Initial class voted into Clay County Sports Hall of Fame

CELINA-Two dozen members will be inducted into the initial class of the Clay County Sports Hall of Fame (CCSHOF) sometime during next year’s high school basketball season.

CCSHOF officials last week announced the names of the 24 initial inductees, adding the first class was a fine start in honoring the players, coaches and others who have made a difference in the Clay County sports scene through the years.

The first class includes a cross-section of older and younger members, and includes not only players, but coaches, administrators and support people. Twenty “regular” members were voted in the first class, along with two “heritage” members and two “contributors.”

“Heritage” members are people whose careers were largely based at least 50 years ago, while “contributors” are administrators or people who were involved in some capacity besides coaching or playing. There will be a special effort made to include some “heritage” members each year, organizers said. Other members whose careers date back at least 50 years can also be voted in as regular members, as was the case this year.

Classes will be considerably smaller in the future, CCSHOF officials said, likely in the neighborhood of five members.

The induction ceremony and dinner will be held sometime during the early part of the high school basketball season–before a scheduled doubleheader, and the inductees will be honored during halftime of one of the games.

The honorees (and their main decade(s) of activity) are:

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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, current offensive coordinator at Clemson.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

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.

• 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.


• 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.

• 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.

Watch this newspaper for news of the induction banquet. Tickets will be for sale and the event is open to the public.