Sometimes, writing the first sentence in this space requires a lot of thought. Then, you look at the smile of someone, and it's a lot easier.

Sometimes, writing the first sentence in this space requires a lot of thought. Then, you look at the smile of someone, and it’s a lot easier.

Joe Barry Carroll saw the smile of his mother in a recent obituary and said what it means to him.

“That look on her face is a look of pride and achievement in her children,” Carroll said Thursday. “She had 13 children. She’s our leader.”

And, so, he shared a few things about Annie Briggs-Carroll.

She grew up in Star City, married Jerome Carroll in 1941 and later moved to Pine Bluff, where J.B. was born. When Joe was young, Mrs. Carroll worked as a housekeeper, among other things.

“When I was in Pine Bluff, my mom had three decent jobs to make one,” J.B. said. “She did what she had to do, short-order cook down the street from us … wherever she could put it together. It was a challenging time and that’s why we admire her so much.”

In 1971, Mrs. Carroll and her family moved to Denver “looking for a better life,” J.B. said. There, Mrs. Carroll trained to become a nurse’s aide, an occupation she held until her retirement in 1993.

J.B. was 13 when the family moved and didn’t play organized basketball until his high school days. But he was good enough to earn a scholarship to Purdue University and lead the Boilermakers to the NCAA Final Four in 1980, his senior year.

As if his 7-foot height wasn’t enough to make him stand out, he also was good enough to be selected first overall by Golden State in that year’s NBA draft. Good enough to score 52 points against Utah three years later. And 12,455 points in an 11-year career, which he also spent with Houston, New Jersey, Denver and Phoenix.

“Wherever me and my family go … when someone asks me where I’m from, I always tell them I’m from Pine Bluff, Arkansas,” said J.B., now 53 and a wealth management advisor in Atlanta. “We’re proud of the foundation that Pine Bluff gave us. It’s home. I was born here.”

It’s also where his mom came back to retire.

Mrs. Carroll died Jan. 14 of natural causes at age 86. Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at Mount Harmony Baptist Church in Pine Bluff.

J.B. said it’s been difficult dealing with the loss, but he’s glad his mother was able to come back home. He’s also glad just to share the good memories of his mom.

He only wanted his mother’s photo (and not his own) to show in this space.

“I’m proud of my mother, proud of my family, proud of Pine Bluff,” J.B. said.

And it’s the pride that shows in Mrs. Carroll’s smile.

I.C. Murrell is the sports editor of The Commercial. He can be reached via email at