The North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame inducted its 50th class during a gala reception and banquet on May 2 at the Raleigh Convention Center. The 11 newest members of the Hall — bringing the number of honorees to 300 — are Kelvin Bryant, Ron Francis, Wade Garrett, Bill Guthridge, Tommy Helms, Marion Kirby, Rich McGeorge, Hugh Morton (deceased), Bob Quincy (deceased), Marty Sheets and Mildred Southern.
“The achievements of this year’s class of inductees enrich our state’s remarkable sports heritage, and they certainly earned the honor of joining the 289 men and women who were previously enshrined,” said Dr. Janie Brown, president of the Hall.”
The formal induction ceremony, emceed by legendary Hall of Fame voices Woody Durham and Bob Harris, capped two days of festivities. The previous night, a reception at the N.C. Museum of History (home to the Hall’s museum as well) recognized the 2013 class. Also honored were the latest two recipients of the Hall’s “Great Moments in N.C. Sports History” series: N.C. State’s hiring of Everett Case as its men’s basketball coach in 1946 — a move that put in motion the great college basketball for which our state is known — and the 1974 ACC Tournament final between the Wolfpack and Maryland. That game, won by N.C. State in overtime, 103-100, is widely regarded as the greatest game in league history.
Lastly, the Hall also was on the receiving end of an award. The Naismith Legacy Award, named in honor of Dr. James A. Naismith — basketball’s founding father — was presented to the Hall in recognition of its efforts to further the game’s values of honor, respect and integrity.
Here’s a brief biography of each of the 2013 inductees:
Kelvin Bryant, a Tarboro native, was one of the most explosive running backs in UNC-Chapel Hill football history, even though he was plagued with injuries throughout his four-year college career. Yet, during his career, Bryant averaged 5.5 yards per carry. He finished with one carry short of 600 and was at the top of his collegiate game in his sophomore and junior years. As a sophomore, he split time with Amos Lawrence at tailback, giving the Tar Heels one of the most dynamic duos at the position in ACC history. For his part, Bryant ran for 1,039 yards, including an 81-yard run against Virginia and a 199-yard game against Duke. Then he exploded onto the national spotlight as a junior, getting 211 yards on 19 carries in the season opener against East Carolina, a game in which he scored an ACC-record six touchdowns. He had five more touchdowns a week later against Miami of Ohio and four in the third game against Boston College. He didn’t play in the fourth quarter in any of those games. He finished the season by averaging 6.7 yards per carry and became the school’s third all-time rusher and scorer. As a pro, he was named United States Football League Player of the Year in 1983 and MVP in the championship game. He also played for the Washington Redskins, where his coach, Joe Gibbs, once said, “When he’s healthy, he’s the best I’ve ever seen at coming out of the backfield.”
Ron Francis retired from hockey on Sept. 14, 2005, following a career in which he established himself as the greatest player in Carolina Hurricanes franchise history. Ron scored 549 goals and earned 1,249 assists (1,798) over 23 NHL seasons with Hartford, Pittsburgh, Carolina and Toronto, and ranks fourth in NHL history in points, behind only Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier and Gordie Howe. He played in four NHL All-Star games, won the Lady Byng Trophy three times (1995, 1998, 2002), the Selke Trophy once (1995) and the King Clancy Trophy once (2002). Francis won the Stanley Cup twice with Pittsburgh (1991, 1992), but spent 16 of his 23 NHL seasons with the Hartford/Carolina franchise, establishing team records in games played (1,186), goals (382), assists (793) and points (1,175). The Hurricanes officially retired Francis’ No. 10 jersey on Jan. 28, 2006, and on Nov. 12, 2007, he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Following his retirement, Francis joined the Hurricanes front office, where he currently serves as vice president of hockey operations.
Wade Garrett, a Guilford County native, was the premier fast-pitch softball pitcher in an era when men’s softball was enjoying its greatest popularity in North Carolina. Garrett pitched for 20 years for Champion Paper of Canton and recorded 358 victories (among them an astonishing 40 no-hitters) and had only 83 losses. In one streak of just over 78 innings, he was unscored upon. He was a member of the all-state or all-South team 15 times, was all-region 10 times, appeared in 10 world tournaments and was also chosen all-world. He is a member of the N.C. Softball Hall of Fame. He also played in the 1951 East -West All-Star Basketball Game. Wade currently resides in Guilford County.
The ultimate assistant coach, Bill Guthridge was Dean Smith’s first lieutenant for 30 years and succeeded Smith as the head coach of the Tar Heels. In Guthridge’s three seasons at the helm, the Tar Heels had records of 34-4, 24-10 and 22-14 for a cumulative 90-28 mark. He was named National Coach of the Year in 1998 after leading UNC-Chapel Hill into the Final Four. As an assistant to Smith, Guthridge declined repeated opportunities to leave the side of his old friend to head up programs on his own. At Carolina, he was famous for his ability to teach the fundamentals of pivot play to the big men in the program, and he was the team’s shooting coach.
A Charlotte native, Tommy Helms was an integral part of Cincinnati’s “Big Red Machine” of the 1960s and 1970s, manning the second-base position on a team that included Pete Rose, Johnny Bench and Tony Perez. Helms was the National League Rookie of the Year in 1966 and was a member of the NL All-Star team in 1967 and 1968. As one of the most reliable infielders in the senior circuit, Helms won Gold Gloves in 1970 and 1971. Though he is remembered as a player for the Reds, he also saw time with Houston, Pittsburgh and Boston . He had a career batting average of .269 and wound up managing the Reds in parts of two seasons as the successor to Rose.
A 1964 graduate of Lenoir-Rhyne College (now Lenoir-Rhyne University), where he played on a national championship football team, Marion Kirby established himself as one of North Carolina’s top high school coaches. After a year as a graduate assistant at East Carolina, he became the head football coach in Edenton High School, where he posted a mark of 59-14-3 and won three conference titles. Kirby then moved to Page High School in Greensboro and established the Pirates as a state powerhouse for more than 20 years. His Page teams went to the playoffs 16 times and won 12 league titles. They won state 4-A championships in 1980, 1983, 1984 and 1985 and were runners-up in 1982. In all, 25 of his teams won at least seven games, and Kirby’s career record stands at 278-65-8. He was selected to build Greensboro College’s football program from scratch, and he later became athletics director at Guilford College. He is a member of the Lenoir-Rhyne Sports Hall of Fame, and he served for many years as secretary-treasurer of the N.C. Coaches Association.
Rich McGeorge, a 1971 graduate of Elon College (now Elon University), was a first-round draft choice of the Green Bay Packers and when on to star for the team as a tight end for nine seasons. He caught 175 passes in his pro career, most of them from legendary Bart Starr, for 2,370 yards. He played both football and basketball at Elon, and at one time he held the national NAIA record for catches, 224, and total yards, 3,486. He held most of Elon’s other passing-catching records and won numerous all-conference, all-district and All-American awards. He also led the Elon basketball team in scoring in 1969 with an average of 16.8, and he was an all-conference selection for the 22-8 Christians his senior season. When he graduated, McGeorge held Elon’s career field goal percentage record at 59.8 percent and was the team’s leading rebounder with 688 boards. He was part of a team that made 51 consecutive free throws in a district playoff game against North Carolina A&T State. He served as an assistant football coach at both Duke and Florida prior to spending seven years on Don Shula’s staff with the Miami Dolphins. He is a member of the Elon Sports Hall of Fame, the NAIA Football Hall of Fame and the College Football Hall of Fame.
The late Hugh Morton was a many-faceted man who turned Grandfather Mountain into one of the state’s treasures. As a fierce defender of nature, he was one of North Carolina’s most staunch conservationists. Morton was also a world-class photographer, which placed him squarely into the state’s sports realm. His vast collection of photographs includes perhaps one of the most extensive sports collections in the nation, and it documents the men and women who have close ties to both the ACC and the Southern Conference. Morton served as a board member and past president of the N.C. Sports Hall of Fame.
Also a member of the N.C. Journalism Hall of Fame, Bob Quincy was a five-time Sports Writer of the Year in North Carolina. Before his career truly began, he took time out from his studies at UNC-Chapel Hill to fly 30 combat missions over Europe in a B-17 bomber during World War II. He began his newspaper career at the Rocky Mount Telegram and later became sports editor of the Charlotte News. He spent time as sports information director at UNC-Chapel Hill from 1962 until 1966, before returning to Charlotte to work in radio and television. Quincy, who authored two books, was hired as sports columnist for the Charlotte Observer in 1971 and remained on that staff until his death in 1984. The Bob Quincy Memorial Scholarship is offered by his alma mater’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication.
Marty Sheets is one of the most highly decorated special athletes in the world. He holds 250 Special Olympic medals in an array of sports at local, state, national and world levels. Sheets has won gold, silver or bronze medals in swimming, skiing, tennis and power lifting at the world competition level, and golf at the 2007 national level. He and the late singer John Denver were chosen to lead the United States delegation into the World Games opening ceremonies in 1987. Sheets was featured on ABC’s “Wide World of Sports” in 1991, and he began a 15-year run on the golf committee of Special Olympics in 1993. Sheets was chosen to sit with President Clinton at the opening of the 1995 World Games, and in 2007 he was selected by Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver to join her and four other athletes in a Special Olympics portrait featured in the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.
Mildred Southern is the matriarch of tennis in the South, particularly in North Carolina. The Winston-Salem native has served North Carolina and Southern tennis as well as the United States Tennis Association in a range of capacities, from association president to referee, to ranking committees and as a competitor who has been at the top of her game in various age groups for years. Southern has won a variety of national, regional and state championships and was nationally ranked almost continuously from 1983 through 1997. She has been presented more than a dozen national, regional and state honors. Southern won state titles in 1971 and 1973 and won state championships every year from 1975 through 1997. She owns 16 national titles and is arguably North Carolina’s all-time most decorated tennis champion and volunteer. The top award for teams competing in southern tennis is the Mildred F. Southern Cup, and the building that houses the N.C. Tennis Association in Greensboro is named for Southern and her husband.