Ernie Reddick, who came to Cullman in 1957 as personnel manager for the King Edward Cigar factory and later became the plant manager, has died at age 93. During his time in Cullman, he was a business and civic leader, volunteer and faithful member of Grace Episcopal Church.
Reddick was among the first of the Seminole Nation, playing football for Florida State University in 1948-49 on the university’s first football team.
After graduating high school in 1946, Reddick enrolled at Emory Junior College in Valdosta, Ga. He spent four quarters there before transferring to Florida State in January of 1948.
The university had previously only admitted female students but evolved to include males following the end of World War II to ensure returning veterans a chance at an education.
He was one of the youngest players who tried out for the team.
“Most everyone playing was a veteran, and I wasn’t,” he told The Times in a 2014 article. “Back then, you didn’t platoon. I ended up playing mostly in the defensive backfield, but I also played some running back, too.”
Reddick’s career came to a close in the next-to-last game of the ‘49 season, when he dislocated his hip and ended up in a hospital bed for several weeks.
“I was very pleased to have been a part of it,” Reddick said of the experience in the 2014 article. “I think about some of my very good friends and almost all of them are gone now. Roommates, teammates and fraternity brothers. I just don’t know who’s left out there.”
It was at FSU that he met his wife, Joan, through mutual friends while working at a small student cafè called the Sweet Shop.
Shortly after they wed in 1950, Reddick and Joan took to Guantanamo Bay as civilian employees for two years. He served as an athletic director and math teacher, while Joan was a do-it-all elementary teacher for the dependent school on the premises.
Upon his return, he spent two years based in Jacksonville in the Army’s Counter-Intelligence Unit.
In 1957, Reddick was tasked with managing the newly opened King Edward Cigar Plant in Cullman. At its height, the plant was one of Cullman’s largest employers, employing some 500 people. He spent 25 years at the plant before closing its doors in 1982. During that time, he served as chairman of the Chamber of Commerce, Rotary president, and was on the boards of the Red Cross and Cullman Parks and Recreation.
After the King Edward Cigar plant closed, he returned to Jacksonville, Fla., where he worked for nine more years.
Reddick retired in 1991 and moved back to Cullman. He was elected into the Cullman Sports Hall of Fame in 2011 for his wonderful work as a coach, referee, umpire and official.
For the past 25 years, he has volunteered with Meals on Wheels, delivering meals to seniors in Cullman County.
“He was dedicated, he didn’t do just one route a week, he would do two or three routes a week, or whenever we needed him,” said Laurie Knight with the Commission on Aging’s Meals on Wheels program. “Rarely did he miss a day, and our seniors looked forward to him. He didn’t just deliver a meal, if someone needed something done like a light bulb change, he’d go back after he got done delivering meals he’d go back and change the light bulb.
“He had the most caring heart. It wasn’t just a meal, it was a conversation; and if he could help, he did,” she added.
Reddick’s funeral is set for Monday at 11 a.m. at Grace Episcopal Church where he’d served as Senior and Junior warden of the church and sang in the choir.