If you have ever been to a Toombs County sporting event, you have probably seen “the guy on the radio.” If you have ever played for a Toombs County sports team, you have probably been interviewed by “the guy on the radio.” Some people even tell Toombs County folks that “the guy on the radio” is very good, like ESPN good, and often ask what that guy in the unfolding metal chair is doing in Toombs County. That guy is Barney Bonfield, the Voice of the Toombs County Bulldogs. Barney covered the Toombs County Bulldogs for numerous years and also covered Lyons Recreation Department sports unlike any other. “You mean he covered recreation sports on the radio?” He absolutely did, and he did it as if it were a major league event.
Barney and the Beginning
Barney was born December 3, 1959, in Mountain Brook, Alabama. He was a “Bamer” fan through and through and absolutely loved to talk about his favorite coach Nick Saban. For Christmas one year, his co-worker Robin gifted him an autographed football with Nick Saban’s signature. Barney also did NOT like for people to know his birthday, simply because he didn’t want anyone to spend any money on him. The humility of this man goes above and beyond the standards. Barney was born to Robert and Barbara Bonfield. His father passed away in 2001, and that is when Barney received the 1991 Ford Taurus. It was his father’s car, and Barney talked about that car as if it were the newest Mercedes on the market. When that car died (Barney had an obituary reading for it on his Morning Show on WLYU Y101), he got another car. Barney called it the 1992 Ford Taurus, the car was a 2012 and a Nissan at that. Barney graduated from Mountain Brook High School in 1978. After high school, he attended Birmingham Southern College and majored in Accounting. Barney has always loved sports and working out. His sister, Susan, stated that she remembers him interviewing the whole family growing up, even the dog. She also recalls his family having to wait on him to leave the house because he would be exercising. When Barney graduated from Birmingham Southern in 1982, he began what he was put here to do. His first sportscasting job was at WSOV-TV and Radio in Montgomery, Alabama. He was a sports anchor for the 10 PM news. He worked for both the radio and television stations covering all types of sports, but he mainly enjoyed covering Auburn-Montgomery Basketball. He traveled with the team and was not only their radio/tv sports reporter but also their media guy.
Barney had “Georgia on his Mind”
In 1988, Barney moved to Georgia. He worked for a radio station in Griffin, GA – WKEU. Griffin is a town 39 miles south of Atlanta. Barney covered the Griffin Bears and Nascar and ARCA racing from the Atlanta Motor Speedway. He also began hosting his own radio shows. He had a morning show on WKEU.
Barney worked there for ten years, and then he moved to Toombs County, GA, in 1998. He began working for WYUM 101.7 FM (Sweet Onion Country) shortly after it went on air. He was an on-air personality, and here is where he started covering Toombs County Sports. Barney often times would say if not for him, WYUM would not be what it is today. When he first began, he stated absolutely no one was listening. So Barney had to build an audience.
Barney stopped working for WYUM – Sweet Onion County in 2004. From 2004-2007 Barney went on a hiatus. During that downtime, he worked for several different stations in the South Georgia area covering the Chris County Cougars, Appling County Pirates, Brewton Parker Basketball, Portal Panthers, and several Statesboro teams. Barney received word from WLYU Y101 that they were looking for full-time sports and on-air personality, and Barney took the job in 2007.
Barney, the Bulldogs, and WLYU Y101
Barney’s Toombs County Bulldog Sports Report Intro
Barney also had shows on Y101: the Morning Show and the Midday Memory Show. People loved Barney and his shows. He had several different callers that called him daily.
Barney and Elmira
Barney and Bryce
Barney and Meredith
The Ending of a Wonderful Life
Barney was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia in December of 2017. He had a bone marrow transplant and was in remission. He took 2018 off but came back in 2019, and in December of 2019 Barney was forced into retirement. Barney came out of remission March 2020 and on April 19, 2020 Barney and his battle with leukemia finally ended.
Barney will always be remembered for his impact he had on Toombs County. He will be remembered for his knowledge, his humor, his voice, his support, his ability to make every single person he met feel special, and his humility. If you have ever talked with Barney, he was always so much more interested in what you had to say and hardly ever did any talking about himself. Barney was thanked and saluted by several Bulldog teams over the years. He never bragged and never boasted but just said thank you and sometimes even asked if he truly deserved the recognition given. If there is one thing everyone could take from Barney’s amazing life on this Earth is it’s not always about you.
Barney can never be replaced and no one should ever try. Toombs County has lost a legend. Everyone who knew Barney is losing so much more than a voice on the radio…they are losing one of life’s greatest friends.
The Voice of the Bulldogs
The Voice of a Community
The Voice on the Radio
A Once in a Lifetime Friend.
Barney Bonfield, who was born in Birmingham, Alabama on December 3, 1959, passed away on Sunday, April 19, 2020 in Birmingham. Barney attended Mountain Brook High School and graduated from Birmingham Southern College in 1982.While still in high school, Barney worked with the Birmingham Bulls Hockey Team as videographer. During college he spent afternoons, weekends and semester interim working in the sports department at Channel 6. During this time, he served as Public Address Announcer for University of Alabama at Birmingham basketball and Birmingham Southern College basketball and baseball. After college, he served as Assistant Sports Broadcaster in Montgomery for WCOV TV-20. A stint of 10 years in Griffin, Georgia with WKEU was followed by a position as Morning Show Host and Sports Director with WLYU in Lyons, Georgia.
During his career, his many honors included multiple Associated Press Awards for excellence in sports play-by-play; and the Georgia Association of Broadcasters Award for Excellence in Sports Reporting. In 1999, he was named Radio Personality of the Year by the Georgia Association of Broadcasters and received First Place for Sports Reporting by the Society of Professional Journalists. Through his web site, http://www.toombsnow.com , Barney provided lively coverage of sports events throughout the county. He supported and encouraged young athletes and avidly followed their later athletic achievements and was known affectionately throughout the county.
Barney was preceded in death by his father, Robert “Bobby” Bonfield. He is survived by mother, Barbara Goldstein Bonfield, sister, Susan Bonfield (Dave Schimel) Boulder, Colorado, nephew, Forrest McKinney, Tel Aviv, Israel, aunt, Myrna Abis, Memphis, TN, uncle, Jimmy Goldstein, Lincoln, AL as well as numerous cousins.
The family would like to extend deep appreciation to the community who helped Barney through his illness; the outstanding staff at the UAB Bone Marrow Clinic including Dr. Omer Jamy, Oncologist and the outpatient clinic team and to the amazing staff of Amedysis Hospice, especially Matthew Dodson.
In compliance with Covid 19 rules, a private burial will take place at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, April 22 at Block 40, Elmwood Cemetery with Cantor Jessica Roskin officiating. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Barney Bonfield Scholarship Fund at the Vidalia Federal Savings Bank, 300 Jackson Street, Vidalia, GA 30474. Service will be live-streamed on the Johns-Ridout’s Funeral Homes Facebook page.
Watch Barney’s Service Here 11 AM EST/ 10 AM CST
Barney’s Obituary Reading on WLYU Y101