1 millionth Destin Rodeo angler gives back

Tina Harbuck
Weighmaster Bruce Cheves shakes hands with James Greer, the 1 millionth angler at the Destin Fishing Rodeo in 1996. [J.D. SEKORA/CONTRIBUTED PHOTO]

It’s been more than two decades since Jim Greer stood atop a picnic table at Destin Fishing Fleet Marina and was declared the 1 millionth angler to fish in the Destin Fishing Rodeo.

On that October day in 1996, Greer was surprised when his king mackerel not only got on the leaderboard at the Rodeo but he received a bundle of goodies for excursions, condo stays and dinners all adding up to $10,000 in prizes. In addition he was the recipient of a beautiful bronze sculpture entitled “Destin Seasons” and a Rodeo jacket that declared him as the “One Millionth Angler.”

Greer, now 75, was back in town this past weekend with the sole intention of giving the trophy back to the community.

“All my kids are adopted and they don’t care anything about fishing,” Greer said.

He was afraid that once he passed away that nobody would take care of his fishing memorabilia.

“I was thinking it was best to turn it back to the museum,” Greer said.

Greer brought it down to the Rodeo on Sunday to hand it over to Helen Donaldson, executive director of the event.

“I’m so very excited,” Donaldson said. “This Destin Seasons trophy is beautiful .... personally I’ve coveted this trophy for years.”

The trophy will be given to the Destin History and Fishing Museum and placed in the Rodeo room.

“This is awesome,” said Kathy Marler Blue, executive director of the museum. “Since 1948 the Rodeo has created memories for many families. It is wonderful to be able to collect things to share this wonderful and unique Destin heritage.”

Although Greer is giving up the trophy, he still has his memories of that eventful day 23 years ago.

Greer said he and his wife, who passed away three years ago, were here in Destin celebrating her 60th birthday when they picked up a couple of tickets to go on a fishing trip aboard the Kingfisher.

He said they were on an eight-hour fishing trip when a storm came up and they headed in early. When they got back to the dock, the captain suggested they weigh in his king mackerel at the Rodeo for a possible T-shirt or a coozie.

When they got to the scales, weighmaster Bruce Cheves picked up the mackerel and as he always does, asked who caught the fish.

“I said, ’I did,’ ” Greer said.

At that point, Cheves asked Greer if he’d ever won anything.

“I said, ’I’ve never entered to win nothing’ ... I didn’t even know I was in the Rodeo,” Greer said.

Cheves then asked him to step on top a nearby picnic table.

“I don’t get on picnic tables, people eat off those things,” Greer said. “Bruce said they aint going to eat off this one ... this one is yours.”

Greer said Cheves pulled out a bunch of papers from his back pocket and said “Guess what you just won? Ten thousand dollars worth of prizes and you’re the millionth angler at the Rodeo.”

“My Lord ... I liked to fell off that table,” Greer said.

In addition to the prizes they got to ride in a stretch-limo, which neither one had done before.

Since that eventful day on Oct. 18, 1996, Greer has been back to fish in Destin, but not too much in recent years due to health reasons.

“I would love to go, but I don’t have the stability in my legs to stand up ... and I don’ know if I could walk around on a boat,” he said.

As for his prized red-and-blue jacket, it’s in pristine condition.

“It’s still just like it was the day they give it to me,” he said.

Greer said he doesn’t wear it often.

“I don’t want to lose it ... I don’t wont to mess it up. That I will keep,” Greer said.

As a matter of fact, Greer said he has a shirt that he wore when he first met his wife and she wanted him to be buried it that shirt.

“I told my daughter that when I pass away, I want that shirt and the Destin jacket on,” he said.

Greer lives in Eufalla, Alabama, and plans to make it back to Destin next year to see his trophy at the museum.