To this day, Jim Grammer is haunted by what happened on a miserable day in December 1969.
After starring together for Morgan County High School, Jim and his older brother Richard had taken their talents to Tuscaloosa, eventually earning starting positions for Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant’s Alabama powerhouse. In 1969, the once dominant Crimson Tide suffered through a disappointing 6-5 season, its worst in a decade, including by a 47-33 loss to Colorado in the Liberty Bowl. It was a difficult stretch for the Alabama program, but despite all the swirling frustration, the Grammer boys, often playing side by side on the offensive line, were making Hartselle proud.
“Richard was so capable, such a great athlete and such a great person,“ Jim says of his brother. “It’s such a sad, sad story.“
Just a few days after they returned from the Liberty Bowl, Jim and Richard and two life-long buddies headed out, before dawn, in a small boat. It was the opening day of duck- hunting season.
Then a wave rocked the boat, which was overloaded, and it took on water and eventually capsized. The four young men were forced to swim to their safety. Three of them made it. Richard Grammer did not.
“It was a sad ending to his life,“ Jim says.
It was tragic on so many levels, and it affected more than just the Grammer family. Richard, just days removed from his final college football game, also was just days away from getting married.
“I was the one who talked him into [going duck hunting],“ Jim says. “One last trip together before he got married. He agreed to do it and it turned out to be tragic. We were young and foolish and goofing off. It’s just a sad, sad story.“
HOMETOWN HEROES is a three-part story, updating monthly, about the life and career of former Alabama players Richard and Jim Grammer.
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