Being a great basketball player requires many tools. Oddly enough, for Susan Yow, they included shovels and a barrel. Those and her all-around skills led her to become an All-America player in 1975 at Elon as a junior and in 1976 at North Carolina State as a senior.
Growing up in the Guilford County town of Gibsonville as part of a sports-crazy family – she’s the fourth Yow to enter the Hall of Fame – Susan loved basketball at an early age. “I think God gave me an aptitude for basketball,” says Yow, currently the head women’s coach at Queens University in Charlotte.
As a fifth-grader, she remembers shooting baskets underhanded. An aunt rebounded for her. So she shot. And she shot. And she shot. It didn’t matter the time of day or time of year. That’s where the shovel and barrel became necessary.
In the winter, Yow and the neighborhood boys would shovel snow to clear the blacktop at the school and church, where they played pickup games. They’d build fires in barrels so each group waiting for the next game could stay warm. “The testing ground for me was the blacktop,” she says. “I played with the boys there. I could tell they thought I was pretty good.”
Yow went from “pretty good” against the boys to easily the best player against the girls. She credits her seventh-grade coach, Eddie Flinchum, with teaching her much about the game. And of course, she learned more from sisters Kay and Debbie, both of whom “had a huge impact on my life.” Kay, Debbie and their cousin Virgil Yow, longtime men’s basketball coach at High Point University, are previous inductees. “The unity of our family was sports,” says Susan, whose older brother, Ronnie, received a football scholarship to Clemson.
After a standout career at Gibsonville High School, Yow played under sister Kay all four years in college. In her senior year at N.C. State, the 5-foot-9 Yow averaged 19.4 points and 11.9 rebounds per game, while shooting 58 percent from the field and 83 percent from the free-throw line. She still holds the school record with 27 rebounds in a single game. At Elon, she ranks fifth all-time in rebounds per game with an 8.5 average.
But what she’s most proud of are her team’s accomplishments. “I tried to be a team player,” she says. Yow’s college teams combined for a record of 71-15, including a gaudy 52-8 in three seasons at Elon. She was on three AIAW state championship teams, two at Elon and one at N.C. State. After graduating from Elon, she became head coach at East Tennessee State and was later head coach at Drake, Kansas State and other schools. She also worked as an assistant coach with three WNBA teams.
In 1988, she served as assistant coach to Kay on the U.S. Women’s Olympic team, which won the gold medal in Seoul. “Basketball,” she says, “gave me a platform, the influence to be a role model.”
A native of Gastonia, Eric “Sleepy” Floyd played all sports as a kid, and it was while playing youth baseball that the son of Robert and Myrtle Floyd received his legendary nickname: A fan supposedly yelled, “Get that kid out of the game. He’s sleeping!”
He wasn’t, of course, but it was his cool, calm demeanor on the basketball court that made his moniker apropos during an outstanding career. He first rose to stardom at Hunter Huss High. As a 6-foot-3 senior guard, he led the Huskies in 1978 to the state 4A title, beating in the championship game, coincidentally enough, a Gastonia Ashbrook team led by James Worthy.
Floyd chose to play collegiately at Georgetown University for John Thompson. He led the Hoyas in scoring all four seasons – averaging between 16 and 19 points each year – and was named All-Big East his final three years. An All-America as both a junior and senior, Floyd still holds the Georgetown career scoring record (2,304 points) and is a member of its athletics hall of fame.
The New Jersey Nets selected him with the 13th pick of the first round in the 1982 NBA draft. During the middle of a middling rookie season, he was traded by the Nets with Mickey Johnson to the Golden State Warriors for Micheal Ray Richardson. Floyd quickly took to the Bay Area and his new environment, averaging 16.5 points per game in his first full year with the franchise.
During the 1984-85 season, Floyd averaged a career-high 19.5 points per game, and two years later, he showed his all-around game by scoring 18.8 points a game and dishing out 10.3 assists while earning a spot on the All-Star team.
In May of 1987, Floyd had a second half for the ages in Game 4 of the Western Conference playoff semifinals against the Lakers. He warmed up with a 10-point third quarter, then got into the proverbial “zone” in the final period, scoring a NBA playoff-record 29 points, including making 12 consecutive shots from the floor. His 51-point night allowed the Warriors to prevent a sweep by the mighty Lakers.
His value as a player was at its height, and this was an era when trades involving big-name NBA players was at its highest frequency. So it wasn’t a huge surprise when, in December of 1987, Floyd was traded with Joe Barry Carroll by Golden State to the Houston Rockets for Ralph Sampson and Steve Harris. Floyd played the rest of that season and five others with the Rockets before signing with the San Antonio Spurs as a free agent in 1993. He spent one year with the Spurs, then returned to the Nets for one final season (1994-95) before retiring. For his 13-year career, he totaled 12,260 points and 5,175 assists.
Floyd lives in Charlotte, where he is owner and president of JobsyWobsy, a, online management website for youth. He and Gracie Ponjuan are the proud parents of two grown children, Evan and Cori.
The state of North Carolina has one major professional sports championship. The person most responsible for that title is Rod Brind’Amour. The captain of the 2005-06 Stanley Cup champion Carolina Hurricanes, Brind’Amour was one of the great leaders in hockey history, and arguably the most important player to ever wear a Hurricanes sweater.
Acquired by the Hurricanes from the Philadelphia Flyers on Jan. 23, 2000, Brind’Amour served as an alternate captain in 2002, when the Hurricanes first broke through, winning the Southeast Division and Eastern Conference championships to bring the Stanley Cup Final to North Carolina for the first time.
But it was in 2005-06 when he became a North Carolina sports legend. Named the Hurricanes’ captain prior to the season, Brind’Amour netted 31 goals and earned 39 assists (70 points) that season to lead the team to a franchise-record 52 regular-season wins. He then led the NHL with 12 goals during the 2006 Stanley Cup playoffs, which culminated with a Game 7 victory against the Edmonton Oilers.
Born near Ottawa and raised in British Columbia, Brind’Amour was originally drafted by the St. Louis Blues in the first round – the ninth overall selection – in the 1988 NHL entry draft. He debuted with the Blues during the 1989 Stanley Cup playoffs after completing one season at Michigan State, and scored a goal on his first NHL shot against the Minnesota North Stars. He was named to the NHL’s All-Rookie team in 1990, after scoring 61 points in 79 games for St. Louis, and played in the NHL All-Star Game while a member of the Flyers in 1992.
Brind’Amour represented Canada in the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, and was awarded the Frank J. Selke Trophy as the NHL’s top defensive forward for both the 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons as a member of the Hurricanes.
He officially retired as a player on June 30, 2010, completing his career ranked 16th in NHL history in games played (1,484), 44th in assists (732), 46th in points (1,184) and 54th in goals (452) during the course of 21 seasons with St. Louis, Philadelphia and Carolina. He played in 159 career Stanley Cup playoff games, totaling 51 goals and 60 assists (111 points) and participating in the Stanley Cup final three times – 1997 with Philadelphia and 2002 and 2006 with Carolina.
He ranks second in career points for the Hurricanes since the team’s relocation to North Carolina, notching 473 points in 694 games played. His No. 17 jersey hangs in the rafters of PNC Arena, where he now serves as an assistant coach for the Hurricanes.
Brind’Amour also is a member of the Philadelphia Flyers Hall of Fame, as well as the British Columbia Hockey Hall of Fame. In 2002, he was honored with the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal, awarded to Canadians who have made significant contributions to their fellow citizens, their community, or Canada, for his work with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
He and his wife, the former Amy Biedenbach, reside in Raleigh with their son, Brooks. Brind’Amour also has a daughter, Briley, and two sons, Skyler and Reece.
Ray Price lived 78 years with the throttle wide open, earning worldwide fame as a motorcycle drag racer and “The Father of the Funnybike.” With a career spanning five decades, Price blistered the drag racing asphalt on the fastest naturally aspirated motorcycle on the planet. His need for speed was balanced by a kind spirit as a man also known for his generosity and active involvement in the community.
For more than 30 years, the Harley-Davidson and Triumph dealerships in his name have made Raleigh a center for motorcycle culture. Thousands of area bikers participate in charity rides originating from the dealership. For the past 11 years, the annual Ray Price Capital City Bikefest has attracted 100,000 visitors into downtown to become among the nation’s largest, family-friendly motorcycle festivals.
Price grew up on a Johnston County tobacco farm and bought his first motorcycle in 1963. After college, he enlisted in the Air Force and spent four years as a radar specialist. Soon after, he met his beloved wife, Jean. His motorcycle drag racing career began in 1967 at the age of 30.
It all started with a Harley-Davidson Sportster that Price tinkered with in his basement. He turned heads by dusting the competition at his first professional race in Atco, N.J., where Ray’s high-performance Harley drew criticism from his challengers. They balked in disbelief that it had less cubic inches but more power-per-cubic inch. Race officials tore down his engine and checked it three times but found nothing to disqualify him. His victory earned Price the respect of his peers and a racing legend was born.
Over Price’s lifetime, his innovations included designing the first wheelie bar for motorcycles, which enabled more power to the rear wheel while preventing flipping. He also was instrumental in creating the current style of two-speed racing transmission. Amazingly enough, Price began his career riding 70-horsepower bikes in the 1960s and became an industry guru who helped develop today’s 1,200-horsepower drag racers.
His drag racing accomplishments include winning 46 national events and setting 51 records, becoming a national champion in 1979-80. During an initial retirement stint from the mid-1980s to 1995, he mentored riders and continued to innovate drag racing technologies. He then returned to the hot seat to dust the competition for eight more seasons. Before retiring in 2003 at age 66, he set the International Hot Rod Association nitro-fuel record of 6.36 seconds at 224.21 miles per hour.
Until his passing in December 2015, Price was actively involved in his Harley-Davidson and Triumph dealerships and hosting the Ray Price Capital City Bikefest each fall. He also coached the Ray Price Motorsports Racing Team to back-to-back championships in the 2014 and 2015 National Hot Rod Association Top-Fuel Harley Drag Racing Series.
Price is an inducted member of the American Motorcycle Association Hall of Fame, the Sturgis Motorcycle Hall of Fame, the North Carolina Drag Racing Hall of Fame, the East Coast Drag Times Hall of Fame, and the National Motorcycle Museum & Hall of Fame.
A proud son of North Carolina, Haywood Franklin Jeffires II was born Dec. 12, 1964, to Haywood and Ora Marie White of Greensboro. Coming from the most modest of beginnings, with 16 siblings and two hard-working parents, Jeffires utilized principles that were staples of his upbringing to overcome overwhelming odds on his way to a stellar pro football career. By prioritizing faith, family and friendship, along with a tremendous work ethic, he took his talents all over the world playing the game that he loved.
Jeffires’ athletic career got off to an impressive start at Greensboro’s Page High School, where he earned all-conference honors and was a three-year letterman in track, football and basketball.
Although an exceptional all-around athlete, Jeffires’ first love was basketball. During the three years he suited up for the Pirates on the hardwood, Haywood played a vital role on a Pirates team that reached the state 4A finals two of those years, capturing the state championship in 1983. On that 1983 team, which was ranked No. 2 in the country in one national poll, he won Most Valuable Player honors in the regional and state playoffs and capped it with a MVP award in the finals as well.
On the gridiron, Jeffires was a feature contributor to a 1982 team that made it to the state playoffs. And he was no less successful in track, winning Most Valuable Player honors in that sport in 1983.
With size, speed and athleticism, Haywood was coveted by colleges and universities all over the country, but he chose to stay in state and play for his beloved North Carolina State Wolfpack. While at N.C. State, he improved every season, culminating with a senior campaign that led to all-conference honors as a wide receiver.
While sports had always been his passion, following an accomplished Wolfpack career it also became his profession when the Houston Oilers picked him in the first round of the 1987 NFL draft. On a team that featured three future Hall of Famers, Jeffires’ selection as the 20th overall pick and first wide receiver taken would eventually cement the Oilers as one of the premier teams of the early 1990s.
With Jeffires now in place, the Oilers had one of the best receiving corps of the era and collectively made famous the “Run-N-Shoot” offense. He made history in 1991 when he became only the third player ever to catch 100 passes in a season. That season was a part of a prolific run that saw Jeffires become a two-time All-Pro (1991-92), a three-time John Mackey Award winner and a three-time Pro Bowl selection (both 1991-93).
Throughout his career, Jeffires’ play on the field and signature smile off of it led him to enormous recognition locally and nationally.
He currently resides in suburban Houston with his wife, Robin, and their two children, Andrea and Haywood III. Jeffires remains beloved and active in the Houston community, devoting countless hours assisting special needs children, and is frequently tapped for personal appearances and interviews.
Freddy Johnson, a Greensboro native, has spent his entire basketball coaching career at Greensboro Day School. Graduating from Grimsley High School in 1972 and Greensboro College in 1977, he furthered his education with a Master’s degree from North Carolina A&T State University in 1984. Johnson played basketball on the collegiate level for two years at Greensboro College, where he realized he wanted to coach basketball, gaining valuable experience for his life’s work coaching YMCA basketball teams.
Just out of Greensboro College, Johnson began volunteering with the Greensboro Day School basketball squad, and he was soon appointed head boys’ varsity basketball coach at the relatively young independent school. One year later, he also became the athletics director. During his 39 years at GDS, the athletic program has grown to include more than 40 teams and 85 percent middle and upper school student participation. There have also been 154 conference and 40 state championship teams during his tenure as athletics director.
As of this past season’s end, Johnson has compiled an overall record of 958-279 – he’s won more than 77 percent of his games) – and is the winningest coach in North Carolina high school basketball history. He has led the Bengals to a record 14 tournament championships at the HAECO Invitational, a premier tournament showcasing local high school teams in Guilford County. He has coached teams to eight state championships in the North Carolina Independent School Athletic Association (NCISAA) and was a finalist eight other times.
Additionally, his teams have won 24 championships in the Piedmont Athletic Conference of Independent Schools (PACIS), and Johnson has been the PACIS Conference Coach of the Year 21 times. In 2015, he led the Bengals to the Dick’s Sporting Goods High School National Invitational Tournament in New York City and was named the USA Today North Carolina Coach of the Year.
Johnson’s success at GDS has led to his selection as a coach in six all-star games, including the 2013 McDonald’s All-America Game in Chicago and the 1997 Capital Classic All-Star Game in Washington, D.C.
He has been enshrined into the N.C. Gaters Hall of Fame (2006), Greensboro College Athletic Hall of Fame (2009) and Guilford County Sports Hall of Fame (2011), as well as being awarded the Charles N. Carter NCISAA Athletic Director Cup (2015) and the Greensboro College Alumni Excellence Award (2008).
A former player recently wrote, “The impact that you (Freddy Johnson) have had on my life and many other young men looms large. I wanted to let you know that your influence affected the direction of my life – in a very positive fashion. I think what I value most about our time together was that I was able to apply the principles that I learned from you in life itself, outside of athletics. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the hard work and teamwork you instilled in me would be something I would be able to use later in many life situations.”
Johnson and his wife, Mary Marr Dillard, have two children, Robert and Katherine, and one grandson.
Antawn Jamison played forward at the University of North Carolina from 1995-98, winning National Player of the Year honors in 1998 from the Associated Press, the United States Basketball Writers Association, the National Association of Basketball Coaches, The Sporting News and the Naismith and Wooden Awards.
Jamison was born in Shreveport, La., but moved to Charlotte and attended Providence High School. He was a first-team all-state selection, The Charlotte Observer named him Mr. Basketball, the Greensboro News and Record named him the North Carolina Player of the Year, and he was a McDonald’s All-America.
At Carolina, Jamison became the first player in Atlantic Coast Conference history to earn first-team All-ACC honors as a freshman, sophomore and junior. He shot 62.4 percent from the floor as a freshman, becoming the first rookie to lead the ACC in field goal accuracy.
As a junior, he became the second Tar Heel (with Lennie Rosenbluth) and third player to win ACC Player of the Year, ACC Tournament MVP, NCAA Regional MVP and National Player of the Year honors in the same season. He also was the ACC’s Male Athlete of the Year for all sports. He was later named to the ACC’s 50th Anniversary Team.
Jamison scored 822 points in 1998, the second-highest single-season figure in Carolina history, and pulled down a school-record 389 rebounds. He averaged 22.2 points and 10.5 rebounds, averaging the first double-double by a Tar Heel since Mitch Kupchak 22 years earlier.
The 6-foot-9 forward led Carolina to ACC Tournament titles and Final Four berths in both 1997 and 1998. He starred on Dean Smith’s final team as head coach and Bill Guthridge’s first.
Jamison scored 1,974 points (19.0 per game) and grabbed 1,027 rebounds (9.9) in 104 games as a Tar Heel. He is currently eighth in career scoring and fifth in rebounds in school history. He had 51 double-doubles, second only to Naismith Hall of Famer Billy Cunningham.
Jamison played some of his best games against Duke, averaging 30.3 points and 12.0 rebounds in three home wins over the Blue Devils, and posting 22 points and 18 rebounds versus Duke in the 1998 ACC Tournament championship game.
He was the fourth pick overall in the first round of the 1998 NBA draft and played with six NBA teams (Golden State, Dallas, Washington, Cleveland, Los Angeles Lakers and the Los Angeles Clippers). Jamison scored 20,042 points, the third-most by a Tar Heel in NBA history, trailing only Michael Jordan and Vince Carter. His 8,157 rebounds are the most ever by a Tar Heel in the NBA. He made 1,163 three-pointers.
He averaged more than 20 points five times in the NBA (with a high of 24.9 points with the Warriors in 2000-01), was a two-time NBA All-Star (2005 and 2008) and won the Sixth Man Award in 2004. He once scored 51 points in consecutive NBA games. Jamison played all 82 games five times and three times was in the top four in the league in minutes played.
James Robert “Rabbit” Fulghum has a long list of accomplishments, accolades, and Hall of Fame inductions that have made him a legend in the sport of baseball in the state of North Carolina.
A native of Rock Ridge – also the hometown of former Gov. Jim Hunt – he was the second of eight children born to Rayford and Bettie Mae Fulghum. He played baseball and basketball in high school and was coached by his lifetime role model, Onnie Cockrell.
Following high school, “Rabbit” – so nicknamed by his high school coaches because of his quickness – attended Atlantic Christian College (now Barton College), where he was the starting catcher on the Bulldogs’ baseball team. His first teaching job after college was at North Edgecombe High School in 1961, where he coached junior varsity and varsity girls’ basketball, plus boys’ varsity basketball in addition to baseball.
Fulghum successfully led the boys’ basketball team to the district tournament championship game, where it was beaten on a last-second shot. The following season – it was 1962-63 – North Edgecombe got its revenge, winning the state championship to cap a remarkable 30-1 record.
In August 1964, Fulghum moved to the Greene County community of Snow Hill, where he continued his thriving coaching career at Greene Central High School. There he coached many of the Rams’ teams: girls’ basketball and softball and boys’ basketball and baseball. He also served as athletics director for 38 years.
It was in Snow Hill where “Rabbit” Fulghum truly made a name for himself. The Rams won five state baseball championships under his watchful eye, and in 1973 he helped start an American Legion baseball team in Greene County.
A legend in eastern North Carolina, Fulghum is a member of numerous halls of fame: George Whitfield Baseball Clinic Hall of Fame; American Legion Baseball Hall of Fame; Barton College Hall of Fame; United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA); and North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA). Further, in 2007 he was inducted into the North Carolina Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame; and in 2013, he was selected as one of the “One Hundred Coaches Who Have Made a Difference” in commemoration of the NCHSAA’s 100th year anniversary.
Fulghum is married to his supportive wife, Janette, and they are the loving parents of three children. Son James “Jabo” learned to love the game of baseball as a result of the influence of his father’s successful career and today serves as the head baseball coach and athletics director at Eastern Wayne High School in Wayne County. Daughter Jackie Fulghum Music is director of home-based services at Vidant Home Health & Hospice in Greenville. Their third child, Joy, died from a brain tumor at the age of six, but Fulghum attributes much of his inspiration to his daughter, whom “taught me how to live each day to the fullest.”
Additionally, the Fulghums have two grandsons, Macon and Colton, both of whom chose to play high school baseball, and two granddaughters, Brynn and Kaelyn, each of whom share their grandfather’s love of “ball” as well.
David Fox, an eighth-generation North Carolinian and Raleigh native, is one of the most decorated swimmers of all time from the state. Whether competing for the Raleigh YMCA, Sanderson High School, North Carolina State University or representing the United States of America in international competition, Fox set records and won titles.
Success did not come easily at first for Fox. As a young swimmer, he often had to watch his peers swim the relays at Northbrook Country Club on teams that he was not fast enough to be on. A little more than a decade later, he led off the United States’ 4×100 Freestyle Relay that broke a world record and won Olympic gold.
As a high school swimmer, Fox captured one team, three relay and three individual high school state championships, setting state records in all of his individual titles. In 1988, he was named boys’ swimming North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) Athlete of the Year. That same year, Fox led the Raleigh YMCA men’s team to a national championship. In his last two years prior to college, he was a seven-time YMCA national champion, winning five individual and two relay titles while setting six state and YMCA national records.
A nationally heralded recruit, Fox chose to keep his talents in Raleigh and joined the N.C. State men’s varsity swimming team. In his four years as a Wolfpack, Fox rewrote the record books at both N.C. State and the Atlantic Coast Conference. When all was said and done, he had led his team to an ACC team championship, was a seven-time ACC individual champion and eight-time ACC relay champion, and was twice selected as the ACC men’s swimming MVP. Fox also was a team captain and Academic All-america his senior year. He capped off his collegiate career by winning a NCAA title in the 50-yard freestyle, erasing Olympic champion Matt Biondi’s college record in a blistering 19.14 seconds.
As collegiate swimming ended, Fox turned his eyes toward national and international competition. He wasted no time asserting himself on the international stage with a four gold-medal winnte performance at the 1993 World University Games. During the subsequent four years, Fox amassed six individual U.S. national swimming championships and many international victories. In 1995, he ended the year ranked No. 1 in the world in the 50-meter freestyle with a time of 22.23 seconds – the third fastest ever 50-meter freestyle by an American swimmer.
Following the 1996 Olympics, Fox hung up his goggles and added a Master’s from the University of North Carolina to his resume. During his three years in Chapel Hill, he served as an assistant coach on the Tar Heels’ staff, helping lead the men’s team to an ACC title.
After graduation, Fox joined Goldman Sachs, where he is currently a managing director enjoying a successful 17-year career. He resides in Atlanta with his wife, Richelle, herself an acclaimed swimmer, and their four children: Hannah, Jerry, Abigail and Dylan.
Rick Hendrick is a self-described “gearhead” who turned his passion for the automobile into successful business ventures in the retail automotive and professional auto racing industries.
Raised on a farm near the small community of Palmer Springs, Va., Hendrick worked on and raced cars under the watchful eye of his father, “Papa Joe.” After high school, he pursued a co-op work-study program in Raleigh with N.C. State University and Westinghouse Electric Company.
While in Raleigh, Hendrick opened a small used-car lot with established dealer Mike Leith. Its success convinced Leith to name Hendrick, at 23, the general sales manager of his new-car import operation.
In 1976, Hendrick sold off his assets to purchase a struggling franchise in Bennettsville, S.C., thus becoming, at 26, the youngest Chevrolet dealer in the United States. His influence sparked a dramatic sales increase, as the once troubled location soon became the region’s most profitable.
That success was a precursor to Hendrick Automotive Group, which today operates collision centers, accessories distributor installers and more than 120 retail franchises across 13 states. It is the largest privately held dealership group in the country. Headquartered in Charlotte, it generated a company record $7.55 billion in revenue in 2014. Hendrick chairs the company, which employs more than 10,000.
In 1984, Hendrick founded Hendrick Motorsports. Today, the original race shop overlooks a state-of-the-art facility with 430,000 square feet of workspace on 140 acres in Concord. It houses more than 600 employees to support four full-time Chevrolet teams in the elite NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
Now one of the sport’s premier operations, Hendrick Motorsports has garnered a NASCAR record 14 national series owner’s championships and 15 overall. Its roster of stock-car drivers includes Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne.
Hendrick is second on NASCAR’s all-time Sprint Cup victories list (1949-present) and leads all owners in modern-era wins (1972-present). His teams have won at least one Cup-level race each season since 1986 – the longest active streak in the sport. He is NASCAR’s all-time leader in Sprint Cup owner’s championships with 11.
“Rick’s desire and passion have kept him around the sport for a long time, and his ability to build leadership and put the right people in the right places has led to that experience being entirely successful,” said Earnhardt Jr.
A leukemia survivor, Hendrick in 1997 chartered the Hendrick Marrow Program, a nonprofit group that works in partnership with the Be The Match Foundation. He also is involved with the Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte and various other charitable endeavors.
Hendrick is a recipient of the prestigious Horatio Alger Award, NASCAR’s Bill France Award of Excellence and, in 1996, The Order of the Long Leaf Pine, which is bestowed upon outstanding North Carolinians. He was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2013.
Lenox Rawlings enters the N.C. Sports Hall of Fame with fondest memories of his parents, who provided him with an endless stream of books, magazines and newspapers, and his paternal grandfather, who exposed him to New York newspapers and the superbly chosen words of acclaimed sportswriter Red Smith. He recalls with gratitude the athletes, coaches and personalities about whom he has written, and fellow members of the sportswriting fraternity, including 1977 inductee Dick Herbert of The News & Observer, his first sports editor.
The inductee is the son of the late Gloria Thompson Rawlings and Lenox D. Rawlings Jr. He was born in 1950 in Rocky Mount and grew up in Wilson. He is a 1968 graduate of Fike High School, where he was a member of the basketball team, and a 1972 graduate of the University of North Carolina, where he majored in journalism.
Rawlings is best known as a sports columnist for the Winston-Salem Journal, a position he held from 1978 until his retirement in December 2012. He covered all of the big events – Masters, Olympics, World Series, U.S. Open golf, NCAA Final Four, ACC Tournament, Daytona 500, Appalachian State’s three national football championships – and quite possibly was the only sportswriter in attendance when both Hank Aaron (1974) and Barry Bonds (2007) broke baseball’s all-time home run record.
In addition to The News & Observer, Rawlings worked for The Wilson Daily Times, the Greensboro Daily News and the Atlanta Constitution before joining the Winston-Salem Journal as a political reporter in 1976. Two years later his life and career changed forever when he moved over to the sports department, made his permanent home in Greensboro, married Janice Johnson Karabin and became a step-father to her daughter, Jennifer, and her son, Barak.
Rawlings flourished in his newfound role as a sports columnist, earning numerous awards from the N.C. Press Association and, more importantly, the respect and admiration of his peers. “Lenox did things the right way,” said longtime Winston-Salem Journal sportswriter Dan Collins. “He was never a bully, but he was fearless. If a question needed to be asked, Lenox was the guy who asked it.”
Wilt Browning, a N.C. Sports Hall of Fame member and former sports columnist, called on Rawlings to write the chapter on auto racing for “Nothing Finer,” a history of North Carolina sports published last year. “The English language is a marvelous thing because its lexicon contains the exact words writers need at exactly the time they need them,” Browning said. “No one in the newspaper business in North Carolina ever mastered the written word in that regard more successfully than Lenox did.”
Rawlings was honored three times as N.C. Sportswriter of the Year and in 2013 received the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Marvin “Skeeter” Francis Award for his coverage of the league. He is a past president of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association and 2013 inductee of the USBWA Hall of Fame and the Fike High School Athletic Hall of Fame.
Getting a fair shake. That’s what coaches, players, and fans all want from the game officials. For more than 30 years, John Clougherty delivered just that on the basketball court.
The Pittsburgh-area native was the third child of Tim and Beulah Clougherty. A baseball and football letterman for three years, he graduated in 1962 from Duquesne High School and began his college career as a member of well-respected Michigan State football family. After two years in East Lansing, Clougherty conceded MSU was “much too big and challenging athletically” and transferred to Youngstown State University.
It was there that his first experience with officiating came about, working intramurals for $3 a game. He graduated with honors from Youngstown State in 1968, then took a teaching assistantship from Kent State University. There he earned his master’s in education in 1969, the same year he accepted a teaching position at Wake Forest University.
Clougherty’s big break in officiating came in 1973 when Jack McCloskey, then Wake’s head coach, recommended him to the Atlantic Coast Conference. For two seasons, he officiated small college and freshman games, but quickly earned a promotion to the ACC varsity staff in 1975.
During the next three decades he worked in every major conference east of the Mississippi: SEC, Big East, Atlantic 10, Big 12, Sun Belt, and Conference USA. He officiated conference title games in the ACC (1982), Southwest Conference (1981), Metro Conference (1981-85), Sun Belt Conference (1986, 1989-94); fourteen times he worked the title game in the SEC.
His sterling work led to 26 NCAA Tournament opportunities and eventually the honor of officiating the Final Four. Remarkably, Clougherty was chosen to officiate 12 Final Fours between 1985-2000, including four national championship games. International assignments included the National Sports Festival (1985), National Team Trials (1986), Central American Games (1987), European Olympic Qualifying Tournament (1988 and 1992), and World Championship Games (1987 and 1991).
The 1988-89 season was the pinnacle of Clougherty’s career. His postseason assignments included the Sun Belt and SEC title games, the NIT semifinals and the championship game of the NCAA Tournament – an overtime thriller between Michigan and Seton Hall that earned him prominent references in the book “CBS Sports … Stories from the Final Four.” Off the court, he was awarded the James A. Naismith Award as the nation’s “Most Outstanding Collegiate Official” and also was honored by Youngstown State with its Distinguished Alumni Award.
Clougherty has been named to the Youngstown (Ohio) Curbstone Coaches Hall of Fame (2000), the NCHSAA Wall of Champions (2002), Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame (Western Chapter, 2003), North Carolina High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame (2004), and received the National Invitation Tournament Officials Award (2004).
He and his wife, Dorothy, have three sons (Tim, Patrick and Conor) and six grandchildren.
Joe Earl Bostic Jr. was born April 20, 1957, in Greensboro. He graduated from Ben L. Smith High School, where he starred in football, wrestling and track and field – in short, every sport in which he participated.
As a senior in 1975, he captured the state’s heavyweight wrestling championship. And in that spring’s state track and field meet, he placed fourth in the shot put. But it was his performance on the football field the previous fall – as well as the two falls before that – where his athletic excellence drew the most attention.
He was a stud offensive lineman (and a standout defensively as well), earning all-state honors and, following his senior season, invitations to play in both the N.C.-S.C. Shrine Bowl and the East-West All-Star Game.
Bostic had numerous college offers, and Clemson was the winner, benefitting from Joe’s talents and well as younger brother Jeff, who’d arrive a year later. The Bostics helped invigorate the Tigers’ program as Joe earned All-ACC honors in 1977 and 1978 and was named an All-America each season. Following his senior year, he was chosen to play in the Hula Bowl.
In April 1979, he was selected in the third round of the NFL draft by the St. Louis Cardinals. He went to play his entire 11-year pro career with the franchise, moving with the team when it relocated to Arizona in 1988. In 1986, he was the Cardinals’ nominee for the Miller/NFL Offensive Lineman of the Year.
After retiring from the NFL, Joe returned to Greensboro and earned his general contractor’s License. Along with Jeff, he founded Bostic Brothers Construction, Inc. that same year. The focus of their company was multi-family development and construction.
In 2003, under Joe’s leadership, Bostic Brothers Construction, Inc. became the second largest multi-family construction company in America. Within a 12-year period (1990-2002), Bostic Brothers Construction built approximately 20,000 multi-family units while producing in excess of $1 billion in economic development throughout the southeastern United States.
While building a thriving company, Joe Bostic was elected to the Guilford County Board of Commissioners in 1992. He was unanimously elected chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners in 1997 and 1998. In 1995, he humbly received the very prestigious Ten Outstanding Young Americans (TOYA) Award from the U.S. Junior Chamber of Commerce.
Bostic has been inducted into several Halls of Fame, including the Clemson University Athletic Hall of Fame in 1996. That same year, he was selected as a member of the Clemson University All-Centennial Team. In 2002, he was honored as one of the top-50 players to the All-Time ACC 50th Anniversary Team. In 2008, he was inducted into the Guilford County Sports Hall of Fame; in 2010, he was inducted into the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame. His No. 77 has been retired by Smith High School.
Bostic has been married to Jami Bostic since 1993. They have been blessed with three children: Jennifer, Kathryn and Mark. They maintain homes in Greensboro and Isle of Palms, S.C.
From his days as a high school football coach to his many years as a director of athletics programs at the local, state and national levels, Jerry McGee has devoted his life to improving athletic experiences for tens of thousands of high school student-athletes. McGee began his illustrious professional career at John Holmes High School in Edenton, where he was the school’s football coach and athletics director.
In 1966, McGee embarked on a new chapter in his life, that of an assistant college football coach. He began at Kansas State University and stints at Southern Illinois University and East Carolina University soon followed. In 1971, he returned to his alma mater, Duke University, as the Blue Devils’ defensive coordinator. It reconnected him, work-wise, with his twin brother, Mike, then the school’s head coach. Both also had played football at Duke.
Five years later, McGee returned to Elizabeth City, where he had graduated from high school, to become the football coach and athletics director at Northeastern High School. In 1981, he was appointed director of athletics and physical education for Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Public School System and served in that position for 16 years. During his tenure at Elizabeth City-Pasquotank, McGee added additional duties to his plate in a role as executive director of the North Carolina Athletic Directors Association (NCADA) – a position in which he has served since 1991.
Perhaps McGee’s greatest contribution to athletics administration came in 2002 when he started the National Executive Directors Council (NEDC). As founder and chairman of the NEDC, McGee’s vision was to bring together leaders of athletics directors’ groups from across the country. The NEDC, through more than a decade of McGee’s leadership, has been transformed into a thriving national organization.
McGee, who’s earned his classification as a certified athletic administrator (CAA), served on the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA) and North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) board of directors for many years, working closely with Charlie Adams, the longtime executive director with whom he developed a long-lasting relationship. “I believe that Jerry has done more on behalf of high school athletics than anyone in the state of North Carolina,” Adams has said. “His influence and impact has been felt in so many ways.”
McGee has received a myriad number of national and state honors, including induction into the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), NIAAA, NCADA and NCHSAA halls of fame. He has also been a recipient of The Order of the Long Leaf Pine, North Carolina’s highest civilian honor.
He continues to reside in Elizabeth City with his wife, Patsy. They are the proud parents of four children plus their children’s spouses – Jerry Jr. (Alden), Michele (Mike), Patricia (Rey), and Chris (Celina) – in addition to 11 grandchildren.
Jeff Bostic has been a part of more Super Bowl-winning teams than any player in Clemson’s storied football history, but he may be best remembered as one of the Washington Redskins’ beloved offensive linemen known as the “Hogs.”
But despite his long career in our nation’s capital, he has never lost sight of his roots in North Carolina. The Greensboro native attended Ben L. Smith High School, where he excelled from fall to spring in football, wrestling and baseball.
After graduating from high school, Bostic followed his older brother, Joe, to Clemson, where they would further cement their football legacy as the “Bostic Brothers.” The 1977 and 1978 seasons have been appropriately labeled as the rebirth of Clemson football, and Jeff Bostic was at the center of the offense – both literally and figuratively – serving as the Tigers’ starting center and earning all-conference recognition in 1979.
His impact was so great that he’d go on to be named to the Clemson University All-Centennial Team and inducted into both the Clemson University Athletic Hall of Fame and the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame.
Not surprisingly, he’d soon embark on an outstanding career in the National Football League. It began inauspiciously, however, when Bostic was cut by the Philadelphia Eagles during the 1980 preseason. But the division rival Washington Redskins quickly snapped him up, signing him to serve – at least initially – as the team’s long snapper. The following year, Bostic’s hard work and dedication to his craft paid off as he became the Redskins’ starting center, a position he’d hold through the next 13 seasons and four Super Bowl appearances, despite numerous injuries.
In 1983, Bostic was recognized by his peers as the best at his position in the National Football Conference, making the Pro Bowl squad alongside teammates Joe Jacoby and Russ Grimm. He missed a good portion of the 1984 season with the first of several knee injuries, but he returned in 1985 to be named the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year, Redskin of the Year and also to be awarded the Ed Block Courage Award. In 1990, Bostic was honored with the Nate Fine Memorial Award, which is given annually to a player “completely dedicated to the Redskins and the game of football.”
Having undergone five major surgical procedures in his career, including operations on both knees, Bostic was forced to hang up his helmet in 1994. He’ll forever be a part of the Redskins’ lore, however, and was named by the franchise as one of its 70 greatest players. While he was no longer on the field, Bostic initially couldn’t stay away from the game. He worked as a broadcaster for ESPN (covering the Big East Conference) from 1998 to 2001, and then began doing the same for Westwood One Radio as a color analyst for NFL games.
Bostic lives in Duluth, Ga., with his wife, Lynn, and their three daughters: Ashley, Amanda and Alicia. Since retiring from the NFL, Bostic has worked as a developer of multi-family apartment complexes throughout the Southeast. A great contributor to the communities in which he’s lived, Jeff, alongside brother Joe, are proudest of their contribution to Hospice of Greensboro in honor of their late mother, Sharron.
Those who had the good fortune of watching Gene Littles star on the basketball court as a Washington, D.C., schoolboy had no doubts he was an ACC-caliber player.
But this was the mid-1960s and segregation was still several years away, so the silky smooth All-Metro guard from McKinley Tech High School accepted a scholarship offer to play at High Point College (now University). There he embarked on a sterling four-year career that saw him average 23.3 points per game; his career total of 2,398 points still stands as a school record.
A three-time NAIA All-America, Littles improved his overall game each year and the Panthers prospered because of it. As a senior in 1968-69, Littles led High Point to a school-best 28-3 record and the quarterfinals of the NAIA Tournament, where the Panthers lost to eventual national champion Eastern New Mexico. Fittingly, his No. 14 jersey was retired by the school.
Littles was drafted that spring by the Dallas Chaparrals of the ABA and the New York Knicks of the NBA. His ABA rights were acquired by the Carolina Cougars, and he chose to sign with Carolina, the first pro sports franchise in state history. Playing for legendary former Wake Forest coach Bones McKinney, Littles was the Cougars’ starting point guard in his first season, averaging 12.5 points per game and earning a spot on the league’s All-Rookie team. He went on to play professionally for three more seasons, finishing his career as a member of the Kentucky Colonels squad that defeated the Indiana Pacers to win the 1975 ABA championship.
That summer, Littles joined Bobby Cremins’ staff at Appalachian State as an assistant coach. Within a couple of years he was named the head coach at North Carolina A&T, where he led the Aggies to two Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference titles and was honored, in 1978-79, as the league’s Coach of the Year.
For the next 18 seasons, Littles served as either an assistant coach or a head coach in the NBA. His three stints as a head coach came with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Charlotte Hornets and Denver Nuggets, but he perhaps made his biggest mark as an assistant, teaching guards the finer points of playing well at the sport’s highest level.
Littles furthered his already strong relationship in North Carolina during his many years with the Hornets. In addition to his time as head coach, his duties included serving as an assistant coach, director of player personnel, vice president, and special assistant to the president. In 1999, Littles was hired by the Seattle Supersonics as an advance scout, and he retired from that role and the NBA in 2006.
Littles and his wife, Yvette, live in Scottsdale, Ariz.. The couple has three sons: Darren, Travis and Gino.
After watching Freddie Combs dazzle as a defensive back and razzle as a return specialist, his N.C. State teammates asked how he developed so many nifty moves. “I used to chase and catch rabbits in the open fields,’’ Combs told them.
No kidding. Combs set traps on the eastern North Carolina farm where he was raised, and when the bunnies escaped, he zigzagged after them, grabbing several of the fleet-footed animals. Himself fast as a hare and tough as a bear, Combs parlayed that jack-rabbit speed and farm-boy grit to become an elite all-around athlete.
After an illustrious four-sport career at Hertford’s Perquimans High School, he produced a sterling sequel at N.C. State, sparkling in baseball and earning All-America honors in football. “God gave me a lot of natural ability,’’ said the humble Hall of Famer. “I did work. But I give Him the credit.”
Combs’ journey to the Hall began at an early age, when, along with twin brother Francis, he got hooked on sports. One thing they did was knock the cover – literally – off a baseball, wrap it with tar tape and keep on swinging.
At age 10, after their father passed away, they moved to Hertford and teamed up with Jim (Catfish) Hunter, who became a big-league Hall of Fame pitcher. “The highlight of (my) high school career was playing with Francis and Catfish,’’ Freddie said.
Other prep highlights included an 11-1 pitching record and .333 batting average for the 1963 Perquimans High state championship team. He also helped Ahoskie win an American Legion regional crown.
On the gridiron, he was named all-conference and was an honorable mention high school All-America choice. In the summer following his senior year (when he was student council president), he was named the Most Outstanding Player in the East-West All-Star Game.
The coaches at N.C. State took note. Freddie – and Francis – received scholarships, where the latter starred as a catcher in baseball and the former flourished in both baseball and football.
Freddie Combs played several positions on the diamond, leading the Wolfpack in hitting (.330 average) as a sophomore and contributing to its third-place finish in the 1968 College World Series.
But football was where his star shone brightest. He excelled as a member of the fabled “White Shoes” defense in 1967 when N.C. State ranked as high as No. 3 nationally and beat Georgia, 14-7, in the Liberty Bowl to cap a 9-2 season. That year Combs led the nation in punt return yardage (434) – a school record that still stands. He also was a helmet-rattling tackler who won team MVP honors.
“You could not ask for a better teammate,’’ noted Steve Warren, a standout lineman on the 1967 team. “Freddie could do it all. But that’s not the best part of Freddie Combs. He’s a man of character and integrity and loves the Lord.”
Combs’ post-college career included serving as regional manager for Blankenship Associates and enjoying time with his wife Jaime, daughter Kristen York, son-in-law Stewart York, and grandchildren Kahlee and Quinn.
Charlotte Smith graduated from her hometown Shelby High School, where she earned all-state honors in basketball and was named her team’s Most Valuable Player all four years.
The niece of former N.C. State great David Thompson chose to play for Sylvia Hatchel at North Carolina, and theirs was a beautiful and prosperous relationship. The most decorated player in the history of women’s basketball at the school, Smith was a four-year letter-winner for the Tar Heels from 1992-95 and has had her No. 23 jersey retired. The 6-foot forward was named National Player of the Year by ESPN in 1995 following a career in which she scored 2,094 points (fifth best in school history) and grabbed 1,200 rebounds (second best in school history).
Smith might forever best be remembered for her performance in the 1994 NCAA Tournament championship game, when her buzzer-beating three-pointer provided the Tar Heels’ winning margin in a 60-59 victory over Louisiana Tech for the program’s first national title. She also had a championship-game record 23 rebounds that night; to the surprise of no one, she was named the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player.
The ACC Rookie of the Year in 1992, Smith earned All-ACC and ACC Tournament MVP honors in her junior and senior seasons as the Tar Heels claimed back-to-back conference crowns. As a senior, she was named to All-America teams by Kodak, the Associated Press and the U.S. Basketball Writers Association. In 2002, she was named to the ACC’s 50th Anniversary team as one of the top players in conference history. She also was honored as the 10th-best female athlete in the history of the league. Early in her senior season, she became just the second collegiate women’s player to dunk in a game when she did so against North Carolina A&T on Dec. 4, 1994.
Following her collegiate career, Smith played pro basketball in Italy, where she was MVP of the Italian All-Star Game during the 1995-96 season. She also played more than 10 years professionally in the United States. Included among her eight years in the WNBA was the 2002 season with the Charlotte Sting, when she helped lead the franchise to the Eastern Conference championship.
During that time, she also got into coaching, first serving nine years as an assistant to Hatchell at her alma mater. The Tar Heels captured four ACC titles during Smith’s tenure on the bench in Chapel Hill. She was named head coach of the women’s team at Elon University prior to the 2011-12 season.
Smith made numerous international appearances for U.S. teams during the 1990s. She was MVP of the 1996 USA Basketball Jones Cup squad, which won a gold medal. She also has played for the 1997 USA Basketball Women’s International Invitational team, the 1995 World University Games team (coached by Hatchell), the 1994 U.S. Select Team, the 1993 U.S. Olympic Festival South team and the 1992 Junior World Championship Qualifying team. She completed her degree in sociology at North Carolina in 1999.
A native of Cornelius, Andrea Stinson arguably is the most highly recruited high school player in North Carolina’s women’s basketball history. The North Carolina High School Athletic Association selected her as the state’s female Player of the Year in 1987 following her senior season at North Mecklenburg High School. While leading the Lady Vikings to a 26-0 record and the state 4-A title, she came to be known simply as “Miss Jordan” – an ode to her on-court dominance. Her impact as a prep phenom endures to this day as her No. 32 jersey was retired by North Mecklenburg.
Kay Yow won the recruiting battle for her services, and Stinson took off in her second year wearing the red and white of the Wolfpack Women. As a sophomore, junior and senior she was a unanimous first-team All-ACC selection, and she was named the conference’s Player of the Year as a junior in 1990. That year, she led N.C. State to the league’s regular-season title, and the following year she followed suit in leading the Wolfpack Women to the tournament title. Stinson finished her N.C. State career with 2,136 points scored, third most in school history.
An easy choice as a member of the ACC’s 50th Anniversary team, Stinson additionally was recognized as one of the conference’s top 50 ACC female athletes of all time. In 2014, she was deservingly inducted into the N.C. State Sports Hall of Fame.
Stinson is a veteran of 11 seasons of European professional basketball, where she played in countries such as Italy, France, Turkey, Russia, and Poland. She was honored three times as an Italian League all-star and on two occasions led her Turkish team to a league championship. She was chosen to play on the 1989 World Championship qualifying team, the 1990 and 1992 USA Select national teams, the 1991 bronze medal-winning Pan American Games team and the 1992 Olympic Trials team.
In 1997, Stinson returned to North Carolina to play for the WNBA’s expansion Charlotte Sting franchise. Over the next eight seasons she was the face of the franchise, delighting fans with her on-court skills and growing the sport with her off-court dedication to the community. She led the Sting in scoring for six consecutive seasons and started every game for eight years in a row. Her finest year as a member of the Sting was her first, when she averaged 18 points, six rebounds and nearly three assists per game.
That year, she finished runner-up in balloting for the league’s Most Valuable Player award. A three-time WNBA all-star, Stinson put a bow on her remarkable playing career as a member of the Detroit Shock, and she retired as the WNBA’s sixth all-time leading scorer.
For her efforts in the Charlotte community, Stinson received the WNBA’s Community Assist Award, the Bobby Phills Community Award, the Maya Angelou Leadership Award, and the United Negro College Fund Leadership Award.
Michael Jeffrey Jordan is considered by many to be the greatest basketball player of all time – the standard by which the game’s best players for decades to come will be judged.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Feb. 17, 1963, as the fourth of five children to James and Deloris Jordan, the family soon moved to Wilmington. At Laney High School, as a sophomore, he decided to try out for the varsity team but was cut because he was raw and undersized. The following summer, he grew four inches and practiced tirelessly. The hard work paid off as he averaged 25 points per game in his last two seasons and was named a McDonald’s All-American as a senior.
Rodney Rogers came to Wake Forest from Durham Hillside High School in the fall of 1990 as one of the most decorated recruits in Demon Deacon basketball history. He was a Parade All-America third-team selection after averaging 28.9 points and 13 rebounds per game as a high school senior, where his games were considered a “must-see” by long-time residents and sports enthusiasts in the Bull City.
The accolades were endless for the powerfully-built forward with a surprisingly silky smooth left-handed jump shot. Rogers was a first-team all-state pick and named the state high school Player of the Year by the Associated Press following his senior season. He was named Mr. Basketball by the Charlotte Observer and was selected as the Gatorade Player of the Year in North Carolina. In the McDonald’s All-America game, he scored 17 points in helping the East beat the West, 115-104.
Rogers made an impact on the Demon Deacons right from the outset of his freshman season. He averaged 16.3 points and 7.9 rebounds in earning ACC Rookie of the Year honors in 1991. He was also named the national Freshman of the Year. As a sophomore, Rogers averaged 20.5 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. He was a first team All-ACC pick in 1992, the only sophomore so honored.
The following year, as a junior, he was a unanimous first team All-ACC pick, the ACC Player of the Year and an All-America selection after leading the ACC in scoring at 21.2 points per game. He also became the only player in Wake Forest history to earn both ACC Rookie of the Year (1991) and Player of the Year (1993) honors.
For his career, Rogers averaged 19.3 points and 7.9 rebounds, and he scored in double figures in 86 of 89 games including the final 66 contests of his career. He was part of three NCAA Tournament teams, leading the Demon Deacons to the second round in 1991 and to the Sweet 16 in 1993. Further, he was honored with consecutive Arnold Palmer Awards in 1992 and 1993.
With the support of coach Dave Odom, Rogers chose to turn pro after his junior season and was a first-round draft pick (ninth overall player selected) of the Denver Nuggets. He spent two seasons in Denver before he was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers following the conclusion of the 1995 season. He spent four years with the Clippers before signing with the Phoenix Suns in 1999. A year later, he was honored as the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year.
In 2002, Rogers was traded to the Boston Celtics. He signed with the New Jersey Nets in August of 2002 and helped the club advance to the NBA Finals. His final year in the NBA came during the 2004-05 season, which he split between the New Orleans Hornets and the Philadelphia 76ers.
Rogers had his No. 54 jersey retired by Wake Forest in 1996. In 2004, he was inducted into the Wake Forest University Sports Hall of Fame.
Raleigh native Randy Denton arguably is one of the best basketball players ever to come out of the state of North Carolina. He stood apart in numerous sports as a youth, including basketball, football, baseball and track. And in addition to starring in basketball at Enloe High School, he also played football and ran track.
But it was on the basketball court where the 6-foot-10 center stood tallest – both literally and figuratively. A high school All-America selection who has had his jersey retired, he was a star in the classroom as well, being recognized as a three-year member of the National Honor Society.
More than 200 schools recruited Denton during his junior and senior years. But with all of the excitement also came abundant sadness, as his father died in 1966 and thus wasn’t able to watch his son rise to prominence. Denton chose to attend Duke to play for Vic Bubas – in part because of his father’s respect for the Hall of Fame coach and the university.
Denton went on to become an All-ACC performer in each of this three varsity seasons. Armed with a soft touch and a nose for the ball, he led the Blue Devils in scoring and rebounding all three years and as a senior in 1970-71 was named All-America. He started every game of his Blue Devil career, averaging 19.7 points – fifth all-time – and 12.7 rebounds per game, which still ranks as No. 1 in Duke’s storied basketball history.
Back before it became a recognized achievement and part of basketball vernacular, Denton recorded an incredible 58 “double-doubles” – games in which he amassed double figures in both points and rebounds. And six times in his career he reached the rarest of air with games in which he totaled at least 20 points and 20 rebounds.
Drafted in the fourth round by the NBA’s Boston Celtics in the summer of 1971, Denton instead chose to sign with the ABA’s Carolina Cougars, which split most of its home games among Charlotte, Greensboro and Raleigh. He went on to play professionally for six years combined in the ABA and NBA, averaging 11.5 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. He spent two more years playing in the Italian League.
Denton, who graduated from Duke with a degree in psychology in 1971, was inducted into the Duke University Sports Hall of Fame in 1991. Ten years later, he was inducted into the prestigious Duke Hall of Honor.
They say character is more easily kept than recovered, and that notion captures the essence of Marshall Happer. Across his lifetime, through decades of achievement, whenever he has found himself confronted by tall challenges, Happer has displayed unshakable integrity. Few men of his stature have been more revered.
Happer grew up in Kinston, twice winning high school state championships in both basketball and tennis. During 1957-60, he played tennis for the ACC champion North Carolina Tar Heels.
He joined the Manning Fulton Raleigh law firm in 1964, but kept playing tennis, winning the North Carolina State Championships with two different partners in 1966 and 1967. But Happer’s passion for tennis took him beyond the court. He was president and founder of the Raleigh Racquet Club in 1968, and later president of the North Carolina and Southern Tennis Associations. From 1972-79, he staged professional tournaments in Raleigh as part of the Southern Prize Money Circuit he administered; in 1979, he organized the USTA’s national secondary prize money circuits. His stock was rising.
The Association of Tennis Professionals (the men’s players association) was founded in 1972. Happer believed the ATP was not meeting the needs of up-and-coming new players, so he negotiated for and won approval for the awarding of ATP ranking points at satellite tournaments in 1978, creating a crucial pathway for players to compete on the major international Grand Prix circuit. Happer’s pursuit of that goal was unwavering.
His most far-reaching work commenced in 1981, when he was named as independent administrator (commissioner) for the Men’s Tennis Council, the international governing body for men’s pro tennis. Happer was responsible for the administration of the worldwide Grand Prix of Tennis, including the Code of Conduct. He employed the first pro tennis officials and developed the first drug testing program.
As New York Times columnist Dave Anderson wrote in 1983, “The most important person in tennis is a rangy 45-year-old North Carolina attorney with a soft Southern accent and a soft button-down shirt. M. Marshall Happer 3rd is the administrator of the Men’s Tennis Council, the closest thing to a commissioner that this fragmented and footloose sport has had … Marshall Happer is slowly restoring law and order.”
Happer remained exemplary in that post until the MTC dissolved in 1989; the ATP Tour was formed and the Grand Slams became independent. But the rules of tennis, code of conduct and structure of officiating today all came out largely through his leadership.
From 1990 to 1995, Happer returned to the USTA as executive director, the governing body of American tennis. He was in charge not only of the staff, but also hundreds of tournaments and events, plus the U.S. Open, the U.S. Davis Cup, Fed Cup and Olympic teams.
Happer retired as COO of the USTA in 1995, but remained as USTA outside counsel until the end of 2009, involved with nearly all of the TV, sponsorship and business contracts for the U.S. Open.
(Written by Steve Flink)
“Lee Gliarmis is a hero to the Wilson community and to the entire state of North Carolina for all the work he has done in sports and recreation.”
CEO Lynwood Roberson spoke those words in 2013 when the Frederick E. Turnage Chapter of the American Red Cross honored Gliarmis. Countless others have expressed similar sentiments when recognizing Gliarmis for all he has done to elevate athletics in Wilson County and beyond. In addition to the Red Cross, he has been honored locally by the Wilson Chamber of Commerce, the Sertoma Club, the Exchange Club and the Wilson Hot Stove League, and regionally by the Raleigh Hot Stove League and by the State of North Carolina. His induction tonight into the N.C. Sports Hall of Fame, however, perhaps comes closer to acknowledging the breadth and depth of his contributions than any honor he has ever received.
Gliarmis is the owner and operator of Dick’s Hot Dog Stand, established by his father in 1921 and best described by Tom Ham, longtime Wilson Daily Times sports editor, as “Wilson’s hub of sports activity.” In his youth, Gliarmis spent many hours working in the restaurant alongside his brother, Staff Sergeant Richard Gliarmis, who died in the Battle of the Bulge. But Lee’s dream, as a three-sport athlete at UNC Chapel Hill, was to follow his mentor, Leon Brogden, into the coaching ranks. Then his father became ill, and Lee Gliarmis came home in 1950 to run the family restaurant.
Over these many decades, Gliarmis has contributed significantly to any number of success stories and worthy causes, especially in instances where the needs of young people were served. He coached in Wilson’s Midget League football program from 1950-86, developing more than 50 players who were members of Fike High School’s state championship teams in 1958 (co-champions), 1967, 1968 and 1969. He helped establish the athletics booster club at Barton College, where he is an honorary alumnus. He has been a constant pillar of support for the athletics program at Fike High School, where he is a member of its hall of fame.
In particular, Gliarmis has been a tireless supporter of baseball. He helped establish the Wilson Hot Stove League to support youth and interscholastic baseball programs, and he led the effort to renovate Fleming Stadium. Once on the verge of demolition, Fleming Stadium now serves as home to the North Carolina Baseball Museum, which owes its very existence to Gliarmis.
Beyond the confines of Wilson, he has served as a president and longtime board member of the N.C. Sports Hall of Fame. He has also held leadership posts with the American Hellenic Education Progressive Association and the Greek-American Sports Hall of Fame.
Humble to a fault, Gliarmis has never been one to seek the limelight, preferring instead the warm embrace of family and loved ones. Tonight, however, the time has come for him to step out from behind the proverbial counter and accept his richly deserved induction into the N.C. Sports Hall of Fame.
Frank Weedon was born May 11, 1931, in Washington, D.C., and was a 1954 graduate of the University of Maryland with a degree in journalism. He spent two years as the sports information director at Lehigh University and three years in the U.S. Army as a European counter-intelligence officer, stationed in Stuttgart, Germany. He came to N.C. State on June 1, 1960, and established deep roots in Raleigh in a profession that is notorious for its nomadic nature.
As N.C. State’s sports information director for 12 years, Weedon promoted the accomplishments of Wolfpack stars in all sports. Inspired by what he thought was biased coverage on local airwaves, Weedon put together the first Wolfpack Radio Network to broadcast N.C. State football and men’s basketball games.
After moving into athletics administration in 1971 as Willis Casey’s only assistant director, Weedon was on the hiring committees for coaches the likes of Lou Holtz, Kay Yow, Bo Rein, Jim Valvano and Dick Sheridan. He taught them all how to bleed Wolfpack red.
His proudest professional moment came in 1982 when he accepted on behalf of legendary basketball coach Everett Case a posthumous induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.
Married in 1989 to the former Janice Bunn Nixon, long after Weedon had made generations of Wolfpack athletes his family, he was the most familiar face in the athletics department. He and Janice probably attended more N.C. State events – athletic, cultural and academic – than any couple in the 125-year history of the institution. Although he officially retired in 1996, Weedon still showed up every morning for the next 15 years as a senior associate athletics director emeritus to serve as N.C. State athletics’ unofficial historian and walking anecdote mill.
Weedon did a bit of everything during his tenure at N.C. State. He was the media director for the final Dixie Classic and for a half-dozen ACC Tournaments played at Reynolds Coliseum. He was the official scorer for the 1966 Final Four, when Texas Western shocked Kentucky for the national championship. And he was with the Wolfpack when it won the 1974 and 1983 national titles. He was tournament manager for five NCAA men’s basketball tournaments at Reynolds Coliseum and served as chair of the ACC wrestling, tennis, soccer, women’s basketball and men’s swimming committees.
His association with N.C. State went beyond athletics. He was a perennial member of the “Friends of the College” concert series and committee member for the fundraising efforts to restore both Thompson Theater and Reynolds Coliseum. North Carolina Gov. James B. Hunt presented him with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine in 1996. A year later, he received the N.C. State Alumni Association’s Award of Merit.
He served the community as president of the N.C. Sports Hall of Fame and the Bill Dooley/Triangle East Chapter of the National Football Foundation. In 2008, he received the Marvin “Skeeter” Francis Award from the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association in recognition of notable achievement and service to the media covering ACC sports.
Bob Waters left behind an iconic legacy in his 20 years as head football coach and athletics director at Western Carolina University before losing a heroic battle to Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS/amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) in 1989 at the age of 50. A native of Sylvania, Ga., who also gained fame in South Carolina and California, he became an adopted son of North Carolina.
Waters came to WCU in 1969 as head coach after an all-star football career at Presbyterian College, a five-year stint as quarterback and defensive back with the San Francisco 49ers and assistant coaching positions at Presbyterian and Stanford. He was the MVP of the 1960 Tangerine Bowl – now known as the Capital One Bowl – and was drafted by the 49ers where he made frequent starts as the “shotgun” (a newly created position in the era) quarterback and engineered wins over Baltimore, Detroit and Los Angeles in 1963.
At WCU, Waters led the Catamounts to 13 winning seasons and a school-record 116 victories (and two NCAA playoff appearances) while playing demanding non-conference schedules. Eight of his teams were nationally ranked, and he owned the eighth-best winning percentage among the NCAA’s I-AA coaches during his tenure. His 1983 squad became the first Southern Conference team to play in the NCAA I-AA title game. Prior to his arrival, WCU had posted only five winning seasons among the previous 20.
Fifty-four Catamounts who played under Waters named first-team All-Southern Conference selection. Thirteen were named to All-America teams, and a dozen went on to play pro football.
His pass-oriented offense perennially ranked in the nation’s top 10 and helped produce the country’s leading pass receiver in 1977, seven Southern Conference pass receiving titlists, the nation’s leading field goal kicker and punter and three Southern Conference Offensive Player of the Year recipients.
When one thinks of high school football dynasties, the Robbinsville Black Knights might not be the first team to come to mind, but make no mistake, this little community in the far western part of the state has a legacy any team on any level would envy.
That’s thanks to Bob Colvin, who took over as the school’s head coach in 1966. By 1969, he already had developed a program that would withstand the test of time as the Knights captured the first of their 11 state championships.
In Colvin’s 18-year career, which ended in 1984, the Knights won 177 of the 231 games they played, a winning percentage of nearly 77 percent. In addition to the 11 state championships, Colvin won 16 Smoky Mountain Conference titles, both records that still hold today.
The crowning moment of the Colvin Era came in 1976. The Knights went undefeated while winning a record seven games with shutouts. They scored a total of 530 points and averaged 40.7 points per game. They only allowed 61 points – or 4.7 points per game – an unbelievable achievement for any football team, let alone a small 1-A team located deep in the Appalachian Mountains. Deservingly, Colvin was selected as the N.C. Coach of the Year.
“Coach Colvin was one of the first coaches in the state to implement year round football training,” said Dee Walsh, a two-time state champion from Colvin’s era, and the current head coach and athletics director for Robbinsville High School. “He had guys working out in the weight room during the off season long before anyone else. In addition, he was a great guy. The boys loved playing for him. He made you want to play harder, be better and outperform whoever was on the field.”
With success came offers to coach at other schools, but Colvin was firmly planted in his hometown. Born and raised in Graham County, he too had played football for Robbinsville – then known as the Blue Devils – as a high school student. He continued his education at Western Carolina University (an injury during his final high school game prevented him from playing football at Clemson), earning a teaching degree in physical education before returning to Robbinsville to coach.
“Maybe that was part of the appeal,” Colvin said, chuckling, of his dedication to his hometown. “The kids knew I wasn’t using them for a steppingstone to somewhere else. They knew I sincerely cared for them and I was where I wanted to be.”
Norman Sloan, the volatile basketball coach at N.C. State from 1966 to 1980, once told a pack of sportswriters that if it weren’t for A.J. Carr, he could say he hated all of the writers who covered him.
Sloan described the sportswriters with a series of words, one of which rhymes with snitch. But Sloan put Carr in another category – and indeed Carr was in his own category as a great writer and an even better person.
Carr reported on sports for The News & Observer from 1966 until he retired in 2009. He received the North Carolina Sportswriter of the Year Award from the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association in 1978 and 2008, which showed that he “played” at a high level for a long, long time.
Big-time coaches aren’t known for their tact or patience. Many distrust reporters, believing they are out to get them. It’s true reporters get paid to ask the hard questions, the ones fans want answered. Carr thrived in that environment. He could ask the hard questions, but he did it in a way that endeared him to players and coaches. He spoke softly, with humility, and was always polite. His religious faith – he’s been an active member of Millbrook Methodist Church for years – is vital to him and influenced his work.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said players and coaches sensed Carr’s sincerity and commitment and opened up to him. “When you talk about honest, trustworthy and good, A.J.’s picture comes up,” Krzyzewski said when Carr retired.
Former UNC coach Dean Smith agreed. “He’s very thorough,” Smith said in 2008. “It always came out right. I had a lot of confidence in him.”
Carr was born and raised in Duplin County in eastern North Carolina. He was an excellent athlete at Wallace-Rose Hill High School, playing baseball, basketball and football, earning all-conference honors in the last two.
He was a 5-foot-7, 135-pound blur of energy. Carr said he remembers from his playing days how disappointed players and coaches are after a loss. “The games mean as much to them as does a Carolina Final Four game to Roy Williams or a Duke Final Four game does to Coach K,” Carr once said. “To me, every story is important.”
Carr was a graceful writer, even on deadline. He wrote with flair. He had a gift for writing about athletes as people. He also could break the hard-to-get story. He was competitive and his phone calls were almost always returned. Terry Holland, the former Virginia basketball coach who was later the athletics director at East Carolina, said Carr was rarely scooped on a story because “he knows everyone and none of us can lie to or mislead him.”
When Carr retired, Holland told the N&O’s Chip Alexander: “Most of us would settle for the kind of inscription that could easily be his epitaph: ‘Here lies the nicest, kindest man you could hope to meet … and a darn good sportswriter.”
An outstanding athlete in every sport he touched while growing up in Pittsburgh and attending Edgewood High School Eddie Biedenbach starred in basketball, baseball and football. He was signed to a basketball scholarship at North Carolina State University, where he initially played on the freshman team coached by former Wolfpack All-American Lou Pucillo. He played for three Hall of Fame coaches (Everett Case, Press Maravich and Norm Sloan) in his three varsity seasons and also played baseball for legendary Wolfpack coach Vic Sorrell.
Biedenbach quickly became a fan favorite at Reynolds Coliseum, known as a speedy defensive guard who had uncanny hand and foot quickness, great ball-handling skills and an innate knack for the game. Sportswriters bestowed upon him two nicknames – the “Pittsburgh Pickpocket” and the “Pittsburgh Pirate” – due to his propensity to steal the basketball.
His N.C. State varsity career included two years as the team’s leading scorer. He also was a two-time All-ACC selection and a two-time All ACC Tournament selection. As a senior, he was named a preseason co-captain; At season’s end he was honored as the Wolfpack’s MVP. In 2003, when N.C. State voted on its all-time men’s basketball teams, Biedenbach was voted Player of the Decade for the 1960s.
Drafted by four different pro sports teams, Biedenbach was first selected by the St. Louis Hawks (drafted after his redshirt senior year, which he missed due to major back surgery). Three teams drafted Eddie following his basketball senior year – the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers, the ABA’s New York Nets, and the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys. He played briefly with the Lakers and the Phoenix Suns before returning to N.C. State to begin what became a long and rewarding coaching career.
As an assistant coach he was instrumental in recruiting the players that brought N.C. State national championships in 1974 and 1983, and he also served as an assistant to Hugh Durham when they led the Bulldogs to the 1983 Final Four.
As a head coach, Biedenbach took Davidson in the Southern Conference from last place to first in just three years. Later, in winning a school record 256 games – most in Big South Conference history – in 17 seasons at UNC Asheville, he led the Bulldogs to a combined nine regular season and tournament championships. Four times he was named Big South Coach of the Year.
Biedenbach’s contributions to college basketball and campus life extend off the court as well. In 20 years as a head coach, his teams posted an impressive 95 percent graduation rate. His endless energy, engaging personality and his Eddie Biedenbach Celebrity Golf tournaments have led to more than $5 million being raised for student scholarships, college facility upgrades and local charities.
His years and many successes in several sports were recognized by his Pittsburgh roots in 1998 when he was inducted into Pennsylvania’s Pittsburgh East Boros Sports Hall of Fame. Later through his coaching success Eddie was inducted into 4 additional sports hall of fames that included the Western North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame, the University of North Carolina Asheville Athletics Hall of Fame, the Big South Conference Hall of Fame and the North Carolina State Athletic Hall of Fame (as Assistant Coach in the team induction of the 1974 Men’s Basketball National Champions).
When Wade Garrett was a teenager growing up in Guilford County, gas cost 18 cents a gallon, a new car was $1,500, a new house was $8,000 and the average salary was $3,000 a year. His family consisted of his father, Tom, his mother, the former Lessie Swing, his brother, Bill, and his sister, Mary. His father owned a country store with a ballfield next to it, where young Wade learned to play softball. The road where that store and ballfield existed is now called Garrett Store Road, and it’s still where Garrett lives.
The concept of “social networking” consisted of the community church, most of which sponsored their own fast-pitch softball team that was part of a church league. Garrett’s brother, who was six years older, was the star pitcher on the church team, and that inspired the younger sibling to learn to pitch. Wade wore out dozens of balls throwing them against a cinder-block wall, but in the process he became so skilled that he eventually replaced his brother.
Self taught, Garrett perfected five pitches that would drive batters crazy. Drop, rise, left and right curves were four of them. The fifth: a change-up “that could make a grown man cry when he looked so foolish missing it by a mile.” As his reputation grew, Garrett moved to the county league and played for Western Auto. It was a time when fast-pitch softball, while an amateur sport, was immensely popular in towns all over the country.
Softball wasn’t Garrett’s only superlative sport. He was a good enough basketball player – he played in the East-West All-Star game in 1951 – that he earned a scholarship to Elon College, from which he graduated in 1955. Still, it was softball that would make him famous. While playing for a local Piedmont team in a regional tournament against the Clearwater Bombers, a world-champion team from Florida, Garrett pitched 15 scoreless innings. In the 16th inning, a home run cost Garrett the game, but so impressive was he that the champion YMCA team of Canton – the Yankees of the sport in North Carolina – came calling.
So it was that in early 1956, Garrett accepted a position with the Canton YMCA as its assistant athletics director for all youth sports. With Canton’s fast-pitch team, Garrett’s reputation as a star pitcher rose. The team’s reputation also grew to the point that he and other players from Champion were inducted into the NC Softball Hall of Fame in Burlington.
During his pitching career, Garrett amassed the following accomplishments: Recorded 358 victories against only 83 losses; tossed 40 no-hitters; had a 78-inning scoreless streak; was named to the all-state or all-South team 15 times and was all-region 10 times; appeared in 10 world tournaments; and is in the Guinness Book of Records for pitching 22 consecutive innings in a single game.
The incredible story of Marty Sheets began in 1953. Born prematurely, he spent his first 15 days in an incubator. Later, tests concluded that he had Down syndrome, which would limit his abilities. His parents, David and Iris Sheets, always emphasized good social skills and encouraged Marty to do his best. As a child, Sheets enjoyed playing in the back yard, swimming at the neighborhood pool and waterskiing at the lake. He attended special education classes in the Greensboro Public Schools and wrestled at Lindley Junior High. At Smith High School, he participated in a distributive education program, which led to a 38-year career with a local department store.
When Sheets was 15, the Kennedy Foundation provided the Greensboro Parks and Recreation Department with funds to develop recreational activities for intellectually challenged children. He excelled in swimming, and in 1968 he and four other athletes were selected to represent North Carolina and the USA in the first International Special Olympics competition. An illness prevented Sheets from competing, but at the post-event banquet he was personally awarded a Special Olympics Gold Medal by the group’s founder, Eunice Kennedy Shriver. That was the beginning of a long association with Special Olympics and a lasting friendship with the Shriver family that changed his life forever.
Over the years, Sheets became a highly decorated Special Olympics athlete, winning 250 medals – including seven in World Games – competing in golf, power lifting, swimming, tennis skills and skiing. While competing, he met many celebrities. When the Special Olympics introduced its winter competition in 1977, Sheets traveled to Steamboat Springs, Colorado, to compete in skiing. He won a pair of bronze medals and had a chance to ski with the legendary Billy Kidd. In 1987, he joined singer John Denver in leading the USA delegation into Notre Dame Stadium for the opening ceremonies of the 1987 International Special Olympics.
While there, Sheets won a gold medal in tennis skills competition and even had the chance to play with Arthur Ashe. At the 1991 World Games held in Minneapolis, Sheets won two bronze medals in powerlifting, met boxer Evander Holyfield and was featured on ABC’s “Wide World of Sports.” He and his parents were invited to join President Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary during Opening Ceremonies of the Special Olympics World Games in 1995 at Yale University.
Sheets frequently spoke at events when Raleigh was chosen to host the 1999 Special Olympics World Games. He appeared on stage with basketball star Grant Hill during the opening ceremonies. He competed in powerlifting and won a bronze medal in the bench press competition. Golf was Marty’s favorite sport. During the Special Olympics North Carolina golf competitions he won the gold medal several times. In 2007, he won a gold medal in his flight at the Special Olympics National Invitational Tournament held at Port St. Lucie in Florida. And he once played golf with Gary Player during a fundraiser for Special Olympics.
But those accomplishments and achievements are only part of his remarkable story. As a member of the Special Olympics North America Golf Committee, Sheets traveled all over the country attending events, recruiting volunteers, and representing the Special Olympics cause. His example and service to the community have been an inspiration to many. He was selected by the Olympics Committee as one of its “community heroes” to serve as an official torch-bearer when the Olympic torch passed through Greensboro prior to the 1996 Olympic Games held in Atlanta. Among his many service honors received are The Order of the Long Leaf Pine award presented to him by Governor Jim Hunt in 2000, and the Distinguished Citizen Award from the N.C. Employment Network of the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services. His long volunteer service to the Wyndham Championship golf tournament was recognized when he won the national Volunteer of the Year Award from the PGA Tour in 2006. A member of the Presbyterian Church of the Covenant, Sheets was ordained an honorary elder in 2007, and a room in the church was remodeled and named “Marty’s Room” in his honor. He died in May 2015.
In the early 1990s, it would have been difficult to imagine a National Hockey League franchise playing in North Carolina, let alone consistently drawing more than 18,000 fans a night. It would seem impossible that the Tar Heel State’s first major professional championship would come not in football or basketball, but in ice hockey. Or that young men and women born and raised in North Carolina would start attracting scholarship offers from major college hockey programs. But those are now realities for the sport of hockey in North Carolina. And if there is a single player acquisition that can be seen as the turning point for the solidification of hockey in this southern state, it came on July 13, 1998, when the Carolina Hurricanes signed Ron Francis.
Francis had plenty of options in the summer of 1998. A 17-year NHL veteran at the time, he already had Hall of Fame credentials – four NHL All-Star Game selections, a Selke Trophy as the league’s top defensive forward, and two Lady Byng Trophies thanks to the major role he played as a part of two Stanley Cup championship teams with the Pittsburgh Penguins. In a way, he chose to return to his roots, as he was drafted by, and spent 10 seasons with, the Hartford Whalers, the team that became the Carolina Hurricanes when it relocated to North Carolina in 1997. But really, he chose to plant new roots by moving his family to Raleigh and helping his sport establish itself in a market where it was still foreign to many.
Results came immediately. His name and credentials brought instant credibility to the franchise. But even more importantly, his presence and play brought success to the team. Francis helped the Hurricanes win their first Southeast Division championship that season, bringing the Stanley Cup playoffs to North Carolina for the first time. That was just the beginning.
Three years later, as the captain of the Hurricanes, Francis led Carolina to another division title, and then thrilling playoff series victories against the New Jersey Devils, Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs, to give the team its first Eastern Conference championship. In the process of beating three accomplished and storied franchises, Francis helped the team attract legions of new fans, who called themselves “Caniacs.” The Caniacs made their presence felt by the international media who descended on Raleigh for the 2002 Stanley Cup final, from meeting the team at Raleigh-Durham International Airport in the wee hours of the morning after victories, to their legendary pregame tailgates and the deafening noise during home games at the RBC Center (now PNC Arena).
Francis scored the overtime game-winning goal in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, shocking the mighty Detroit Red Wings on their home ice. Though Carolina ultimately fell to Detroit, Game 3 of the series will always be remembered as a classic, when nearly 19,000 fans in Raleigh stood through three overtime periods before Detroit’s Igor Larionov finally gave his team the victory. Following the season, Francis was honored with NHL’s Lady Byng Trophy and the league’s King Clancy Trophy, which honors leadership and community service.
Francis officially retired as a player on Sept. 14, 2005, completing his NHL career with 549 goals and 1,249 assists (for a total of 1,798 points) during 23 NHL seasons with Hartford, Pittsburgh, Carolina and Toronto. He ranks fourth in NHL history in scoring, behind only Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier and Gordie Howe. Francis spent 16 of his 23 seasons with the Hartford/Carolina franchise, establishing team records in games played (1,186), goals (382), assists (793) and points (1,175), numbers that clearly distinguish him as the greatest player in Hurricanes franchise history. The club officially retired Francis’ No. 10 jersey on Jan. 28, 2006, and on Nov. 12, 2007, he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.
Following his retirement, Francis and his family kept their roots in North Carolina, the state they consider their home. He currently serves in the Hurricanes’ front office general manager.
Hugh Morton’s long and illustrious life as a civic leader, owner of Grandfather Mountain and a world-class photographer made him an icon in his beloved home state of North Carolina. His photography ventures and passion for the Tar Heel state left a lasting impression on the hearts of countless individuals that had the pleasure of knowing him.
Morton was born in 1921 in Wilmington. He left the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1942 to join the Army during World War II, serving as a combat photographer. He returned home after being severely injured by a Japanese explosion in the Philippines and was awarded a Bronze Star for bravery and Purple Heart for his service and sacrifice.
When he returned home to UNC, he became the sports photographer for the school’s student newspaper, the Daily Tar Heel. Becoming friends with and photographing UNC football legend Charlie “Choo Choo” Justice had a major impact on his life. For the next seven decades, Morton served as the university’s “unofficial” sports photographer.
When UNC drama student Andy Griffith made his first public rendition of “What It Was Was Football” in Kenan Stadium, Morton was there taking photographs (Morton had had a hand in Griffith being discovered and helped set up the event). Any time a major historical event took place at UNC, magazines such as Sports Illustrated knew that Morton was the person to contact for pictures.
When the Atlantic Coast Conference was formed in 1953, Morton’s primary sports interest shifted from football to basketball. He photographed every ACC Tournament except one until his health failed him. In 1981, Morton joined with Hall of Fame sportswriter Smith Barrier to author The ACC Basketball Tournament Classic, a book that outlined every ACC Tournament since the conference’s birth. Smith was responsible for the writing content while Morton was responsible for photos.
In 1959, Morton founded the ACC Mountain Outing. His purpose was to help create a family atmosphere within the conference through an escape – via golf and fellowship – from the fiercely competitive tone of the sports season. The event celebrates its 54th year in 2013. The Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association bestowed Morton with its highest service honor, the Skeeter Francis Award, in 1992 for his enduring contributions to the conference.
Hugh Morton’s esteemed and lifelong photography career began early. A 14-year-old Hugh photographed a golf scene that was featured in a North Carolina tourism ad in LIFE magazine. His last photograph, of a bear cub in a tree at Grandfather Mountain, was taken a week before he died at age 85.
Whether he was photographing Bob Hope and General MacArthur in World War II, Mildred the Bear at Grandfather Mountain, Charlie “Choo Choo” Justice running for a touchdown, Michael Jordan dunking a basketball for the Tar Heels or a beautiful scenic shot of his home state, Morton generously shared his photography with the North Carolina media. He donated his extensive collection of more than half a million photos and 60,000 linear feet of movie film to the North Carolina Collection at the UNC library. His historic photos have been shared in four books: Hugh Morton’s North Carolina; Hugh Morton: North Carolina Photographer; Making a Difference in North Carolina; and The ACC Basketball Tournament Classic.
In his later years, his life focus turned primarily to protecting our state’s environment. He filmed and produced a movie depicting the threat of acid rain, narrated by his good friend, Walter Cronkite. He traveled across the state to show a presentation on environmental threats to any organization that would invite him, in the hopes of enlightening the population to the immediate dangers the natural world was facing within the state of North Carolina.
One of his strongest passions was protecting Grandfather Mountain, which he inherited in 1952. His most publicized battle was against the National Park Service when it condemned the upper reaches of Grandfather Mountain as the future route of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Morton said blasting the solid rock cliffs to carve out a road would be “like taking a switch blade to the Mona Lisa.” He won the battle and today Parkway travelers enjoy a compromised route featuring the beautiful and famed Linn Cove Viaduct.
Morton’s accolades comprise a laundry list of leadership positions and honors in photography, civic service, travel and tourism, education, environmental stewardship and sports. His legacy lives on through his photos, his environmental protection efforts and his contributions to North Carolina sports and the state’s tourism industry.
Bob Quincy was born in Panther, West Virginia. His mother was a teacher, his father a doctor. By the time Bob was 13, his parents realized that their tiny town could not provide the education that their only child needed. So Quincy was sent to Oak Ridge Military Academy near Kernersville, where he was the school’s youngest student. He thrived in academics and sports, and he loved North Carolina, leaving it only briefly for military service. By the time he had graduated from high school, he had earned a basketball scholarship to UNC.
World War II interrupted Quincy’s education. He said that there were a few term papers staring him in the face, and he thought it might be a good idea to do the patriotic thing and go down to the recruiting office on Franklin Street. Rising to lieutenant in the Army Air Corps, Quincy flew 30 missions with the 8th Air Force over Germany toward the end of the war, then returned to Chapel Hill to finish his education.
With a journalism degree and a strong ability to paint pictures with words, he had no trouble landing a job with the Rocky Mount Telegraph. A few years later he was hired at the Charlotte News, eventually becoming sports editor and assembling one of the finest group of sports writers the Queen City would ever see. Furman Bisher and Sandy Grady were in his department, and Charles Kuralt was in the newsroom. Quincy’s quest for perfection occasionally frustrated him to the point of explosion. Stories of him throwing typewriters out of the second floor window were legendary, until the editor, Brodie Griffith, put a stop to it, saying someone on the sidewalk was going to get killed.
In 1962, Quincy took a job at his alma mater as sports information director. Four years later, WBTV, the CBS affiliate in Charlotte, convinced him to become its sports editor. Not really liking being in front of a camera, he found a better fit in radio and moved to Big WAYS as sports director. In 1971, the Charlotte Observer offered Quincy a job as daily sports columnist, and he returned to his first love, print journalism. He continued to do his morning sports show on WAYS and was with both companies until his death.
Affectionately known as “Coach” to friends and colleagues, Quincy’s trademarks in his writing were fairness and accuracy. If he were told some information “off the record,” it would stay that way, until the go-ahead was given to publish. His writing reflected a vast knowledge
of sports and athletes with an encyclopedic memory for facts. He rarely ever took notes in an interview, but without fail got the quotes correct. Much of his writing was filled with humor so that the reader could picture himself there and laugh out loud at the situation. As funny in conversation as he was on the printed page, Quincy sometimes joked about himself but never put other people down. Asked one time about Dean Smith picking him as a golf partner in a charity match, Quincy said it was kind of like Hitler choosing Mussolini as an ally.
Honors, accolades, and awards were abundant for Quincy. Five times he was named National Sportswriter of the Year for North Carolina. He was inducted into the N.C. Boxing Hall of Fame for his work with Golden Gloves. In 1980, he was chosen Sportsman of the Year by the Charlotte Sportsman Club, which later renamed the honor the Bob Quincy Award after his death. In the last days of his life, his friend, Dean Smith, came by his home to present him with the Precious Gem Award from UNC. In 2005, he was posthumously inducted into the UNC School of Journalism Hall of Fame.
Quincy authored two books. Choo Choo chronicled the life and talents of football great Charlie Justice – the two had been friends since their college days together in Chapel Hill. The other title, They Made the Bell Tower Chime, was a composite of sketches about UNC athletes. After his death, the Bob Quincy Scholarship was created in the UNC School of Journalism.
In 1984, Quincy lost a two-year long battle with cancer. He showed the same dignity in his last days as he had throughout his life, always being considerate of those around him. He is remembered as one of North Carolina’s greatest sports writers and a gentleman to all who knew him. Bob was survived by his wife, Kathleen, and six children.
In 1997, there were 140 million women in America. But out of that enormous number, the United States Tennis Association had to pick one who had done the most to further the sportsmanship, fellowship and service of tennis that year. Its choice: Winston-Salem’s very own Mildred Southern.
In accepting that USTA Service Bowl Award, the highest honor bestowed by tennis’s governing body, Southern saw her name added to a list that includes Billie Jean King, Chris Evert, Zina Garrison, Maureen Connolly, Pam Shriver and Mary Jo Fernandez.
But unlike those iconic players, Southern didn’t first pick up a tennis racket until she was 18, never took lessons, and never played in a tournament until she was in her 40s. Her childhood, rather, had been spent learning about hard work in the strawberry and tobacco fields of eastern North Carolina. But once she began playing competitive tennis, she made up for lost time in a hurry. Over the next five decades, she won 60 state senior titles, 42 southern senior titles and 16 national senior titles. She won state championships for 20 consecutive years and southern championships for 16 consecutive years. She also captured 16 national titles, the first of which – the National Women’s 75 Grass Court Championship – came in 1996.
Her success on the court was based less on natural athleticism and more on hard work, consistency, smart tactics, and her lifelong commitment to staying in shape. Still, Southern’s victories paled in comparison to the difference she made in expanding and promoting tennis all around the nation. For more than 40 years, she dedicated her life to bringing the joy of tennis to as many people as possible, and no championship gave her the satisfaction that she got from teaching another child to play. In her own words, “The greatest thrill of all is to see that expression on a child’s face when he hits the ball over the net for the first time.”
It was that joy and passion that motivated Southern to create the Young Folks Tennis program in Winston-Salem in the 1960s. Now bringing a love of tennis to its third generation of children, this program has been copied all over the United States. It was designed to take tennis out of the country clubs and spread it into every segment of the community, and at no cost to the children. At its peak, Young Folks Tennis was creating more than a thousand new tennis players a year in Winston-Salem.
The city’s emergence as a tennis Mecca began in 1961 when her husband, Harold, and his friends brought the Southern Championships there. Shortly thereafter, Mildred herself became the leader of Winston-Salem tennis, and as a result of the culture of tennis volunteerism that she gave birth to, Winston-Salem has, for decades, hosted North Carolina’s premier junior tournament, the Tar Heel Qualifier, along with the National Boys’ 12’s Clay Court Championships. For the past three years, the Winston-Salem Open, a professional event, has been played on the Wake Forest campus. And, since 2001, the city has hosted three Davis Cup ties.
Southern served as a tennis association president on the local level, the state level, and the regional level, and most believe could have taken a turn as president of the USTA had she wanted the post. She was instrumental in creating both the N.C. Tennis Hall of Fame and the N.C. Tennis Foundation.
But her greatest legacy as a tennis visionary may have been her creation of the “Tennis Weekend” concept. In the early 1970s, she was given the task of arranging the annual meeting of the N.C. Tennis Association. Previously, these meetings had lasted two or three hours on a Sunday afternoon and had drawn a group of maybe 50 people. But she organized a full weekend of instructional seminars, tournaments, a banquet, and award presentations, in addition to the routine committee meetings that had previously been entire agenda. Southern’s vision of what a “Tennis Weekend” could be now draws hundreds each year, primarily has been responsible for the explosion of tennis into every corner of the state, and has been copied nationwide.
Southern won nearly everything in tennis that could be won, and she did nearly everything that could be done. But it was her ability to see what a child, an organization, or an event could be, coupled with an ability to turn that vision into reality, that made her such a gift to North Carolina and beyond.
Kelvin Bryant, affectionately referred to as “The Reluctant Superstar,” is as well known for his humble personality and demeanor as he is for his natural athletic ability, particularly where it was displayed so admirably as a running back on the football field.
A native and again now a resident of Tarboro, Bryant excelled in football, track, basketball and baseball while growing up in the eastern North Carolina community. His love of sports was nurtured by an amazing family: a wonderful mother (the late Doris Bryant) whom he adored; a spirited father (the late Mick Bryant) who was his first coach and number one agent; and a team of brothers and sisters to practice with and cheer him on (Shirley Ann, Faye, Peaches, Mick, Earl, Ronald, Donald, Wayne, Curtis and Hop). In addition, he benefited from a supportive community in Edgecombe County as a whole that helped him in so many ways.
Bryant was heavily recruited to play college football at a number of schools while displaying his formidable skills at Tarboro High School. Ultimately, however, it was the University of North Carolina that had the good fortune to add Bryant to its roster. During his four years in Chapel Hill (1979-82), he ran around, through and sometimes over the top defenders in college football in an explosive and memorable manner.
He compiled three 1,000 yard rushing seasons – and was a three-time first-team all-ACC tailback – and remains in the Tar Heel record books for a number of accomplishments. Among many memorable performances was one that remains most enduring to North Carolina fans. Against East Carolina on a fall Saturday afternoon in 1982, he gave a signature performance in scoring six touchdowns. But it was his impromptu gesture after the fifth touchdown that’s indelible in the minds of many: he handed the ball to former teammate Steve Streater, who had been paralyzed in an automobile accident and was watching the game from his wheelchair in front of the old field house at Kenan Stadium.
After completing his outstanding career as a Tar Heel, Bryant signed with the Philadelphia Stars of the fledging United States Football League. There, he continued to shine. The league would fold three years later, but in all three of those seasons Bryant led the Stars (for two years in Philadelphia and one year in Baltimore) to title game appearances. Twice they were the USFL champions and Bryant was one of their stars, earning league Most Valuable Players honors as a rookie and being named MVP of the championship team in the third year. In USFL history, only Herschel Walker rushed for more yards than Bryant, who finished with 3,053 yards.
In 1986, he joined the Washington Redskins – it fulfilled a boyhood dream as he had grown up a fan of the team – and had the privilege of being coached by Joe Gibbs. Of Bryant, Gibbs said this: “He’s the best I’ve ever seen at coming out of the backfield.” With Bryant as a key contributor, the Redskins won Super Bowl XXII. Unfortunately, a slew of injuries curtailed his playing time with Washington, and he retired in 1990.
To this day, he is still beloved by so many within the schools and teams where he played. Some of his honors include having his jersey recognized in Kenan Stadium, being selected one of the “Top 50 ACC Football Players of All Time) in 1992, being named as a Tar Heel legend in conjunction with the annual ACC Football Championship Game, and being inducted into the Twin County Hall of Fame.
Rich McGeorge was born in Roanoke, Virginia, the son of the late Mr. and Mrs. Aubrey McGeorge. During his high school years, he was not excited about playing football, partly because he did not like the feel of the helmet on his head. After seeing his older brother playing the sport, he took a liking to the pigskin – and the rest is history.
His last year in football at Jefferson High School was outstanding, and he was noticed by both the University of Miami and Virginia Tech. After visiting Hurricane country in South Florida, he then took a road trip to Blacksburg. His heart was really set on playing basketball for the Hokies; however, he wanted to wait until basketball season was over to make a football decision. The Hokie coaches decided to no longer continue the recruiting efforts.
His high school coach, Hank Hamrick, was an Elon College (now Elon University) graduate who had been an outstanding basketball and baseball player and, thus not surprisingly, was a member of the Elon Sports Hall of Fame. McGeorge travelled to Elon for basketball and football tryouts, and he impressed on both fronts. With the assistance of coaches Bill Miller and Alan White, McGeorge was awarded partial scholarships in both sports, and he later would be elevated to a full scholarship. After four years at Elon, he would be remembered as a legend in football and as an excellent basketball player.
During that four-year period ending in 1970, McGeorge rewrote Elon’s record book as a receiver, ending his career as the school’s career record-holder with 224 catches for 3,486 yards and 31 touchdowns. His 224 career receptions broke the former NAIA national record of 183. McGeorge tied the single-season school record for most points scored (88) and set a record for most touchdowns scored with 13. Twice named his conference’s Most Valuable Player, he set single-season marks of 65 grabs and 1,081 yards, and single-game records of 15 catches, 285 receiving yards and four touchdowns. He was a two-time first-team All-America selection.
Said Elon head coach Red Wilson of McGeorge: “In addition to his being an outstanding receiver, he was the best blocker on the team. His uncanny ability to come down with the pass, regardless of how many defenders are around him, is amazing. He is truly an All-American player and the greatest end I have ever coached.”
McGeorge’s star also shone in basketball. He was Elon’s leading scorer and rebounder as a sophomore, and he scored 1,044 career points and amassed 688 rebounds – averages of 13.7 and 9.1, respectively. He made 58.9 of his field-goal attempts, a record that stood for 42 years.
As both a junior and senior, he received the prestigious Basnight Outstanding Athlete Award Winner. The pass-snagging McGeorge also was the MVP in the Carolinas Conference twice while setting school, conference, district and NAIA national records during his four-year career. He was later selected to play in the North-South All-Star football game in Miami.
McGeorge was chosen with the 16th pick in the first round of the 1970 NFL draft by the Green Bay Packers. He enjoyed a nine-year career, earning the team’s Offensive Player of the Year honors in 1973. In 114 career games, his total receiving yardage stood at 2,370, and he averaged 13.5 yards per catch. Considered both a premier receiver and blocker, McGeorge pulled in more passes (175) than any other tight end in Green Bay’s annals. At the end of his career, only six players in the storied franchise’s 60-year history had caught more passes than the sure-handed McGeorge.
After retiring from the Packers, McGeorge pursued a coaching career, mainly as an assistant. He held stints at Duke under Red Wilson – one of his coaches at Elon – and Steve Spurrier, at Florida under Spurrier, with the Miami Dolphins under Don Shula and Jimmie Johnson, and then later again at Duke under Carl Franks. He also later served under coaches Rod Broadway and Darrell Asberry at North Carolina Central and Shaw, respectively.
McGeorge was inducted into the Elon Sports Hall of Fame in 1979, and the school has retired his number 85 football jersey. He also was inducted into the NAIA Sports Hall of Fame in 1980 and the College Football Hall of Fame in 2012.
Bill Guthridge’s final game as head basketball coach of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was in the 2000 national semifinals, capping a remarkable career in which he played or coached in 14 Final Fours, more than anyone in NCAA men’s basketball history.
The Parsons, Kansas, native also led UNC to the Final Four in 1998 in his first season as head coach, was part of 10 Final Fours as a Tar Heel assistant, and one each as a player and assistant coach at his alma mater, Kansas State.
Guthridge was Dean Smith’s assistant for 30 years. He came to UNC in 1967 after five years as Tex Winter’s assistant in Manhattan. In 33 seasons, the Tar Heels won two NCAA championships (1982 and 1993), played in 12 Final Fours, won 13 ACC Tournaments and played in the ACC championship game 22 times. The Tar Heels appeared in 29 NCAA Tournaments, winning 71 games, and won the 1971 NIT.
He was on the sidelines as a head or assistant coach for 960 victories, including 867 at North Carolina and 93 at Kansas State.
Guthridge went 80-28 in three seasons as the Tar Heels’ head coach. He won more games than any college coach after one and two seasons and tied the NCAA record for most victories after three years.
The National Association of Basketball Coaches, CBS, Sporting News and Atlanta Tipoff Club named him the National Coach of the Year in 1997-98. That year, UNC won 34 games, ACC Tournament and NCAA East Regional titles and he was also named ACC Coach of the Year.
“Bill did a marvelous job, but it was not a surprise to me or anyone who knows college basketball,” said Dean Smith. “He never did receive enough credit, although he didn’t ask for it, for all his years as Tex Winters’ assistant and my assistant. Bill’s basketball savvy, ability to remain composed and his genuine affection for his players are just some of the reasons for his success as a head coach.”
He coached NCAA Player of the Year Antawn Jamison and NBA Rookie of the Year Vince Carter among five National Players of the Year, six ACC Players of the Year, 28 first-team All-ACC players and 66 players selected in the NBA and/or ABA Drafts.
He was the Tar Heels’ shooting coach and was noted for his practice tutelage of the UNC big men. Some of his top post players included Rusty Clark, Bob McAdoo, Mitch Kupchak, Sam Perkins, Brad Daugherty, Joe Wolf, Scott Williams, J.R. Reid, Pete Chilcutt, Eric Montross, Rasheed Wallace, Jamison and Brendan Haywood. He also coached other UNC standouts such as Charles Scott, George Karl, Bobby Jones, Walter Davis, Phil Ford, Mike O’Koren, Al Wood, James Worthy, Michael Jordan, Matt Doherty, Kenny Smith, Jeff Lebo, George Lynch, Donald Williams, Jerry Stackhouse, Ed Cota and Jason Capel.
For many years Guthridge was part of a UNC coaching staff that included Smith, Roy Williams and Eddie Fogler. As head coach, he was assisted by Ford, Dave Hanners and Pat Sullivan.
“He’s been great to play for and has been a great leader,” Jamison said after leading UNC to the 1998 Final Four. Two years later, the Tar Heels were the eighth seed in the South Regional, but Guthridge led the team to an upset win over top-seeded and third-ranked Stanford to reach the Sweet 16. Two wins later, the Tar Heels were back in the Final Four.
Guthridge and Georgetown’s John Thompson were assistants under Dean Smith in 1976 when the United States won the Olympic gold medal in Montreal.
He and his wife, Leesie, have two sons, James and Stuart, and a daughter, Megan.
In 1993, he and Leesie created the William W. and Elise P. Guthridge Library Fund, which enabled the House Undergraduate Library to purchase much-needed humanities materials. They also helped fund the Undergraduate Library renovation campaign in 1998. A multi-media classroom on the library’s upper floor is named in recognition of their support.
In 1998, the Bill Guthridge Distinguished Professorship in Mathematics was established at Carolina. He majored in math at Kansas State.
Guthridge, who played scholastically for Harold Johnson, was inducted in the Kansas Basketball Hall of Fame in 1994 and the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame in 2005. He is also the recipient of a Distinguished Service Medal from the UNC General Alumni Association.
In 2007, the Carolina Locker Room was dedicated by the basketball lettermen in his honor. He died in May 2015.
Those who talk about his Page Pirate high school football teams talk about magic. They use words like mythical and historic, legend and mystique. They talk this way because his teams won. They won a lot – often in storybook ways. Opponents expected a field full of Goliaths and found Davids instead … smallish teams, underwhelming in shoulder pads and helmets, overwhelming in heart and discipline, in tactics and tenacity. The truth is, Marion Kirby preferred them this way. He knew what to do with little guys with big hearts.
Kirby’s career in athletics began behind his boyhood home in Hickory, in a yard outfitted with a hand-me-down bat, a scuffed baseball, and a heroic imagination. And for years thereafter it was a career bounded by a few miles – one you could follow on foot – first on nearby sandlots, then on the football fields of Hickory Junior High, and then Hickory High School, where he played for N.C. Sports Hall of Fame coach Frank Barger (and where Kirby was all-conference, all-state, and a participant in the 1960 East-West All-Star Game). College came next and hometown Lenoir-Rhyne was the lucky recipient of his talents. He was named Freshman of the Year, was a four-year letterman, and a member of a national title-winning team.
While at Lenoir-Rhyne, Kirby was a member of the Bears’ squad coached by the legendary Clarence Stasavitch, known to one and all as “Coach Stas.” To Kirby he was also known as next-door neighbor and, for the rest of his life, revered mentor.
The final moments of his freshman season were heroic imagination brought to life: Kirby kicked the winning field goal to cap off an 11-0-1 season and secure the NAIA national championship, putting the wraps on what history remembers as “the most outstanding campaign of any Lenoir-Rhyne athletic squad” ever. Ask him about the moment and he gives you this: “I was afraid if I didn’t make that field goal I might not have a ride on the plane home,” he says with a wink. “I was the guy who had missed the two extra points that put us behind in the first place.”
Having completed a sterling collegiate career, Kirby moved east in 1964, following Coach Stas to East Carolina University where he spent a year as a graduate assistant coach before setting off for Edenton and John A. Holmes High School. After only one year as assistant coach for the Edenton Aces, he spent six as head coach, leading the team to a record of 59-14-3, three conference championships, and two eastern 2-A championships during his seven-year tenure.
In 1973, Kirby departed for the plum assignment of head coach at Greensboro’s Walter Hines Page High School. There, aided ably by Frank Starling, Ken Page, and Jim Collins, assistants on one of the most stable and talented coaching staffs in North Carolina history, Kirby steadily built a dynasty in red jerseys and silver helmets. Early seasons of mixed results in the 1970s gave way to dominating, mythic seasons in the 1980s, when Kirby’s teams won the state’s 4-A title in 1980, ’83, ’84, and ’85, and were runners-up in 1982. During that time they strung together 46 consecutive games without a loss and 50 straight regular-season victories – both state records.
Kirby resigned from Page after 23 years on its sidelines with a record of 219-51-5, 13 conference championships, and four state championships. At the time, he was the second winningest high school football coach in North Carolina history.
But he wasn’t done. In 1996, Kirby was tapped to establish, from scratch, a football program at Greensboro College. In six short years, he built a competitive Division 3 program from the ground up, ending his career on the field with back-to-back seasons of 5-5.
In 2002, Kirby made his final professional move to Guilford College, where he served as athletics director for five years, overseeing the improvement and expansion of the athletic programs and facilities there. He retired in 2007.
Tommy Helms had his baseball baptism in the tiny community of Leaksville (now Eden), where he served as the batboy for his father’s team in a mill league. “We had four major league players come out of there in the years after World War II,” he recalls. “Whitey Lockman, Ken Wood, Pete Whiseant and me. Must have been something in the water.”
By the time he reached high school, Helms was excelling in baseball and basketball at West Mecklenburg High School near Charlotte, where he received all-city honors in both sports. It was his performance on the diamond as a shortstop that earned him a professional contract.
“I was scouted by the Cubs, Indians, Senators and the Reds, and signed with Cincinnati,” Helms says. “They sent me to Palatka, Florida, Class D ball, the lowest rung on the minor league ladder. That’s where they started everybody back then.” Helms, who had just turned 18, needed the seasoning. He played for Palatka for two seasons and then began moving up the rungs of the minor leagues. In 1962, he was in Class A ball, on the Macon, Georgia, farm club; his double-play partner at second base was Pete Rose.
A year later Rose was in the big leagues, winning Rookie of the Year honors for Cincinnati, and a year after that, on September 23, 1964, Tommy Helms made his major league debut. Two years later, Helms, now targeted for second base, became a starter. But that meant moving Rose to a different position. “They moved Pete off second and put him at third to start the season,” Helms says. “But Pete didn’t like third and after about two weeks, we switched positions. It was unusual. I’d come up as a shortstop, then they moved me to second and now I was playing third. I’d never played third base.”
But Helms made it look easy, so easy in fact he was named the National League’s Rookie of the Year in 1966. He followed up that honor by being selected to the 1967 National League all-star team, and he was named the starting second baseman for the following year’s mid-summer classic.
He joined several of his teammates on those all-star teams. The Reds had a talented group of youngsters reaching the big leagues in the mid-1960s: Rose, Tony Perez, Lee May, Gary Nolan, and a young catcher out of Oklahoma by the name of Johnny Bench. By the late 1960s, the Reds lineup was leading the league in offense and it had been dubbed “The Big Red Machine.”
The Reds were also one of the best defensive teams in baseball, and Helms, by this time back at second base (with Rose at third), led the way in the infield. He won Gold Gloves in 1970 and 1971, when the competition included players such as future Hall of Famers Bill Mazeroski and Joe Morgan (then with the Houston Astros). His 1971 performance included turning 130 double plays, which remains a Cincinnati club record for most double plays in one season by a second baseman.
Despite winning the National League pennant in 1970, the Reds decided, after a lackluster 1971 season, to shake up their lineup by adding more speed. Although he had just won his second Gold Glove and hit .258, the Reds included Helms in a blockbuster trade with Houston that involved eight players. Cincinnati acquired Morgan and four other players, but gave up the popular Helms and slugging first baseman Lee May.
Helms was the Astros’ starting second baseman for the next three years. He retired in 1977 with a career batting average of .269. Never considered a home run hitter, he still managed to hit homers off Hall of Famers Jim Bunning, Phil Niekro, Steve Carlton and Ferguson Jenkins. Helms also hit the first home run by a Red at Riverfront Stadium; it came in the second game at the new ballpark on July 1, 1970.
A few years after his retirement Helms was back in baseball, coaching for manager Don Zimmer on the staff of the Texas Rangers. His old team, the Reds, invited him to join their coaching staff in 1983, where he served as infield instructor and first base coach for seven years.
Baseball talent continues to run in the family. Tommy’s two sons, Ryan and Tommy Jr., both signed professional contracts and appeared in the minor leagues in the early 1990s.
Around the golfing community, Raleigh’s Paul Simson is recognized by two prominent trademarks — his straw fedora and championship trophies. With a sharp short game and competitive fire, the 58-year old insurance executive has won about 200 titles. They include 20 Carolinas Golf Association crowns, two North-South amateurs, three North-South Senior Amateurs and two British Senior Amateurs. No wonder folks call “Champ.” His success in the North-South placed him on the Wall of Fame in Pinehurst, along with famous names like Jack Nicklaus, Curtis Strange and Davis Love III. Simson, an All-America one season at New Mexico, competed on the professional mini tour for a short stint after college. He regained amateur status in 1978, but still plays like a pro. [more…]
Dr. Jerry McGee is a native of Rockingham and spent his youth in the textile village of Roberdell. He was an outstanding baseball player, but his major contributions to sports have been as a university president and one of the nation’s most respected college football officials. [more…]
Wilt Browning of Kernersville was long considered one of the southeast’s premier sports writers and columnists. [more…]
Sam Esposito came to N.C. State in the fall of 1966 and ushered in the modern era of Wolfpack baseball. [more…]
Wray Carlton played his last football game in 1968 [more…]
Henry “Blacky” Trevathan is an inspirational and highly disciplined leader whose legacy as a legendary football coach cements a remarkable influence on the game and the players he coached. [more…]
Rosenbluth averaged 27.9 points and 8.6 rebounds per game during the regular season and the Helms Hall of Fame named him Collegiate Player of the Year over Chamberlain [more…]
A native of Wallace who excelled as a multi-sport star at Wallace-Rose Hill High School, M.L. Carr was one of the greatest basketball players in Guilford College history [more…]
Larry Lindsey retired from coaching in 1992, but his accomplishments haven’t dimmed with the passage of time.
In 28 seasons as a high school coach, his teams won eight state championships in three different classifications — 1A, 2A, and 3A. He won the first two at Youngsville and the last six at Wake Forest-Rolesville, where the gymnasium bears his name.
His resume also includes about 20 conference titles, 20 Coach-of-the-Year awards, a 609-156 overall record and induction into three Halls of Fame.
A standout player at Youngsville High and Pembroke State University, Lindsey often took small teams and turned them into giant-killing champions. Aggressive man-to-man defense and disruptive zone presses were staples of his program.
As a professional water skier for more than 20 years and the world-record holder in women’s slalom for 18 years, Kristi Overton Johnson has taken to the waters of the world with passion, perseverance and a desire to impact the world of water skiing. [more…]