Charlie to all his friends and acquaintances has been a familiar fixture on the Huntsville sports scene for most of his 77 years. Born Oct. 2, 1935 in Madison County, Hillis played most of the traditional sports as a kid growing up. Roy Childress at Tennessee Valley State, now Calhoun Community College, gave me a chance to play basketball, Hill recalled. B. J. Allison, the director of the YMCA, also let me play basketball. Sonny Westbrook, who managed the Huntsville Parkers semi-pro team, gave me an opportunity to play baseball at a very young age. Then at the age of 16, I was fortunate to have the guidance of J. D. Carroll to start my softball career. Hillis is best remembered today for his long association with fast-pitch softball. He began playing the sport after Carroll, one of Huntsvilles leading attorneys and sportsmen, recruited him from the old YMCA basketball gym, located behind what is now Jackson Way Baptist Church on Andrew Jackson I played mostly shortstop and sometimes third base at first, Hillis said. I think I went three years without making an error. Later, I started pitching because they kept you around longer if you could also pitch. Hillis started school at New Market, moved to Lincoln Village when he was 15, attended night school for a year and a half before the Korean War, and finished at Huntsville High School in 1954. After serving as a medic in the U.S. Army in 1957-58 and playing service baseball in Germany, he returned to his softball roots following his discharge. He played fast-pitch in Huntsville and throughout the northern tier of Alabama in the heyday of the sport, a period that stretched more than 20 years from the 1950s until the 1970s. Hillis suited up with the Huntsville Merchants and a variety of other teams while competing alongside such renowned local players as Jim Bishop, Jim and Clyde Hobbs, Ed Baker and Skip Cloys. His favorite memory is playing against the Clearwater (Fla.) Bombers, who has had 13 ASAA national championships at the time, in the 1966 Southeast Regional in Clearwater. They beat us twice, 2-1 and 1-0, with Jim Johnson pitching for us, he said. Theyre the best team I ever played against. They were as close to professionals as you could get. They recruited nationally in those days. Hillis continued to play competitive softball for more than 40 years. My big claim to fame, I guess, he said, was going 10-for-20 against Eddie Feigner back when we played occasionally against the King and His Court. Hillis, the owner of Scoreboard Sales and Service in Huntsville, worked for the city school system from October 1959 until December 1988, servicing electrical and plumbing at Goldsmith-Schiffman for 20 years and Milton Frank Stadium for 18 years. He and his wife, Juanita, have a son, Phillip, who lives in Birmingham; a daughter, Melinda, who lives in New Albany, Indiana; and four grandchildren.