1st hall of fame class induction event (updated)

By THOMAS P. WEAVER

HORIZON Editor

CELINA-The inaugural class of the newly formed Clay County Sports Hall of Fame (CCSHOF), their families, representatives, and several supporters were treated to what was described as a “day of days” by induction ceremony speaker Don Napier here over the weekend.

“It is my honor to welcome you to this ‘day of days’ as we induct these people into this inaugural class,” Napier, the master of ceremonies for the event, said in his opening remarks to the two dozen inductees and hundreds of others gathered.  “By recognizing these all-time greats, their names will be remembered by generations to come as a result of their induction today.”

His description of the afternoon-long event was appropriate, because the honorees and others in attendance first enjoyed a reception where stories of yesteryear were exchanged and acquaintances were renewed, then were treated to a meal, and later were inducted into the hall in recognition of their contributions to the county’s sports history.  They were also recognized during a basketball game later that night. Read more of this story

Photos courtesy of Doug Strong.

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“It was great,” hall founder and 2011 inductee Bobby Westmoreland said Monday.  “What a great time we all had and to be in the same room with all those people was an honor.

“We never imagined that many would have showed up, but we’re glad they did.”

Napier, along with the other members of the CCSHOF committee, was a major contributor to the success of the induction ceremony and he also thought the event went well.

“I don’t think it could have come off any better,” he said. “We inducted 24 outstanding people into the hall of fame and had 100% participation. Every single inductee was represented at the ceremony. I think that in itself illustrates how special the day’s activities were.”

Westmoreland said over 200 tickets to the event were sold and the Clay County High School (CCHS) cafeteria was filled as a result Saturday evening.  Those in attendance heard from not only the inductees as they accepted their honors, but also from current administrators of Clay County schools.

Hermitage Springs principal Cherry Denton and CCHS principal John Denton addressed the crowd sharing their personal memories of the inductees and stories of local sports lore.  Director of schools Donnie Cherry also spoke, before he, Napier, and CCHS basketball coach and committee member Rob Edwards made the presentations.

His address included a precursor of what was to come from Napier as he called attention to the contributions of two of the inductees–coaches John Teeples and Joe Carver.

“These men are the two godfathers of sports in Clay County,” Cherry said.  “Coach Teeples is the John Wooden of Celina and Joe Carver was the same for Hermitage Springs.

“Everybody owes these two men a debt of gratitude for what they’ve done here.  They are both legends in their own rights.”

The accolades continued for the pair and others as the inductees addressed the crowd after accepting their honors, which included a plaque and certificate presented by Cherry and Edwards.

The inductees names will also be forever on display on permanent hall of fame plaques placed near the gyms of both CCHS and Hermitage Springs School.

Besides becoming CCSHOF members, the new inductees will also take on other responsibilities in the future.

“All new inductees now become voting members and will have an opportunity to nominate and vote on future classes,” Napier said.  “The executive committee will determine how many members there will be for the next class and that will be announced after the nominating period is over.”

The inaugural class was chosen by the CCSHOF committee assembled by Westmoreland.  Members included Westmoreland himself, Napier, Edwards, director Cherry, Teeples, Jeana Edwards, Kevin Donaldson, Charles Vaughn, Kelly Spivey, Mark Strong, Doug Strong, Jason Hamilton, Clifton Boles, Connie Dillehay, Brian Burchette, Kevin Westmoreland, Bob Proffitt, Mike Barlow, and David Threet.

“If it wasn’t for Bobby (Westmoreland), who invited people to serve on the committee and pursued this, this day would have never happened,” Napier said.  “I applaud him for what he has done in getting this started.”

The names of the 2011 honorees, their main decade(s) of activity, and quotes from the honorees’ or their representatives’ acceptance speeches if given (not including the thanks offered to their families and supporters) are as follows:

Joey Coe (1980’s) – Celina High School basketball star, leading career scorer with 2,966 points. Was all-conference four years (MVP for three), all-region and all-midstate three seasons, all-state two years, Converse All-American as a senior, and played collegiately at Samford and Tennessee Tech. Was listed in the Street & Smith’s Top 100 Players (#67), and played in two state tournaments for the Bulldogs.

“I owe all of this to coach (Thomas) Watson, Jeff (Arms), and Tracy (Strong),” Coe said.  “That’s what was special about our team.

“If they put a box on me, then Tracy and Jeff would get their 30 (points).  If they didn’t, I would get mine… they couldn’t key on any one player.  This is a great honor.  Thank you.”

Russell Richardson (1980’s) – late CHS football player and coach. An outstanding fullback and linebacker in the 1960’s, he later guided his alma mater to eight straight conference titles and a trip to the post-season in nine seasons as head coach. The Bulldogs compiled a 75-29 record during his tenure, which was cut short due to a battle with cancer. The 1985 Bulldog team went 11-3, advancing to the final four teams in the state.

“I want to thank Bobby Westmoreland for getting this all started,” Joyce Strong, Richardson’s widow said.  “I proudly accept this honor on behalf of my late husband.  Thank you all.”

Charles Joseph Vaughn (1950’s) – All-star football player at CHS, who attended the University of Kentucky (under Bear Bryant) on a scholarship, and finished his collegiate career at Austin Peay. He later was a successful multi-sport coach at Tullahoma, Manchester, and York Institute, winning over 100 games in both basketball and football. His teams won several district championships and trips to the playoffs.

“I was lucky enough to play on the first team to beat Livingston,” Vaughn said describing his best memory of his time playing at Celina High.  “The best time of my life was when I was playing for Celina.  Thank you for this.”

Jeff Arms (1980’s) – CHS basketball standout, scored over 2,500 career points and never lost a district contest in four years. Was all-conference, all-district and all-region three straight years, and all-midstate and all-state as a senior, when he was nominated for the McDonald’s All-American team. Played collegiately one season at Tennessee Tech, making the All-OVC freshman team. Noted for his great dunking ability. Team was 137-12 in his four years (three state tourney trips).

Bobby Westmoreland (1950’s) – CHS multi-sport star, who later starred in football and lettered in track at Western Kentucky University. College career began at East Mississippi State Jr. College. He transferred to WKU, where he played on an undefeated team as a senior. Two-way starter at center and middle guard. Played in the Tangerine Bowl (now the Citrus Bowl), and was 2nd team All-OVC as a senior. Member of the Mississippi Football Hall of Fame.

“This has been a great day and I want to thank you all for this honor,” Westmoreland said.  “The food was great and it was good to see all of you guys, gals, and families come out in support of the inductees.  Thank you.”

Mable Brady Brown (1950’s) – CHS basketball star, who later played on two touring professional teams. She was all-district at CHS three years, and all-region once. Played a season with the famous All-American Red Heads against men’s teams (and men’s rules), touring the western United States and playing almost every night. Later played with the Hollywood Queens, which toured with the Harlem Globetrotters.

“It is an great honor to receive this award and to be inducted along with this class of outstanding athletes and coaches,” Brown said.  “Thank you.”

Thomas Watson (1970’s-80’s) – The winningest boys basketball coach in CHS history, guided three straight Bulldog teams to the state tournament in the 1980’s. Teams had a 447-143 record from 1973-91, including 11 district titles, five region championships, and five sub-state game appearances, winning three. He was named conference coach of the year nine times, and was twice named to coach in the Tennessee Athletic Coaches Association statewide all-star game.

“It is an honor to be recognized among this elite group,” Watson said.  “I was fortunate to coach five of this year’s inductees and what a joy it was.

“It’s not often that you get to do what you want to do, for as long as you want to, and enjoy everyday of it, but I did and I am thankful for it.  Thank you.”

Joe Sims (1990’s-2000’s) – Girls coach made the most state basketball tournament appearances at CHS in county history. Teams compiled a 384-200 record, including nine trips to the state tournament (13 sub-state games). Teams finished second in the state four times, and won seven district titles and six region championships. Was conference coach of the year five times, and won numerous other coaching awards. Was a Tennessee-Georgia all-star game coach in 2002.

“I owe a lot of my success to coach (John) Teeples and Thomas (Watson),” Sims said.  “I learned the ropes from them when I first started.

“The rest of the credit should go to my girls.  I was fortunate to have some great teams and players.  Thank you girls and thank you to the committee for this honor.”

Earl Davis (1950’s) – CHS football star from 1955-58, was a four-year starter. Before records were kept, established several rushing standards as a fullback. Played linebacker on defense and started every game of his career. The only Clay County athlete ever offered a scholarship at the University of Tennessee, he reported to practice on a four-year scholarship for the Vols, but his mother’s ill health forced him to return home shortly afterward.

Larry Clements (1970’s) – Hermitage Springs two-sport star, signed a basketball scholarship with Cumberland College. Finished high school basketball career as the leading scorer in school history (since surpassed). Made all-conference three years, and all-midstate and all-state as a senior. Second leading scorer in state as a senior (26.7 ppg). In final three high school seasons, led team to first regional berth in over 25 years, to its first 20-win season in history, and to only sub-state berth in history.

“I want to thank Don Napier for the support, coverage, and publicity he gave us in Hermitage Springs for one thing,” Clements said.  “and it is a great honor to be a part of this inaugural class and be mentioned alongside these great players and coaches.  Thank you.”

Billy Westmoreland (1950’s) – An all-midstate football star at CHS in the mid-1950’s, best remembered as one of the most widely-known professional bass fishermen of his time. He played some junior college football and later coached two sports in high school, but turned to fishing in the 1970’s. A member of the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame, he was a widely-published syndicated columnist and also hosted a very popular TV show for several years.

“It is my honor to accept this on behalf of my late uncle,” Westmoreland’s nephew Kenny Westmoreland said.  “Thank you.”

James Bartlett (1970’s) – CHS two-sport star, better known as “Too Tall,” played college football at University of Memphis (then Memphis State). Started in basketball and football all four years of high school. Recruited by several Division I football programs, he was signed by late Tennessee Tech coach Jim Ragland when he was at MSU. Eventually earned a starting berth at defensive tackle for the Tigers, but career was cut short by a knee injury.

Nola Catherine Pitcock Smith (1950’s) – A defensive girls’ basketball specialist for CHS, she also later played for the All-American Red Heads professional touring team. Her travels with the team took her not only across the country, but to her hometown of Celina for one game. She was a four-year starter at CHS, and her Red Heads uniform has been displayed at the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville.

“On behalf of my aunt, Nola Catherine, and the entire Pitcock family, I want to say thank you for honoring her in this way,” Smith’s niece Pricilla Brown Tinnon said.  “I know she would have been very pleased that people remember the contribution she made to sports at Celina High School.”

Bill Napier (1970’s) – An all-state football player at CHS. Played briefly at Tennessee Tech before injury ended his playing career, and also went on to a distinguished high school coaching career in Georgia. Coached 50 players who went on to play college football, including 13 quarterbacks, his high school position. Three sons played collegiately, and two have coached at the college level, including Billy, former offensive coordinator at Clemson.

“I attribute all of my success to my coaches,” Napier said before listing the names of his coaches, “because I feel like their example led me to coaching, and, in turn, probably led my sons to coaching.

“Thank you for this honor.”

Connie Mack Clements (1950’s) – Hermitage Springs basketball star, led the state in scoring in 1951 and earned a college scholarship. Averaged 24.5 points per game and racked 657 total points his senior season. Was offered a scholarship from Tennessee Tech, and later accepted one to David Lipscomb College. Known for his deadly one-handed, long-range jump shots in a time before three-pointers and a time when two-hand set shots were the norm.

“Thank you all for this,” Clements said.  “It is an honor.”

Larry Austin (1960’s) – CHS three-sport star, played college football at Tennessee Tech. An all-Upper Cumberland quarterback in high school (also starred in basketball and baseball), he walked on at TTU as a freshman and earned a scholarship.  Played special teams and linebacker his first two seasons and started at defensive end his final two seasons. A member of the Grantland Rice Bowl and OVC champ team in 1972. Once had eight quarterback sacks in an OVC game.

“I am truly humbled by this,” Austin said.  “This means as much to me as getting voted into a professional hall of fame would.

“The best four years of my life were playing here.  Thank you.”

Amanda Kendall Sharp (1990’s) – A four-year starter for the CHS basketball team, later played at Tennessee Tech. Named all-state as a junior and senior, was also named all-conference and all-Midstate multiple times, and played in the Tennessee-Georgia all-star game. Class A Miss Basketball finalist. Team played in four sub-state games and made three trips to the state tournament in high school. Signed a scholarship and played one season at Tennessee Tech.

“I want to thank the fans, because we always had the most loyal and best fans,” Sharp said.  “There was nothing like coming out onto the floor in front of our fans.  Thank you so much.”

Donnie Birdwell (1970’s) – Hermitage Springs basketball star, another member of the first Wildcat team to advance to region play in 27 years. Named to all-district and all-conference teams (and honorable mention all-Midstate and all-state), and averaged over 24 points per game in the 1977-78 season. Named district tourney MVP as a senior, scoring 32 points against Upperman to help team to region berth.

“This is a wonderful surprise for me,” Birdwell said.  “I never thought anything like this would happen.  Thank you.”

Connie Birdwell Arms (1960’s) – defensive specialist for the Hermitage Springs basketball team, playing the old “half-court” game. Member of Lady Wildcat team that won district championship in 1966, before classification.  Named all-district and honorable mention all-Midstate in 1965, and all-district and second-team all-Midstate as a senior in 1966. One of the best defensive players in school history, playing her entire career on that end of the floor.

“Thank you for this honor,” Arms said.

Tracy Strong (1980’s) – CHS two-sport star, played two sports for Cumberland University. Member of CHS basketball team that did not lose a district game in four years (137-12 overall, three state tourney trips). Scored over 2,200 points in high school, making all-Midstate and second-team all-state as a senior. Prolific high school pitcher and home run hitter as a four-year starter. Played both sports at Cumberland, scoring over 30 points in basketball multiple times.

“You don’t appreciate how much those days mean to you when you are playing,” Strong said, “but you look back and realize now.

“When we played we had some great athletes and not just in basketball.  Not many people know what a good baseball team we had and I want to thank coach Don Sherrells for caring about us back then.  He really went out of his way for us.

“It was great to play with Joey (Coe) and Jeff (Arms), but we had so many others that helped us get there that didn’t get the recognition.  Thomas (Watson)–we owe it all to him, and like many of you know, he was more than just a coach to me.  Thanks so much.”

Heritage members

John Teeples (1950’s-1960’s) – Head coach in every sport at CHS, with no assistants, from 1955-66, retiring from coaching in 1970. Football teams won five conference championships and went to five bowl games, and won three district girls basketball titles. Won district basketball titles for boys and girls in 1964. Coached 14 players who went on to become head coaches in various sports, including one college coach. Also served as elementary school principal.

“From 1950 to 1970 we had some of best athletes around,” Teeples said.  “I want to thank all of you athletes, because, according to these people, you made a pretty good coach out of me.  Good athletes make good coaches.

“I had a great, great ride and today you’ve made an old coach very happy.  Thank you.”

David Short (1950’s) – CHS basketball sharpshooter, perhaps best known for the single-game boys scoring record. He outscored the Livingston team by himself in a district tournament game, 50-49, and also scored 50 points in another game. Made all-Midstate and all-state teams in the pre-classification era, and averaged 28 points per game in 1953, leading the Midstate area and possibly the state. Received numerous college scholarship offers.

“Thank you for this, he would have been proud,” the late Short’s daughter Tonia said on his behalf.

Contributors

Joe Carver (1950’s-70’s) – Made mark not only as a successful Hermitage Springs coach in the 1950’s and ’60’s, but also later served as school principal. Won a district title with Lady Wildcat basketball team in the 1960’s, and also had successful teams at Union Hill and Mt. Vernon elementary schools. Continued to be heavily involved and support elementary and high school athletics as Hermitage Springs School principal from 1966-1980.

“This is very emotional for me,” the late Carver’s wife Blanche said.  “You have bestowed a great honor on my husband and he deserved it.  Thank you.”

Sam Harley Lynn (1950’s-1960’s) – CHS football trainer for 12 years, later a fixture in Tennessee Tech athletics. Traveled in work during the week, but was always on the sideline Friday nights with his “black box” of supplies. Later moved to Cookeville, and was always in the press box at Tech football games and kept the clock at basketball games. TTU men’s basketball gives award named for him annually to player making biggest contribution to the team.

“Sam would be very proud of this,” Lynn’s brother Joe said.  “I wish he could be here with his black box.

“Sam would never let anybody look in his black (trainer’s) box and it was always said that when he came running onto the court or field with it in his hand, the injured player would automatically jump up and miraculously be better because they didn’t want him to use anything out of that box on them.

“There was always a rumor about one remedy he used called the ‘atomic bomb,'” Lynn said getting several laughs from the crowd.  “No, Sam loved being a part of it all here and at Tech and he would be honored to be a part of this.  Thank you.”

For more about the CCSHOF, including when the nomination period for the next year’s class will begin, see a future edition of the HORIZON.