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Raines leaves mark on Butler County history

What was the score of Greenville High School's first football game during the 1957 season and who was the opponent?

What was the record of Georgiana High School's football team in 1986?

How many players played on the 1992 McKenzie High School football team?

What year did Fort Dale Academy have its best seasons in football and basketball combined?

The answers to these questions are found in bound volumes of newspapers, yearbooks and on microfilm, but to find the answers it would take hours, days, weeks, months or even years.

In fact, it did take years for Georgiana resident Gene Raines to research those answers, but he found them.

For 18 years, Raines has spent much of his free time hunkered down in libraries, courthouses and archives digging up the past.

Armed with just a yellow note pad and a pen, Raines was able to dig up more than an archeologist searching for lost civilizations.

And soon, we will all get to enjoy the fruits of his labor.

Raines has compiled the entire football history of Greenville High, Georgiana High, McKenzie High, Fort Dale Academy, South Butler Academy, Greenville Academy, Hillcrest-Evergreen High and Sparta Academy and the retired Union Camp worker plans on giving his collective research to each school in a few years for the schools to sell to the public as a fundraiser.

What bigger gift could a person give to his hometown than to give back its history?

Imagine spending 18 years researching something as extensive as a complete sports history of two counties and then just giving it away for free.

Most of us can't.

But then again, none of us are Gene Raines.

What Raines has collected, compiled and will soon publish is one of the most extensive sports histories I have ever seen recorded.

Not only does he include wins and losses, Raines includes scores, stats, records, team members, homecoming queens and about anything else you can think off.

The gift Raines will give to each school is a gift so large that no school could ever repay him.

Or could they?

Each school can repay Raines by making sure everyone in the county has a copy of their sports history.

Each school can repay Raines by making sure everyone in the county knows Gene Raines did the work.

There is no doubt in my mind the work Raines has done is the greatest gift and asset to Butler County athletics in the county's entire history.

No stadium, field or court holds the importance that Raines' research will and it is through understanding our past that we understand our future.

And while I have been blown away by the complexity of his athletic research, it doesn't stop there.

Raines has also compiled lists of all graduates from every school in the county and every soldier killed in World War II, arranged by date.

For the past eight years, Raines has also been working on a project with cemeteries in the county in which he hopes to provide the Historical Society with an interactive program that people can use to identify graves and pull up obituaries.

So far, he has visited 62 cemeteries from Greenville to the south county line and matched close to 15,000 graves with obituaries.

His work is so extensive, out of 950 graves at Georgiana's Oakwood Cemetery, Raines has identified 69 of 109 unmarked graves.

His passion for history and sports is something to be admired, but his passion for the community he calls home is nothing short of amazing.

While I know it may be a little early for Citizen of the Year nominations, here's one vote for Gene Raines.

Austin Phillips is The Greenville Advocate sports editor and can be reached by phone at 334-382-3111 ext. 122, by fax at 334-382-7104 or by e-mail at austin.phillips@greenvilleadvocate.com.