By Jordan Hill
Writer, TODAY MAGAZINE
There are five seconds left on the clock. Bacon County is playing Commerce with hopes of winning the state championship. With one shot by Commerce, Bacon is defeated by one point at the buzzer.
Bobby Marion, Bacon County High School jock, recalls the game vividly and regretfully.
Marion graduated in 1972 from BCHS with high hopes of playing college basketball and in the NBA.
The 6-foot-3.5-inch player was coached under R.T. Johnson.
“He was by far the best coach I’ve ever known,” Marion said. “He was more like a father-figure. He could’ve coached on any level. He knew the game inside and out.”
He gingerly turned the pages of his tattered yearbook while explaining the championship game of his senior year.
Marion’s love for basketball was clear. The yellow, worn pages of his yearbook were stained with the writing of his classmates on his basketball photos. He was quick to point out where he was in the pictures and who everyone else was, along with their accomplishments on the team.
It was no surprise that Marion went on to play basketball his freshman and sophomore year at Lake City Community College. He aimed to play for Jacksonville University after graduating from LCCC.
“Everybody said if I had went to Jacksonville University, I would have been a step away from the NBA,” Marion said.
But after a night of partying, his dreams were crashed.
Marion was at a friend’s party, unknowingly drinking moonshine.
“I didn’t know they spiked the punch,” he said. “I thought it tasted good so I kept drinking.”
A friend asked Marion, “How would you like to make $15,000-$20,000?”
Intoxicated Marion jumped at the chance.
“The following morning we went to Patterson and robbed the bank of $77,000.
“They gave me a pistol that didn’t even have bullets in it,” Marion said of the event.
It wasn’t until two months later that Marion was arrested and convicted of the crime.
A friend that Marion robbed the bank with was caught by police because he used the same pistol from a previous crime in the Patterson robbery.
“I was the last one they got,” Marion said.
He was ordered to serve twenty years in a federal prison. The sentence could have been lessened by five years but Marion refused to give a written statement. He maintained aloofness about the crime.
He went into prison in 1975 and was early released in 1983, not serving his full sentence.
“When I got out I was mad at the world rather than being mad at myself,” he said.
The decision he made on a drunken night cost him years of his life. The future he had with basketball was no longer an option.
“If I had done this (robbery) with a rational frame of mind, I would have never done it,” he said. “Ain’t no money in the world worth the changes that I had to go through compared to the future I had.”
Marion hopes his past can encourage younger kids in his community not to go down the same path that he traveled.
“When I see younger kids in the position that I was in, it gives me an incentive to want to guide them and try to assist them in whatever way I can,” he said. “It only takes a second to get into something you can’t get out of in a lifetime. It takes only a split second to lose your life.”
Upon his release in ’83, Marion began his own landscaping business. He now landscapes for many businesses and citizens of Alma.
Published in TODAY MAGAZINE