Choctaw Hall of Fame
2013 Members - Inducted October 11, 2013
Left to right: Jerry Brigante, Jackie Burkett, Frank Goral (accepting for his father, Ray Goral. He is holding “Ray” Bear with the headdress his father wore while filming the band); Billy Mikel, and Fred Pitts.
JERRY BRIGANTE is an avid community supporter. He helped start the basketball “Tip-Off” Club and the holiday basketball tournament. He is a member of the Northwest Florida Athletic Association and has been a mentor to many student athletes. His daughter, Samantha, and sons Geoff and Jerry, are all Choctaw graduates.
WALTER J. “JACKIE” BURKETT is a 1955 graduate and the most decorated athlete from Choctaw. As a Choctaw student he was an all-conference football player and captain of the basketball team. He received a scholarship to play football at Auburn University where he was an All- American player. He played professional football for the Baltimore Colts, the Dallas Cowboys and New Orleans Saints. Mr. Burkett is in the Auburn Sports Hall of Fame and the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame. He is a former Okaloosa County Commissioner who is now retired.
RAY GORAL took film footage of the Style Marchers dating back to the 1960s. For almost forty years he archived the performances of the band. He was an ever-present fixture for the Style Marchers who quietly showed up at every event to document it. In 2012 as part of the 60th Anniversary Celebration, Mr. Goral’s taped footage was compiled into a DVD that was released to the public. Mr. Goral died in 1998 where the Style Marchers had the honor of playing at his funeral.
BILLY MIKEL has been a part of the Choctaw Family in several capacities. He was a student (Class of 1967); athlete, coach, teacher and administrator. He received a football scholarship to the University of Southern Mississippi where he broke all the records for wide receivers. He also played baseball at USM. In 1984 Mikel was inducted into the “M” Club Hall of Fame at USM. After college he took a position as the personnel director for the City of Ft. Walton Beach. As a coach at Choctaw he started the soccer program and coached football, golf and baseball.
FRED PITTS is known to thousands of Choctaw alumni as a science teacher, driver’s education teacher and coach. He was a member of the faculty from 1966 – 1992. He built the girls softball program to state runner-up title in 1987. In 1998 Pitts was chosen as the Homecoming Grand Marshal. For many, Pitts will always be the “Voice of the Style Marchers,” as he was the public address announcer for the band at halftime shows and festivals. Pitts has continued to be active with the school serving on both the 50th and 60th Anniversary committees.
2012 Members - These individuals were paramount in establishing the foundations of excellence, pride and tradition our school is known for today. They were inducted September 22, 2012.
MR. THOMAS BARTON was the first principal from 1952- 1954. He opened the school in its Shalimar location.
MR. HABRUNER was principal from 1954-1974. He was born in Vernon, FL and received his degree from the Univ. of FL. His is the only person to be the principal of the school at both locations. Mr. Bruner passed away in 1994.
Mr. BEN BROWN was the third principal of the school beginning in 1974. He came to Choctaw from Bruner Middle School. He was an avid tennis player.
He and his wife, Ann, were career educators. Mr. Brown passed away while he was principal in 1979.
MR. RICHARD BOUNDS is our next Hall of Fame inductee. Bounds came to Okaloosa County in 1968 as a teacher and coach. He became an assistant principal at Choctaw in 1974, and became our school's fourth principal in 1979. Bounds was named Florida Principal of the Year in 1999, and has the distinction of being the longest tenured principal at the school. He retired from the school district in 2003. He is married to Alexis and they have one son, Rick, and three grandchildren, Brodie, Alyssa and Bailey. He is currently Co-owner of MorganBounds Enterprises, Inc.
MRS. BETTYE CAMPBELL is a long-time Choctaw fan and supporter. She and her late husband, Pat Campbell, had four children, all who graduated from Choctaw. She has dedicated countless hours to the booster club and other organizations at the school.
MRS. CINDY GATES is the current principal of Choctawhatchee High School, and the first female principal of the school. Originally from Conway, Arkansas, she came to the Ft. Walton Beach area in 1990. Mrs. Gates is married to Mike Gates. Their children Corey Ledbetter, Callie Mayville, Lynnlee Stanford, Sarah Gates and Mary Gates are all Choctaw graduates .
MRS. JENNY HAMILTON was a teacher and student activities director for the school for more than 30 years. Through those years she created many activities and traditions we continue today. She has been married to Ross Hamilton for 46 years and their daughter, Linde Bowman is a 1989 Choctaw graduate and son Chad Hamilton is a 1991 Choctaw graduate. Mrs. Hamilton served on the 60th Anniversary committee.
MR. MIKE JONES served the school in a variety of ways over the last three decades. He provided vital contributions to the school’s business financial program as well as serving as a respected coach, mentor and volunteer, His daugther Julie is a Choctaw graduate. Mr. Jones passed away in 2013.
MR. JIM LEONARD is the school’s first band director. He was instrumental in starting a music department at the school. He, along with Bryan Lindsay, wrote the school’s fight song and Alma Mater. He and his family own and operate Playground Music Center.
DR. BRYAN LINDSAY was a native of Brooklyn, NY and began his teaching career at Choctaw in 1956 as the director of choral music. During his tenure at the school his choral groups consistently received superior ratings. He, along with Mr. Jim Leonard, wrote the best school fight song, ever, “Big Green Indian.”
WILLIAM L.MARLER is known to the Choctaw family as “Pop.” He began attending football games the year the school opened and became the symbol of the Big Green Indians.
MR. EDDIE TAYLOR is a 1957 Choctaw graduate and was active as a student of the school. He has been equally supportive as an alum helped numerous groups with their class reunions. He is active in the community especially in the All Sports Association of Northwest Florida. Mr. Taylor was instrumental in planning the 60th Anniversary celebration.
MR. WYMAN TOWNSEL was head coach and athletic director at Choctaw from 1965 – 1974. Townsel was a star athlete at Etawah High School in Gadsden, AL. He was married to Betty Jean Hardy Townsel for 57 years.
MR. DUTCH VAN BUSKIRK graduated from the Univ. of Alabama where he worked in the Sports Information office. He started his long career with radio station WNUE in 1960 where he did play-by-play for Choctaw football games for thirty years. Mr. Van Buskirk passed away in 1999.
MRS. JO YEAGER was a drama teacher at Choctaw from 1973 – 1987. The performances she helped students perform was some of the best theater in the area. Although she retired from teaching drama she is still active with helping student church groups put on performances and is still active in local theater herself.