Spirit from Jacksonville State University

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Spirit is based out of Jacksonville, Alabama and is a summer performing ensemble of Jacksonville State University. The corps is a member of Drum Corps International and competes within DCI Division I.


The corps was founded in 1976 by Freddy Martin as Spirit of Atlanta. In 1993 the corps was renamed Spirit of Georgia and was based out of Peachtree City, Georgia. The corps was inactive in 1994 for financial reasons but re-entered the field of competition once again as Spirit of Atlanta in 1995. It stands as one of the few success stories of a corps coming back from inactivity.

In 2001 the corps moved permanently to Jacksonville State University in Jacksonville, Alabama where it had rehearsed for many years. The Spirit of Atlanta Alumni Association recognizes all the members and staff of all the incarnations of Spirit through the years for their contribution to the continuation and history of the organization.



Georgia on my Mind is the corps' song and is still performed even though the organization is now based in Alabama.


Members are awarded "Deltas" for each year they have completed with the corps. The Deltas were originally cut from used cymbals. This tradition began in the late 1970s.


Objectives of the corps are:

  • To provide an opportunity to develop individual potential and to perform at the highest level of the activity.
  • To foster teamwork, friendship, respect for others and property.
  • To serve as ambassadors of Jacksonville State University and the State of Alabama.
  • To entertain our audiences.
  • To have an enjoyable and rewarding experience.


Spirit Equipment Truck Incident

Spirit of Atlanta and Crossmen played for each other after their first show of the 1979 tour in South Dakota, forming a bond immediately. Then they headed further west together. Spirit's buses got far ahead of the convoy. Their equipment truck was blown off the road and the truck/trailer rolled twice and crashed the cab. Luckily, the drivers only suffered a broken rib and some injured fingers. A wrecker was just about to pull the wreckage to the road, which would have destroyed nearly all of the equipment. Just then, the Crossmen buses pulled up and Robby Robinson asked for 10 minutes, during which he instructed his corps to "pick it clean." They did just that, taking the equipment into the aisles of their own buses for safe keeping. Out of more than $80,000 of equipment, damages came to only $1,900.

Later on down the road, Spirit was reuinted with their equipment, and a rental truck was aquired to haul it... which later had to be replaced.

As tour progressed, Crossmen started losing their buses one by one. One bus died in Utah, forcing Crossmen to cram members onto the 3 remaining buses, and Spirit took the overload. The second bus went in California and those members rode with Spirit all the way to Denver. Then, one of the two remaining buses died, the corps missed a show in Pueblo and slowly drove into Denver for Drums Along the Rockies.

Since then, there has been a large amount of good will between the two corps. They often play combined music following their home drum corps shows. At the end of every tour, each corps gives to one of its members an award honoring the other corps.

Tommy Lee Maddox, a 1979 Spirit member said of the incident:

"I was on that ride way back in'79. We were beginning to get our 'contest teeth' that year as opposed to being the naive bunch that we were in 77 and 78. We began to look at other corps as opponents that we had to drop, along with the notion that we were to have fun along the way (which we did).

Then we were heading down from Hot Springs, SD, to Stockton, CA, when the equipment truck got blown off the road. X-Men picked up the pieces and helped us move on down the road. Then, when their buses died, we'd pile them on with us. It was a strange growth process for all of us.

Then, in 1980, a couple of days after Jim Ott died on the road, we had our last show of first tour in Centerville, Ohio. Top spots were us and Crossmen. We, as a group, were pretty worthless and just plain wore out. We did the show that night and even got to play the other corps onto the field for retreat. The drum section played Jimmy Buffet's "Volcano" as the entry music. We were all so slap happy that we just sang along as the other corps paraded onto the field.

So the scores were announced...then he got to second place...paused...and announced that there was a tie between us and Crossmen. We all hollered and cried and rejoiced that our friends had not beat us and that we were going home.

It turned out, so I understand, that Crossmen had won the show by a tenth or so, but Robbie Robinson told them to make it a tie. Us, and our busmates, were a happy clan either way.

Drum corps is a good thing. I am so happy and proud to be part of a good thing."

Here is the article which was printed in "Youth On the March" show in Alton, IL (July 10, 1980).

"Crossmen" Found a "Spirit"....of Friendship

A strong bond of friendship grew last summer between two championship drum & bugle corps who helped each other survive a long trip to California.

The Crossmen from Delaware County, PA and the Spirit of Atlanta from Atlanta, GA literally became one corps off the competition field. They battled hardships, not unlike those faced by early pioneers who settled in the West.

Before heading westward on their own, the two corps had competed in drum corps shows with a half-dozen other corps in eastern and mid-western states.

By the time they returned to their home states, the Crossmen had lost three of four buses and Spirit went through three equipment trucks.

Both corps worked together to over come one setback after another during the three-week tour. Freddy Martin, director of the Atlanta corps, said, "For me, the comradeship that grew between the kids in the two corps was the most meaningful part of the entire summer."

Looking back on the experience, Harold "Robbie" Robinson, director of the Crossmen said, "For the first time in my 27 years in drum corps, I finally felt something in drum corps that I always wanted. I knew we helped them in their hour of need, and they saved the day for us many times in return."

Martin said, "We had to be of help to each other to survive. It was a long trip." the close relationship began late one night in Hot Springs, S.D. the site of the first show on the tour westward.

Crossmen and Spirit were the only members of DCI (the world's top 25 ranked corps) in the show.

"The two corps were out in the middle of nowhere," Robinson said. "We felt then it was going to be a "survival thing" so we might as well have a good relationship."

The corps competed to a crowd of approx. 4,000 people in Hot Springs. After the show, the sponsors left the lights on in the stadium so the corps could perform to each other.

Rarely do corps members get the opportunity to see another corps' show from the concert side of the stands.

"Spirit put on their show and the Crossmen went wild," Robinson remembered "We clapped, joked back and forth and, in general showed our appreciation for their talents.

Then the Crossmen went on the field and did a show for the Spirit kids. After that it was a jam session - the two drum lines got together and played and the two horn lines played. We lingered for about an hour and had a great time.

The next day, both corps headed for California with a planned intermediate stop in Salt Lake City, Utah.

But nothing went as planned.

The two corps traveled together in a massive 14-vehicle convoy of buses, equipment trucks, souvenir vans, trailers and a cooking coach.

Before leaving South Dakota, of the Spirit's bus drivers, "Disco Duck," radioed to Robinson: "Hey Crossmen control, this here is the Disco Duck. We're going to boogie on down the road here."

Robinson answered: "Well you go on. I'm not going to put the pedal to the metal as we might blow our engines. We've got a long way to go on these old babies."

He said the Crossmen buses weren't as new and fast as Sprit's buses, but generally they managed to keep within 20 or 30 miles of each other.

The Spirit buses carrying all of their corps members went ahead of the corps' equipment truck, booster van and the Crossmen caravan.

It was about 10:30 a.m. on June 30. Winds were gusting 40-45 miles an hour across the two lane road, flanked by 15-foot embankments.

Martin said he was riding in the van behind the equipment truck, when suddenly the 13 ½ foot truck literally got blown off of the road. It turned over twice and landed upside down, completely smashing the cab.

"You couldn't even tell it was a truck," Martin said, "Five of us got out of the van. I remembered most vividly telling them to see the two drivers were okay. The top of the cab was completely flattened.

When we got there, the driver was crawling out of the cab. I figured the other driver was dead. He had been sleeping behind the cab.

Fortunately, however, the driver, Paul Clayborn, suffered only a broken rib. The second driver, Jim Clark who was sleeping when the accident occurred, was not seriously injured but almost lost a few fingers.

Martin took the injured drivers to the hospital.

Meanwhile, Robinson had dozed off to sleep for the first time in nearly two days. His wife Charlotte was driving and woke Robinson when they approached the accident.

"I saw a truck up ahead but couldn't make it out right away," he said. "All of a sudden, I saw drum corps equipment over the place."

"We pulled up and I hopped out. I didn't know it but the accident had happened about 15 minutes earlier and a wrecker was there.

The wrecker was about to pull the truck up onto the road. Had he done this, everything would have been destroyed. He would have had to drag the truck over drums and horns. There were three or four Spirit woman trying to pull uniforms out of the wreck."

The Crossmen buses filled with 128 corps members stopped.

"The kids were hanging out the windows with tears running down their faces," Robinson said. "They had started to generate such feelings toward each other the night before in Hot Springs. The kids were thinking, what if that would have been their equipment? What is Spirit going to do??

The driver of the wrecker told Robinson he had to remove the wreck and was going to pull the equipment truck back onto the roadway.

"Give me 10 minutes," Robinson told the driver. He turned to the buses and shouted, "Everybody off the buses and pick this wreck clean!"

The corps members climbed out of the buses. The Crossmen drivers and the entire traveling crew helped gather the equipment.

"They are unbelievable," Robinson said. "The kids ripped open the rest of the truck. It was an instinctive thing. The drummers went for the drums. The color guard went for the flags and uniforms and the horn lone went looking for horns.

The kids took the drums, like they were handling a baby. They took them very gingerly and set them in the aisles of their buses. They put towels, pillows and sleeping bags around them so they wouldn't get scratched. There was gas leaking all over the place I warned everyone not to light a match."

Before long, the Crossmen had picked the wreck clean. When Martin returned, he was handed a box of nuts and bolts the Crossmen members had gathered from the grass. Not one bolt turned up missing!

Out of more than $80,000 in equipment, the total damage came to $1,900, Martin said.

"We had a couple horns ruined, a cracked bass drum and a couple of uniforms damaged, but nothing major," he said. "We went on the rest of the tour and borrowed a bass drum and a pair of cymbals." About 20 miles from the accident, the Spirit buses had pulled to a rest stop where they were met later by Crossmen members.

"Together the corps members took equipment off the Crossmen buses and wiped everything down. We changed a couple of drum head, evaluated the damage, put a lot of the equipment back on our truck and carried it into Salt Lake City where Freddie (Martin) rented a truck," Robinson remarked.

The hazards of the trip, as it turned out had just begun.

The next day, July 1, the corps left for California.

It was in Wendover, Utah, where one of the Crossmen's buses broke down. "The bus is still sitting there in Wendover," said Robinson. "Oddly enough, a Spirit bus got a flat tire not 50 yards in front of us when our bus broke down hopelessly. They put all of their kids on their two other buses and sent them to McDonald's about 50 miles down the road.

The driver of the bus with the flat tire, it just so happened, was the Disco Duck. He changed the tire, took the rest of the Crossmen members and we all rendezvoused at McDonald's. We split up our kids on our three remaining buses and on the California we went."

The Crossmen lost their second bus in California when the clutch went out.

The director of a California corps, the DCI Champion Blue Devils from Concord, sent one of his buses to pick up the stranded Crossmen members.

Robinson said for the long trip home, "Freddie (Martin) brought three of his buses to the school where we were staying and we put about nine or ten of our kids on each one. He hauled 33 of our kids all the way back to Denver."

Down to two buses, the Crossmen's string of bad luck still wasn?t over. Just outside of Needles, Calif. Robinson got a call from the driver of the second bus:

"Hey Robbo!"

Robinson knew something was wrong.

"What's the matter?"....Robinson

"I've got no air pressure."....driver

Luckily, however, Robinson had packed a generator in the Crossmen equipment truck and was able to repair the problem himself. The caravan, minus tow buses continued.

"We blew a hose in Apache Wells, N.M. but got that fixed. That was simple" he said. "But, then all of a sudden, we started getting flat tires. We started with new tires. That's one thing I won?t take a chance with.

About 100 miles north of Apache Wells, we had a double blowout and by this time we had gone through every spar tire. The kids were frustrated, but they knew I was just as frustrated. They tried to cheer me up and Charlotte was always telling me to calm down, that we'd get everything straightened out.

In fact, at one point, an Amtrak train went by and the kids tried to thumb it down to make the Pueblo show that night. The train just blew its horn" said Robinson.

The most horrifying experience was yet to happen. When the bus was jacked-up to change the last tires, the jack slipped and the bus nearly landed on top of Robinson!

"That's the closest I'd ever come to being killed in all my life. I shot out from underneath that bus like a rocket when I heard it starting to go," he said.

Once the tire was replaced, the two buses hobbled for the next 100 miles at about 20 miles an hour.

The corps never made it to the Pueblo show.

"When we got into Denver, everyone just took a deep breath and went to sleep," Robinson said. "I had been up about 80 hours straight.

When I got to the Denver show that night, I must have looked like death warmed over. Don Pesceonoe [Executive Director of DCI] walked up and looked at me and took my hand like a baby. There must have been six inches of grease on my hand and my fingernails had disappeared."

"My God, what are we doing to each other? Are you all right?" Pesceone asked.

Robinson smiled and said, "Yeah, sure! This is great."

The rest of the Crossmen's trip home was relatively quiet.

"Too many people think of DCI as on the competitiveness, which it is, but this experience is what I want out of drum corps. Sure I want a good drum corps and the kids do too, but they've learned to help their fellow man and in turn, were repaid that favor many times over. The kids will never forget that experience," said Robbie.

The Spirit of Atlanta staff members will never forget the trip west either.

"Our corps is a relatively new corps, being only three years old," Martin said. "The trip was a growing experience for the kids. They learned to cope with problems and share with others."

At the Spirit of Atlanta annual banquet last fall, one member was presented an awarded for being the most dependable and helpful corps member.

The award - to given annually - was named "The Crossmen Award."

2004 & 2005 Bonds With Crossmen

During the 2004 season, Spirit grew close to their comrades in Crossmen. At DCI World Championships in Denver, Spirit barely missed finals finishing 13th place. During finals retreat, the Crossmen contra section made a delta on the field.

During the 2005 season, Spirit returned to the big show on Saturday night. However, 2005 was a competitive struggle for the Crossmen. By the end, the Crossmen missed DCI Finals for the first time in 17 years. Bones placed 13th in quarters and 14th in Semis. As a tribute to the class the 2004 and 2005 Crossmen showed to Spirit, the Spirit hornline honored the Crossmen with a Cross on the field during Finals retreat in Foxboro, MA. The Spirit horns used all 4 hours of their rehearsal time on finals day to perfect the giant cross made of contras, baris, mellos, and trumpets. This effort was headed by Spirit's Brass Caption, Jimmy Steele, who is now the Crossmen Brass Caption Head for the 2006 season.

External Links

Spirit Drum and Bugle Corps: Official website

Spirit Wikipedia Entry : Spirit Wikipedia Entry