as a type of “middle-man” between businesses and insurance agencies. He was successful in this task, advising businesses about their risks and needs, and advocating for them with insurance agencies for more than 42 years.
He worked with dozens and dozens of clients in all types of industries in five different states—Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, Louisiana and Mississippi. The company remains family-owned and operated to this day.
Mr. Walter also continued his dream of writing by penning, assisting with or editing numerous articles for his company’s website, Amerisk.org, and its blog, “Risk Resources.”
For three years, he was its top subject matter expert and closely involved with 95% of all the information shared freely, on a global level, to anyone interested in learning more about Risk Management.
He also participated in special articles focusing on family, faith, and community, as well as personal columns, such as “My Life And The Blessings.” This extremely popular autobiographical piece was posted on June 26, 2019—one month, one day and one year before his death.
Besides writing, Mr. Walter’s other great dreams as a youth were coaching and teaching. He was able to fulfill those dreams beyond his greatest expectations by coaching youth football for 12 years, becoming known as “The Father of Little League Football” in Hamilton.
He was given the moniker, Coach “Red” Haney, because of his bright red hair. He ruled the sidelines with grit and patience, enthusiasm and determination, and plenty of hugs and pats on the back.
He served as head coach for the Pee Wee teams from 1962 to 1973, including seven undefeated seasons. He finished with an unmatched record of 105-5-5 and mentored more than 1,400 players along the way. Many of his “Little Aggies” went on to become stand-out players and stars on the Hamilton High School football team.
His former players also used his words of inspiration, motivation and dedication to drive them into professional careers, becoming top business workers and owners, as well as strong community and family leaders.
His positive influence and support of youth and community has been recognized by thousands and is now being passed along as his legacy to the next generation. Numerous tributes from his former players, business associates and friends are now being gathered for publication on his Amerisk.org website.
Besides youth football, Mr. Walter remained dedicated to another level of play, continuing to take his role as a fan for Auburn University very seriously. He was an avid Tiger ally, both financially and spiritually, for decades and was acknowledged by the university several times.
His recognitions include a 2004 “Eye of the Tiger Club Award” for his positive support and promotion of athletics, and a 2014 “Samford Society Award” for his interest and general support of excellence.
And although he bled orange and blue, Mr. Walter was the ultimate good sport, counting many Alabama fans as close friends. Those on both sides of the rivalry enjoyed his energetic opinions on games, plays and players.
He was also a strong supporter of the Hamilton United Methodist Church and taught Sunday School there for decades.
He was a long-term, dedicated member of the Hamilton Kiwanis Club and its mission of community support, and was voted “Kiwanian of the Year” in 2010.
Regarding community, Mr. Walter also served the citizens of Hamilton for 12 years from 1964 to 1976 as a City Councilman and Mayor Pro Tem. During his three terms, he was involved with many beneficial projects.
Mr. Walter was inducted into the Marion County Sports Hall of Fame in 1994 as Hamilton’s Special Category Honoree for his monumental athletic contributions.
He was officially recognized during pregame ceremonies at Sargent Stadium in Hamilton on October 4, 2017, for his role in creating the remarkable dynasty of the area’s Little League Football Program.
That December, he and his best friend, James Dodd, served together as Grand Marshals for the Hamilton Christmas Parade.
Mr. Walter continued to work as a Risk Manager until two weeks prior to his passing, creating a home office during the COVID-19 self-isolation period. He maintained his sense of humor and proved it with his writings about the quarantine experience. He also kept his Auburn spirit till the end, responding to a family member with a “War Eagle” on the day he died.
Funeral services for Mr. Walter were held on July 29, 2020, at the Hamilton United Methodist Church. Rev. Jeff Armbrester officiated, along with Mr. Walter’s former “Little Aggies” player, fellow Kiwanian and dear friend Mark Dearen. He was buried in Hamilton Memory Gardens. Marion County Funeral Home assisted the family before, during and after the service.
Pallbearers included Exie Spears, David Cantrell, Jeff Burns, and Chris Wilbanks; with honorary pallbearers James Dodd, Bill Nowlin, Alan Cantrell, and Mark Dearen.
As much as he loved his family, his football and his company, Mr. Walter loved the Lord even more. He shared his strong faith with his family, friends and community for more than 80 years and now rests in peace until he greets us all again at the Pearly Gates, or perhaps the Pearly Goalposts.
Haney Is Honored By Aggies
Coach Walter “Red” Haney stands surrounded by his family as he is honored as the “Father of Hamilton Little League Football” on October 4, 2017, at Sargent Stadium. Shown are (front row, from left) Jack Davis Cantrell, Josiah Wilbanks and Asher Kate Wilbanks; (second row, same order) David Cantrell, Ella Cantrell, Deborah Taylor, Sue Haney, Walter Haney, Allie Grace Taylor, Lydia Bentley, Andrea Cantrell, Ashton Wilbanks (holding Micah Wilbanks); and (back row, same order) Exie and Jessica Spears, Valerie Taylor, Phillip Taylor, Wally Haney, Tonya Haney and Chris Wilbanks.
Glimpses Of A Life Well-Lived
Walter Davis Haney, Age 3, With His Beloved Dog, “Doc.” All Dogs And Walters Go To Heaven.
The Haney Clan
(Top left photo) Roland and Annie Haney pose with their three boys; Baby Coy (in Annie’s arms), Little Leo (left) and Wee Walter (right).
(Top center photo) Roland and Annie with (from left) Coy, Leo and Walter.
(Top right photo) A dapperly dressed Walter poses with his father, Roland.
(Middle photo) Roland and Walter are shown with a family friend.
(Bottom left photo) Roland and Walter relax at home.
(Bottom right photo) The Haney Brothers – Coy, Leo and Walter.
Walter – Back In The Day
A young Walter Haney is shown (top left photo) in a photo taken while he was in Germany, (middle top photo) as a Torch Club recipient during his Liberty National Insurance Agent days, (top right photo) in a photo collage from his time with the “Golden Arrow” Division, (bottom left photo) at the Bosch Motorsports speedway in Germany with his brother Leo (left); and (bottom right photo) on the roadway in Germany while he was stationed there with the Army Security Agency.
Walter & Sue
(Top left photo) Mary Sue Mixon admires her engagement ring, while a smiling Walter Haney looks on. Known as Sue by most people, Walter always called his bride by her full name, Mary Sue.
(Top middle photo) The couple celebrate Christmas in the early-to-mid 1980s.
(Top right photo) The Haney’s in a photo taken for the Hamilton United Methodist Church member brochure.
(Bottom left photo) A 25th Wedding Anniversary writeup in the “Hamilton Progress.”
(Bottom, second from left) The Haney’s are shown at their home, circa 1973.
(Bottom photo, third from left) Another 25th Wedding Anniversary photo of the couple from March 29, 1981.
(Bottom photo, far right) Walter and Sue Haney are shown in another formal portrait taken for their church’s member brochure.
The Family Man
(Left photo) Walter and Sue Haney are shown with their young family, with first-born, Deborah, standing in front of Walter, and son, Wally, in Sue’s arms.
(Top middle) Walter with Wally (left) and Deborah, circa 1960.
(Top right) Wally and Walter, circa 1972.
(Bottom right) A family portrait of Walter, Sue, Wally and Deborah, circa 1973.
(Top left photo) Walter and Sue Haney are surrounded by family at their 50th Anniversary dinner celebration on April 2, 2006, at Outback Steakhouse in Tupelo, Miss. Shown are (from left) Ashton, Wally, Tonya, Jennifer, Phillip, Jessica, Deborah and Valerie and (in front of Sue) Allie.
(Top right photo) Walter and Sue enjoyed a special Christmas in 2000 with two new bundles of joy; a granddaughter, Allie (left), and a great-granddaughter, Lydia (right). Allie is their daughter, Deborah’s, third daughter, while Lydia is their granddaughter, Andrea’s, daughter.
(Far right, middle) Walter is shown in between his son, Wally (right), and Wally’s daughter and his granddaughter, Jennifer Haney Burns; with Wally holding his grandson and Walter’s great-grandson, William Walter Burns.
(Bottom left photo) Roland and Annie were photographed on their 50th Wedding Anniversary with their son, Walter, and his family, including their two grandchildren and first two great-grandchildren. Shown are (from left) Wally (holding Andrea), Tonya, Walter, Roland, Annie, Sue (with Jessica standing in front of her), Phillip, and Deborah (holding Valerie).
(Bottom right photo) Walter was called “Papa” by his loving family. He is shown here with his mother, “Granny Annie,” and his children, grandchildren and great-grands. (Front row, from left) Allie, Lydia, Ashton, Walter and Annie; and (back row, from left) Jennifer, David, Andrea (holding Ella), Chris, Tonya, Wally, Sue, Valerie, Deborah, Jessica and Phillip.
(Top photos, from left) Walter and Sue Haney are shown in the Painted Desert and in front of Old Faithful at Yellowstone National Park.
(Middle photo) Walter was a dedicated Auburn Fan, but also had great respect for his rivalry team. He is shown standing in front of the U.S. Post Office in Junction, Texas, where “Bear Bryant’s Boys Became Men.”
(Bottom photos, from left) Walter and Sue stand on a precipice overlooking the Grand Canyon; Walter enjoys a rest at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville; and Walter poses with his brother, Leo, and his wife, Evonne, during a vacation.
(Top photo) A “Journal Record” newspaper clipping shows five generations of Haney’s (from left) Lydia, Andrea, Wally, Walter, and his mother, Annie.
(Bottom left photo) Another five generation photo, this time featuring (from left) Walter’s paternal grandmother, Edna, known as “Ma Haney,” his father, Roland, Mr. Walter, his son Wally, and Wally’s daughter, Andrea.
(Bottom right photo) A five generation photo featuring (from left) Walter’s daughter, Deborah, and her daughter, Jessica, the Haney’s first granddaughter, Mr. Walter, his father, Roland, and Roland’s mother, Edna Haney.
On The Field
(Top left photo) Coach Walter “Red” Haney is shown on the football field in Hamilton with his son, Wally, who was around 3-years-old.
(Top right photo) Coach Haney (middle) takes the field at Sargent Stadium for his official recognition as “The Father of Little League Football” in Hamilton. He is shown (2017) with his son, Wally (left), and son-in-law and Hamilton High School Coach David Cantrell, who is now (2020) the high school principal.
(Bottom left photo) “Red” Haney shows his football players the “Heisman Pose” during a photo day for the ‘Little Aggies” teams.
(Bottom right photo) Coach Walter “Red” Haney’s Fifth Consecutive Undefeated Little League Football Team is shown in a photo taken on the football bleachers. Coaches are (from left) Walter, Carl Bumpus and Jack Christian. Larry Armstrong is not shown.
(Players are not identified here, but most are named in a newspaper clipping that will appear in the special tribute article underway now for Mr. Walter. Please check back to see more photos and quotes from former “Little Aggies” players and Mr. Walter’s business associates and friends.)