SPORTS HALL OF FAME
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Harry Boss, born in Copperhill, Tennessee, began his baseball career while a student at Darlington School for boys in the early 30’s. Upon graduation from Darlington, Harry entered Vanderbilt University in 1935. Vandy was a member of the old Southeastern Conference at that time. Boss played varsity baseball for four years at Vandy and was named to the Coaches All-American baseball team in his senior year of 1939.
While at Vanderbilt he was named to the Big 13, which was the number of teams in the SEC at that time. On the Big 13 team with Harry Boss were such familiar conference athletic names as Vic Brandford of Alabama, Ken Cavanaugh of LSU, Bill Gibson of Georgia Tech, Cecil Kelly of Georgia, Joe Agee of Vanderbilt, Dic McAllister of Ole Miss., Bob Smith of Georgia and others.
In his senior year at Vanderbilt, fourteen major league scouts attempted to sign him to a contract. As a Nashville sports writer once wrote, “Boss is a real ballhawk, has a great arm, is exceptionally fast on the bases and care more for the diamond than he does for an education. Barring an accident, he is a certain major leaguer.”
In the summer months, durig his college years, Harry Boss played in the fast Northwest Georgia Textile League with the Tubize team (later know as Celanese). In 1938 he led the Tubize team with a 360 batting average and stole 40 bases. Major league bonuses in those days were at the minimum and the Cincinnati Reds offered Boss $1,000 to sign.
The name Alvin Everett has long been synonymous with the game of golf in this section of the state as well as all over the southland. Everett’s great success on the golf course is unique in that he played this challenging game left-handed. It has always been said that the left-handed golfer carries an extra “handicap” but not so in the case of Rome’s Alvin Everett.
Not a strong man in stature, Alvin drove with the best and was a master around the greens. One of the state’s top amateur tournaments in Georgia carries his name today…The Alvin Everett Memorial Golf Tournament held each year at the Calliers Springs Golf Club.
Alvin Everett participated in numerous tournaments including: National Amateur Championships at Garden City, NY in 1936; qualified and played in the National Open in Philadelphia in 1939; won the National Left-Hander’s Golf Tournament in Toledo, Ohio in 1940 and won his third National Left-Hander’s Golf Tournament at French Lick, Indiana in 1949.
Everett brought more national golf fame to Rome and Northwest Georgia than any other linksman and was among the fine golf names in this area who stimulated such interest in the game of golf that today the Rome area is noted for including its courses and abundance of players.
When you have an athletic talent and you lend that talent to aid others to further their talent and abilities in the field of sports, you have contributed to the betterment of the community and of those about you. Jo Higgins has lent a wonderful talent, not as a teacher or a coach, but as a person who believed in her game and saw fit to interest others by giving of a great natural talent and athletic ability.
Tennis, along with track has been the great expanding sport in our area over the past few years. Jo Higgins has had much to do with the growth of this great game here. How good is Joe Higgins at her game, tennis? Ask the people who rank the players in our land…
-Number 2 player in Women’s Singles in Southern rankings
-Number 2 player with partner in Women’s Doubles in Southern rankings
-Number 2 player in Women’s Singles in Georgia
-Number 1 player in Junior Vet Doubles and in Sr. Doubles in Georgia
Jo Higgins and her partners have won the State Junior Vets Doubles and the Senior Doubles three straight years. In local tennis play, Jo has won the Women’s Singles every year since 1958, except one. In local Doubles, Jo has been a finalist every year and so the same in the Mixed Doubles.
In 1942, at age 14, Jo Higgins won the State Championship in Badminton. She also found time to earn AAU medals in swimming for the famed Atlanta-Emory team coached by the great coach, Ed Shea. Jo plays golf too and won the North Georgia ladies title in 1963 and the Coosa Country Club title in 1961.
In 1946 while in high school, Jo was Georgia’s second highest scorer on the basketball court.
As the first woman inductee into the sports Hall of Fame, Jo Dawes Higgins stands tall with the other members to bring great credit to herself and her hometown. Jo is truly an example for other women to lend their athletic talents to the youth and the community.
John Pinson Jr.
The game of softball attracts more teams and participants than any other sport in most areas of the United States. Fast pitch softball ranks with the fastest sports events we know. Rome and Floyd County have had their share of good teams and fine players. It is not uncommon for a Rome softball team to be participating in regional and national playoffs.
The year 1947 was a gem year for softball in this area. The Andrews Motor Company team mowed down all opposition in Georgia and then the southeast before moving on to the national tournament in Phoenix, Arizona. Sixteen of the nation’s best fast pitch teams competed for national honors.
The Andrews team had a roster of familiar athletes from this area including James Treglown, Billy McRae, David Rucker, Jimmy Thacker, Robert Carter, George Carter, Elbert Partee, Clyde “Dixie” Howell, Sam Byrd, Farris Elders, Luke Graveley, Lewis Free, Nevin Bates and the team sponsor, J. C. Andrews. The Rome team opened against the nation’s top ranked softball pitcher, Ed Fiegner and the Seattle Washington team. The final score was Rome 7 – Seattle 2. The tournament rocked on until there were but three teams remaining; the Arizona Stars, the San Diego California team and Andrews Motor of Rome, Georgia. Rome finished third, losing 2-1 in the semi-finals.
There was another player on that Andrews team from Rome named John Pinson.
John had one of those great national tournaments throughout the week and when the tourney was done, the 11 best players were selected to the National Softball All Star team. John Pinson was selected, bringing great credit to his team, his community and to himself.
John Pinson has long been associated with softball, baseball, in fact, all sports in our area. He spent 10 years in the Youth Activity baseball program as a manager and as a player agent in the Little League and Pony League baseball programs. He served untiringly on the Chamber of Commerce Recreation Committee.
Ish Williams, a Rome, Georgia native brought more swimming fame to this area than any aquatic performer in our athletic history. Ish began his swim career in this area and was awarded a part swim grant in aid to Georgia Tech. In 1931 while attending Tech, he was named to the All American Swim Team and his records in the 50 and 100 yard freestyles lasted some fifteen years. In 1931 while a student at Tech, Williams took a Rome, Georgia swim team to the Mid-Atlantic meet in Charlotte, North Carolina. The men’s team walked away with the first place over favorites Savannah and Chattanooga.
At one time at Georgia Tech, he held the 50, 100 and 220 yard records in the then Southern Conference. He was selected for Olympic tryouts in Cincinnati in 1932 and again in 1936 in Providence, Rhode Island. He competed against the great names of swimming like Johnny Weissmueller and Buster Crabbe. As Ish says, “I didn’t beat them though”. In the 30’s, the newspapers were full of the accomplishments of this Rome, Georgia merman and Ish has the clippings to prove it.
While at Tech, Ish was acclaimed as one of the four (4) best collegiate swimmers in America. When named to the All-American team in the 30’s, Williams was the only southerner picked for the honor with other swimmers coming from Annapolis, Southern Cal and Rutgers.
Ish Williams competed against the best swimmers in American from Miami to New York.
He said “I rode a motorcycle all over the country to swim in meets and I never had a coach like they have today.” Over the records of meets available to us, Ish Williams won some 500 first places in swim meets and collected 340 gold medals plus 150 silver high point trophies. In his later years of competition, he entered the long river meets that had become popular and won his share of those in larger cities.
In the mid and late 1930’s, Ish Williams returned to Rome and spent much time teaching and coaching the younger swimmers so that Rome kept its reputation for winning in the water. His swim teams at Tubize (now Celanese) won top honors in all meets that they entered.
Phyllis Hardin Cook
Phyllis Cook thrilled thousands of basketball fans in Georgia during her high school career. Her fabulous shooting ability for the East Rome Gladiators brought her statewide recognition before she finished her high school play.
In the 1962 State Girls AA Basketball Tournament, Phyllis led her teammates to the finals before losing to tough Dodge County. At the conclusion of the state play, Phyllis was named to the All Tournament Team and also was named the Outstanding Player in the State Tournament. In her senior year, the East Rome girls won 25 games and lost but 2 under Coach Ann McCarson. Phyllis averaged more than 25 points a game in her high school days on the basketball court. Her highest in one high school game was 37 points. She was named to every all star team possible in her senior year and on most all star teams in her junior year at East Rome.
When not playing basketball, she turned to the tennis court. With her partner, Judy Brock, she won the 3AA Doubles Title, 6-2, 7-5. Phyllis was also a member of East Rome’s Volleyball and Softball teams. Better known in her high school days as “Little Bit”, she was a big name in athletics in each field that she chose to compete in.
One of the highest honors that came to Phyllis “Little Bit” Hardin was in 1962 when she became the first female athlete to be named to the coveted “Gladiator Hall of Fame”.
Phyllis was a four year basketball letterman at East Rome. She was also named as the Senior Superlative Most Athletic Girl, the annual staff sports editor and the Best Sport at East Rome in her senior year.
Upon graduating from East Rome, she attended Nashville Business College. In 1962-63 she played AAU basketball with Nashville Business College, a U.S. Women’s Championship Team that won the title three times in five years.
Joseph Leroy Byars
Joseph Byars, is a native Roman, graduate of Rome High School and post graduate of Darlington School for Boys. While attending Rome High School, he was outstanding in three sports; football, basketball and track. He was captain of both the football and basketball teams in his senior year and was honorable mention for the Georgia All State Football team as an end. On the cinder track he ran the 100 yard dash and was a member of the 400 relay team that established a new school record.
Upon graduating from Rome High School, he entered Darlington as a post graduate student. At Darlington, he played end on the football team and was a forward and center on the Tiger basketball team. He served as Captain at Darlington also. At the Mid-South Track Meet in Nashville, Tennessee, he won the Mid-South High Jump championship.
In 1937 he entered Georgia Tech and played on the freshmen football and basketball teams. He was a member of the Phi Kappa Phi fraternity and got a medal for first place in the intra-fraternity track meet.
This man was a member of Rome’s municipal swimming pool for two seasons. He assisted in getting the Little League Baseball program organized here in its beginning, along with Hall of Fame member Buck Ransom and the late Kelly Byars.
After leaving college he officiated here for a few years in football and basketball.
Not only is he qualified to be named to the Athletic Hall of Fame for his records in amateur athletics but is justly qualified for his efforts on behalf of young people in this area. In 1971-72 he served as president of the Fourth Ward P.T.A. , serves as a hard working parent in the Chieftains Club at West Rome High School and Chairman of Football Program sales. His attributes can possibly be summed up by what his children say about his requirements as their father….top efforts in academics, social life and sportsmanship.
Jennings B. Gordon
Born January 7, 1909 in Rome, Georgia, this sportsman and gentleman truly symbolizes the champion that Rome and Floyd County are very proud of. This man has had much to do with the reputation that the state of Georgia has attained in being one of the leading states in the promotion and development of the great game of golf in America.
He played in his first Georgia State Gold Tournament in 1923 and in his first Southern Amateur Gold Tournament in 1926 in Asheville. While attending Emory University from 1927-1930, he won the school golf championship all four years. In 1933 our Hall of Fame Nominee was elected to the Board of Directors of the Coosa Country Club. That same year he was elected to the Board of Directors of the Georgia State Golf Association, which he held jointly with the late immortal Bobby Jones.
In 1938 Jennings was elected to the Board of Directors of the Southern Golf Association where he served as Director for 26 years, longer than anyone has ever served as an active president. In 1940 Bobby Jones wrote to our Hall of Fame inductee to congratulate him and his team for the all Georgia finals in the Southern Four Ball Tournament. Some of the names that appeared in the press at that time and names that brought golf fame to Georgia include Charlie Yates (at that time British Amateur Champion), Dr. Julius Hughes (Atlanta and Georgia Amateur Champion) and Charlie Black, one of Georgia’s all time great golfers.
In 1940 Jennings gained national prominence when he won the annual State Amateur Golf Championship in Macon by beating such renowned golfers as Charlie Harper, Sonny Swift, Dynamite Goodlow, Tommy Barnes and Arnold Blum in the finals. In 1948 he was elected President of the Georgia State Golf Association and served again as President from 1957 to 1959 when he resigned to accept the Presidency of the Southern Golf Association.
In 1952 he was elected Secretary-Treasurer of the Southern Golf Association and in 1956, their vice-president. He was elected President for a two year term in 1959 and in 1963 was elected Director Emeritus for Life of the Southern Golf Association. In 1959 our honoree won the Senior Golf Championship of Georgia at the Savannah Golf and Country Club. In 1960 he was selected by the PGS of the Georgia PGS as the “Senior Golfer of the Year” in Georgia. This same year he was elected Director Emeritus for Life of the Georgia State Golf Association. He won four tournaments in the Western Golf Association since becoming a member in 1965. Our Hall of Fame golfer has won Invitationals in Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Alabama and North Carolina. He won the Club Championship at his own club, Coosa, five different times.
His untiring efforts to promote golf in this area and the entire state have been recognized by the greatest name in the golf world, the late Bobby Jones.
The first Roman to bring a State Amateur golf title to our town began his golf career in the 1920’s, in the Carolinas. He was a young sensation on the links and received all the “raves” the sports pages could give. As a fifteen year old, he was a constant threat in all amateur tournaments in the Carolinas. At this young age, he had played in some 15 tournaments and had emerged victorious in seven of them.
In 1929, Darlington formed its first golf team and this Hall of Famer was a member of that first team. In their first match, they defeated rival McCallie School of Chattanooga, 13-5. This Darlington golf team wrote many records in prep golf in the southeast.
At age sixteen, this man was becoming nationally known for his golf and his manner on the course. A Birmingham newspaper wrote of him as he prepared for the Birmingham Invitational in 1929, “Billy McWilliams of Darlington School in Rome, Georgia has a natural style that a season or two will see sweeten up into a serious contender in every important golfing affair in this part of the world. Best of all, McWilliams comports himself with becoming modesty.” At sixteen, Billy McWilliams had won the North-South Junior Championships of North Carolina. In 1930, at age seventeen he qualified for his first Southern Amateur at Sedgefield with a 77 and made the first flight. In July of 1930 he played in his first Georgia State Amateur tournament and won the third flight and qualified for the National Amateur in 1931 at East Lake in Atlanta.
He also entered the University of Georgia and made the Georgia golf team. In the Southern Conference tournament of Athens in 1932 he lost in the final match to Jessie Rainwater of Tulane one up. He won the 4th flight in the Southern Amateur at Birmingham in 1932, won the Coosa Country Club title also in 1932 by defeating Charles Warner on the 38th hole.
Billy McWilliams brought Rome its first state amateur golf title in 1933 when he defeated Pete Barnes of Atlanta 2-1 at the Glen Arven Country Club at Thomasville, Georgia. McWilliams finished the morning round of the finals three shots down but came back strong in the afternoon to play par golf and overtake the favored Barnes and win the title. As the famous golf writer O.B. Keeler wrote in his descriptive column following the match, “this was one of the finest final matches ever played in the State Tournament. McWilliams was the first player outside of Atlanta to win the state since 1929 and his play was similar to the play of Bobby Jones in the state playoff in 1916 when the immortal Jones came from three shots down to win”. As an interesting sidelight to that great day for Rome, Billy McWilliams changed clothes at the halfway mark (he was behind at the time), changing into a pair of brown knickers and explaining as he did, “I have never lost a match while wearing these knickers”.
Billy McWilliams was not through. The Georgia State Amateur tournament the following year in 1934 was played at the East Lake Club in Atlanta. McWilliams played his way to the finals and met another champion, Julius Hughes in the final on July 21st. Hughes, at the time, was the Atlanta City and Open Champion and one of the south’s best. On Sunday morning, July 22, the Atlanta Constitution Sports Page read “MCWILLIAMS MAKES IT TWO IN A ROW…Noblest Roman makes it two in a row, beating Hughes.” The score was 2-1. It was a tough struggle all the way with scores running McWilliams 3 up at five, 2 up at 9, 1 up at eighteen, square nineteen, 1 down at twenty-five, same at twenty-seven, square at twenty-nine, 1 up at thirty, square at thirty-two, 1 up at thirty-four and 2 up and Champion at thirty-five. In 1935 our Hall of Famer came close again as he went to the semi-finals in the State Amateur along with another Roman and Hall of Famer, Alvin Everett. Both lost in the semi-finals play here at Coosa. Billy McWilliams’ achievements on the golf course are many and we could elaborate many hours about them. We have touched only on some of the highlights.
Billy was a valiant supporter of recreation in Rome, believing that every youngster and adult should have access to nothing but the best facilities in good recreation.
She played golf with the giant names in women’s golf and she beat many of them. In her hey-day this lady played the golf courses of the south and the nation with names like Patty Berg and Babe Dedrickson. She played exhibition golf with Alvin Everett (already a golf great in our Hall of Fame). She beat many a man over the rolling golf courses of Rome and the south. We who knew her well marveled at the power she could muster in out-driving many a man golfer.
Accomplishments in the golf world came easy for our nominee. She won three Georgia Women’s State Titles: 1937 at the Coosa Country Club, 1944 at the Capitol City Club in Atlanta and in 1949 at the General Oglethorpe course in Savannah, Georgia. In fact, for a few months in 1949, Rome, Georgia was the golfing capitol of Georgia when Romans Dick Hackett and our nominee, Martha Daniel held the men’s and women’s titles at the same time. Her scrapbooks carried more articles about her golfing friends that about herself. As one of the research people in the Hall of Fame said, “after looking over the facts, articles and accomplishments of this lady of the fairways, I think I would have liked to know her”. To know Martha Daniel was to know a champion who always had a good word for her opponent.
She served on the Board of Directors of the Georgia Women’s Golf Association and was elected Vice-President and then President of that organization.
She was active in the Chamber of Commerce in Rome of which she was Vice-President for one term. She was in radio advertising for a good many years here and would take off a week now and then to enter and usually WIN most women’s golf tournaments. She played in the Southern and the National Women’s tournaments too.
Randy Johnson's athletic accomplishments began when he was a high school student. In both 1970 and 1971 he won the unlimited weight division in the Northwest Georgia High School wrestling tournament. He was also the Region 7AA Champion in the unlimited weight division in 1970 while a junior in high school.
The following year he was the State champion of Georgia High School wrestling in the unlimited division. In 1971 he earned his way to the State Track and Field competition in discus and shot-put. Our nominee brought Pepperell High School their first state champion in wrestling.
On the football field he brought fame to himself and his community; earning a football grant in-aid to the University of Georgia in 1971. In his freshman year he was a starting offensive guard. After being red-shirted in 1972, he was named to the Gridiron News All S.E.C. team, playing in the Peach Bowl in 1973. As a junior in 1974 he was named to the Pre-Season All American Team, played with Georgia in the Tangerine Bowl in Orlando and was named to the UPI and AP All S.E.C. Football Team. In 1975 as a senior he was named to the Pre-Season All American Team. This was his greatest season. Georgia lost but two games and went to the Cotton Bowl in January.
Randy was named to the All S.E.C. team by UPI and AP and named All American by the United Press, Associated Press, Coaches All American, Kodak All American and a Walter Camp All American. These honors made him a consensus All American.
The Atlanta Touchdown Club named him Offensive Lineman of the Year. The Birmingham Monday Morning Quarterback Club named him Southeastern Conference Lineman of the Year and the 100% Wrong Club named him College Offensive Lineman of the Year. He received the Jacobs Blocking Trophy for being the best blocker in the S.E.C. and the Whitworth Memorial Trophy awarded by the Muscogee County Bulldog Club for being Georgia’s outstanding lineman in 1975. He played in the Cotton Bowl, Hula Bowl, the first Japan Bowl and the Coaches All American Game to bring prestige to our area. He has received commendations from the City of Rome, the State of Georgia, Governor of Georgia and was made an honorary citizen of Lubbock, Texas. Probably his finest hour came when his teammates at Georgia named him their offensive captain in 1975.
For his prowess and great football ability, Randy appeared with his All American teammates from all over the nation on the Bob Hope All American Show in New York and the Mike Douglas Kodak All American Show from Miami. Upon his return to Rome he received plaques of commendation from the Rome Boys Club where he began his athletic career. The Rome Lions Club and the Rome Area Bulldog Club presented him with a plaque for being Rome’s First all American College Football Player.
“Dedicated to whatever his task might be,” describes the man we are about to induct into the Rome-Floyd County Sports Hall of Fame. To those who have known Joe for many years, his untiring efforts to be the best in his task and/or field of athletics has been a great goal for all of us to strive for. He attended the University of Georgia following lower grade schooling in Rome.
Upon entering the university, he joined a group of lads who rewrote the record books in the swimming annals of the southeast. As a junior classman in 1950, this man was a member of the S.E.C. Championship and the SEAAU championship team in the 400 yard freestyle relay. This team tied the S.E.C. record time.
Stock was also a member of the SEAAU championship 200 yard freestyle relay team, a team that set a new Junior National AAU record, eclipsing the record formerly held by Southern California. At one time in his college swim career, this man was unbeaten in five straight S.E.C. meets. Stock completed his junior year at Georgia with the second highest point total on the S.E.C. championship team.
In 1949 Joe directed the first City-County swim meet here and in 1950 directed the First Annual North Georgia AAU Swim Meet in Rome. He continued to give his time and efforts to this event for sixteen years, part of that time helping to direct the meet from his post in the Army.
In 1954 he was cited by the Board of Directors of the Chamber of Commerce for his enduring interest in the North Georgia AAU Swim Meet. He was described as the “guiding spirit behind the meets and they could not have been held
Stock went on to direct swim meets in LaFayette, Georgia. One meet he directed was the Boy Scout Camporee-Swimoree’s, which was written up in the national publication, Scouting Magazine. He was recognized for his untiring efforts by being installed in the Chattanooga Jaycee Hall of Fame in 1974.
A gentleman athlete in the annals of Rome sportsmen, a gentleman and yet, a determined hard driving competitor with a constant desire to become better at his game. He wrote his name into the annals of southern golf. His first feats were talked about and written about when he was a student at Darlington School in the 30’s. He was a big end on the Darlington football team that won its share of Mid-South football titles. When spring came ‘round he was on the Darlington Golf Team that won so many honors including Mid-South titles.
His college days were spent at Vanderbilt University. Here he was a member of, probably, Vandy’s best golf team ever. A man who always had time to stop and chat, a man interested in seeing to it that the working press’ job was easier if he could help. Probably his greatest golf thrill came in the summer of 1948 at his own Coosa Country Club when he met the cream of the crop in Georgia for the State Amateur Golf Championship. The amateur field that year in Rome was one of the toughest ever to play in a single tournament and this man had to beat the best, day after day. Robbie MacLaurin of Savannah was his first victim, followed by former state champion Bill Zimmerman of Atlanta. Then came Gunny Harrison of Augusta and the competition got tougher. His next foe was the former National Left-Handed Champion, Alvin Everett also of Rome, and a name now enshrined into this Athletic Hall of Fame. Everett was defeated 6-4 and that moved our inductee into the championship round against a young tough stalwart from Columbus, Georgia named Jack Key.
After 14 holes of the 36 hole match, this man was 3 down to Key. On the afternoon round, our man got as “hot as the well known gun” and in the rain, won five straight holes. In that final round he only lost one hole to Key. Our nominee won 10 holes on that last round and brought Rome its second State title of 1948 (Martha Daniel having won the state women’s title).
Hackett added many other titles to his golf career including the Signal Mountain Golf Title in Chattanooga, the Birmingham Country Club Men’s Invitational, Georgia Amateur Championship in Columbus, Georgia, the Wingfood-Anderson Four Ball Championship with partner Dick Chapman at Mamaroneck, NY plus numerous titles at his own Coosa Country Club. As the newspapers said in 1948, “Hail to Rome, the New Golf Capitol of the State – Dick Hackett, Martha Daniel with state crowns and Mrs. Hugh Given who finished tops in the first flight in the women’s state tournament won by Martha Daniel”.
In 1950 he qualified for the U.S. Amateur and played in the tournament at Minneapolis, Minnesota. He also qualified and played in more than one Southern Amateur Tournament.
Arvie Pilgrim has been called by many the best all-round athlete to ever wear the blue and gold of Rome High School.
As a high school athlete he excelled in three fields…football, basketball and baseball. As a running back and a quarterback at Rome High, he was named All-Region and All-State in 1951. He was captain of the Rome High team, named to the North Georgia All Star Football Team and named by his teammates as Most Valuable Player. He received the Happy Quarles WRGA Most Valuable Player Award in 1951. He received Honorable Mention High School All American that same year. After Rome High, he attended Darlington School as a post graduate student and was selected All Mid-South and Captain of the Darlington Team. He then became the only high school player to receive the Happy Quarles WRGA Trophy two years in a row.
As a basketball player at Rome, this man was an All-Region and All-Tournament player. At Darlington he was named Most Valuable Basketball Player in the Times Cup Tournament in Chattanooga and was named All Mid-South.
Baseball was a true love of this man. While at Rome he was All State both his junior and senior years, played in the North-South All Star Baseball Game and thus became the only player from Rome to play in both the football and baseball State All Star games. While playing at Darlington, our Hall of Famer was voted by his student body as Most Outstanding Athlete and received the J.M. Hardin Award.
He played professional baseball for Waycross in the Georgia-Florida League. He set a stolen base record in that league that still stands (62), and was named Most Valuable Waycross Player and Most Valuable Player in the Georgia-Florida All Star Game.
Arvie was the first Athletic Director for the Boys Club in Rome and was instrumental in forming minor league baseball there for boys. He also formed basketball and mite football leagues. He served as a basketball official for 18 years and has been president of the Basketball Officials Association twice and their secretary for 10 years.
A rabid softball enthusiast and player, this man managed Elliott Sales softball team for eight years, winning a state title and going on to the World Tournament. He was a Softball All Star selection 10 times as an outfielder. He later managed the Aloha Softball Team here that won a state title and went on to the World Tournament in Cincinnati.
A competitor, winner, a man who has overcome adversity to come back and be a winner again, a true Hall of Famer who brought much homage to his hometown through his athletic ability.
Ben W. Green
Born and raised in Floyd County, a tremendous athlete in his high school days at West Rome High School, the man we induct into the Athletic Hall of Fame today has brought national prominence to himself, his family and his state. Now the Director of Recreation for Coweta County with headquarters in Newnan, Georgia he is a graduate of the University of Georgia.
As a high school lad, our nominee was never a big man physically but carried in his chest, the biggest heart that an athlete can have. For nineteen years our nominee has participated in weightlifting competition. For the past seven years he qualified and competed in the Junior National Weightlifting Competition. In 1978 he placed fourth in the Nationals. In over 80 meets he has placed either first, second or third in his class. At the present time he holds the state record in the 198 lb. lift class in the Snatch with a snatch of 280 lbs. He is the state title-holder in the Clean & Jerk with 360 lbs. and Champion in the Total Lift with 640 lbs. He has held the state record in these two events and the combined total since 1970. In years gone by he has held the state records in the 148 lb. class, snatching 215 lbs. and in the 181 lb. class, snatching 275 lbs. in 1978 and 1979. A Region 3 (Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee) champion, our Hall of Famer has served on the National Coaching Team for Weightlifters since 1973 and this past year was named an official and coach for the AAU Sports Festival in Colorado Springs, Colorado. This event is the preliminary event to select weightlifters for the 1980 Olympics.
We are most proud of this young man, especially we who have known him since his boyhood. His awards and honors have been many including being named Outstanding Lifter in the Southern Weightlifting Contest in Atlanta. He also had great performances in national competitions at York, PA, Milwaukee, WI and San Francisco, CA. Probably one of the most coveted honors he has received was a sports editorial that I read in a Newnan paper praising this man for the job he was doing with and for the youth in his hometown of Newnan. This is the kind of honor that makes a man a prized figure in his community, around the people he lives near and works with each day.
The son of the late and well known and loved “Piggy” Green, and Mrs. Dorothy Green.
Nell Carver did not take up tennis until she had reached her adult years. But when she did, it was with great dedication. As a self taught player, she learned her skills through dedication and innumerable hours of practice and study. Her deep dedication to the game from the very beginning meant she would share her knowledge of the game with children.
For a decade, Nell volunteered her services as tournament director for all tennis events held in Rome, which, were sponsored by the Rome Tennis Club. She exhibited fair play and good sportsmanship in her playing and teaching.
She believed that accomplishment, regardless of what goal you seek, makes life more enjoyable and satisfying. Her motto, “if you don’t have fun, don’t do it”.
Her accomplishments in local tennis are unmatched, having won 107 tournaments and being a finalist in 43 events. She has been ranked as high as number five in women’s thirty-five singles and number seven in women’s open doubles in Southern rankings. She ranked number two in women’s thirty-five doubles in Georgia rankings, from 1979-1980, number two in women’s thirty-five singles in Georgia in 1977. She was ranked number one in women’s forty doubles in 1980 and number one in thirty-five mixed doubles in 1979.
Nell Carver was an organizer of the Rome Women’s Tennis Club and helped organize the Rome Tennis Club for Men, Women and Children. She has served as executive board member and past president of the Rome Tennis Club and was selected “Person of the Year” by the Coosa Valley Tennis Association in 1975. She's been a member of the United States Tennis Association (USTA), Southern Tennis Association, Georgia State Tennis Association, member-at-large for the Georgia Ranking Committee and a member of the United States Professional Tennis Teacher’s Association. She also served as the men’s and women’s tennis coach at Berry College.
Scott R. Henson
Scott Henson is one of the finest amateur tennis players to ever swing a racket in this area. In high school he participated in many events highlighted by a victory in the Darlington Boys Championship in 1952. He was runner-up in the singles and doubles at the Mid-South Conference Tournament in 1955 and 1956. In 1955 he was a finalist at Crackerland in Athens.
In 1959 at the University of Georgia he was runner-up in the Southeastern Conference number five players division. In 1960 he was the runner-up in number three players division. Scott was Captain of the Georgia Tennis Team in 1960 and 1961, the only person to our knowledge to ever serve as captain of the team for two years. In 1960 he was selected Most Valuable Player of the University of Georgia Tennis Team.
After returning home from UGA, Scott took part in many tournaments, winning a number of these events in singles, men’s doubles and mixed doubles. He has volunteered many hours helping to develop organized tennis in this area. He was co-founder and served as President of the Coosa Valley Tennis Association. He was tournament chairman for the Coosa Valley Invitational. He also served as the chairman of the Georgia State Open Junior Championships and helped organize team tennis and the Rome Tennis Club.
Off of the tennis court, Scott has served as president of the Georgia Bulldog Club of Floyd County and has served as vice-president of the Seventh District Alumni Association.
Gordon A. Smith
Gordon Smith arrived to Rome when he was less than a year old from Brevard, North Carolina until his graduation from the University of Georgia. He made a mark on amateur tennis that is truly remarkable.
Smith took up tennis at the tender age of 10. His first competitive success came at the age of eleven, winning both the Coosa Valley Invitational and City-County Under Twelve Championships. Those victories took place in 1965.
In 1969 he won the Sixteen & Under Coosa Valley Invitational and the Crackerland Tournament in Athens. From 1968-1971 he was a member of the Darlington Varsity Tennis Team. His success while there was outstanding. In 1970, he won the Georgia State Junior Qualifying Tournament and the Crackerland titles in Singles and Doubles for 18 & Under.
1971 was a big year for this inductee. He was ranked number one in Georgia for 18 & Under Singles at the age of seventeen. He was also ranked number one in Georgia for 18 & Under Doubles. He followed up these wins with the State Class AA High School Singles Championship, defeating Bobby Webb at Northside High School in Atlanta.
The year 1972 brought even more success, winning the Crackerland Men’s Doubles, The Southern Hardcourt Men’s Doubles and the Pensacola Invitational Men’s Singles. That same year he was playing number four singles on the University of Georgia Tennis Team, compiling a record of 19 wins and 4 losses all while at the same time winning the Southeastern Conference Tournament for number four singles and the number three title in doubles.
1973 was another great year. Gordon won the Princeton University Indoor Invitational doubles championship, the Southeastern Conference number three singles and was voted to the All-S.E.C. tennis team. He won the Georgia State Collegiate Doubles Championship, the Crackerland Men’s Doubles and the East Lake Men’s Doubles.
In 1974 he won the men’s singles and doubles at Crackerland. As a matter of fact, this inductee won six total championships at Crackerland. The most productive year for Gordon came in 1975. He took the South Carolina Collegiate Invitational in Doubles, the Princeton University Indoor Invitational Doubles, the Georgia State Collegiate Doubles and the Southeastern Conference number one doubles. He was voted to the All-S.E.C. Team and was selected as the Most Valuable Player on the university tennis team. He won fifth place in the Collegiate Doubles in the NCAA National Tournament despite being forced to forfeit a match due to the illness of his playing partner. This same year he won the University of Georgia Alumni Society Scholastic Award for Athletes. Gordon was co-captain of the University of Georgia Tennis Team and in four years at UGA, won or was a finalist in every event entered in S.E.C. tournaments. He won two singles championships and two doubles championships, was runner up twice in single and doubles.
Douglas A. McFalls
He came from the hills of North Georgia to write his name in sports annals of his high school, a fine preparatory school and a major college. He brought high prestige to this area and his induction in the Rome-Floyd County Sports Hall of Fame is certainly overdue.
While a student at Model High School in the late 50’s he attained high honors in every sport from football, baseball, basketball and track. He was all-state in football in ’58 and ’59. Following his most successful career at Model where he earned 16 varsity letters. He then went on the Darlington School on the then post graduate program and immediately began to make himself known in the mid-south athletic circles. He was named All-Mid-South in ’60 and ’61 as a running back as well as a defensive back.
Upon completing the post graduate course at Darlington, this man accepted grant in aid to play football at the University of Georgia where he played varsity football for three years. He was co-captain of the Georgia team that upset Alabama in the closing seconds of a nationally televised game, and this same team upset a highly touted Michigan team 15-7. He was selected all SEC in the Sun Bowl against Texas Tech and the great Donnie Anderson, our man and his fellow Bulldogs won in 1964. He was selected permanent captain of the Georgia team after the season and then was selected to play in the, the big college all-star game in Chicago against the Green Bay Packers. He also was selected to play in the Blue-Grey game in Montgomery, Alabama.
After his illustrious college career, he was drafted by the Chicago Bears of the NFL in the 6th round and later played with the then expansion team New Orleans Saints. Returning to his Model days for a moment, our man played on the Model baseball team that won three straight State Championships and while at Darlington, in his senior year was named most valuable back, best blocker, and most valuable player. An anonymous friend described him as a man with a positive and yet modest attitude that made him a man to admire and nice to be associated with in any field of endeavor.
“The most important aspects of my sports career have been my family, my friends, my coaches, my enemies, my angers, my enjoyments and the many different phases of sports themselves.” This quote comes from a most deserving and dedicated young woman to be inducted tonight into the Sports Hall of Fame. Iris is a native Roman, currently teaching Physical Education and coaching Junior Varsity Basketball in the City School System. She attended Main Elementary and then Junior High 1957-1965. She is best remembered for her exciting play on the basketball courts and softball fields.
It was during her Junior High years she was introduced to basketball, softball and other sports at East Rome High School. Through many hours of working toward perfecting her game, as a freshman, she became a starting player for the varsity team. Her career in athletics blossomed from 1965-1969. The encouragement and support from her coaches and friends aided in her becoming one of the top female players in Rome, Floyd County and Northwest Georgia. While attending East Rome High School she claimed honors such as Leading High School Scorer in Northwest Georgia from 1967-1969, Most Athletic and Team Most Valuable Player 1968-1969 and Most Valuable Player in the Christmas Tournament 1969.
Not only was she demonstrating her supreme talents in basketball, when spring and summer came around she was “hitting homeruns” on the softball field. From 1966-1969 she was selected as High School All-Star, Team Most Valuable Player and was a member of the winning teams in the National Amateurs Tournament, District Tournament and State Tournament.
Iris participated in swimming from 1963-1965. She was selected as the Most Valuable Player for volleyball in 1969. Other accomplishments include being a member of the President’s Physical Fitness Team and a Scholar Athlete. Her most distinguished award was her induction into the East Rome High School Hall of Fame. Her basketball jersey number, 20, was retired and will always be looked upon by aspiring young athletes that pass through the halls of East Rome High School.
Upon high school graduation she entered Berry College and continued to attain honors. From 1969-1972 she was a top ten scorer, All-Star and the team’s Most Valuable Player. Her highest collegiate honors came in 1970-1972 when she was selected as an All-Star to the Southern Women’s Athletic Conference (SWAC) and was the Most Valuable Player in SWAC. In softball from 1969-1972 she was a collegiate All-Star and the team’s Most Valuable Player. In volleyball, she was named the Most Valuable Player, Southern Women’s Athletic Conference All-Star and Columbus College Invitational All-Star. Other honors included: Most Outstanding College Athlete of America for 1970-1971, Hufstader Scholarship Recipient 1969-1972, Tull Earn Scholarship Recipient 1971-1972, 1972 Lady Viking Award winner and Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges.
After graduation from Berry she continued her interest in sports, participating in recreational basketball and amateur softball. In 1978 she was selected as an All-Star for United States Slow-Pitch Softball Association (USSSA) and was All-World USSSA. In 1973 she entered into the professional career she still holds, a teacher and coach at East Rome High School. Indeed a young woman of all trades as a coach, counselor and friend to all she meets. She has given time and conscientious efforts working with the mentally challenged, those with cerebral palsy, the Head Start Program and Special Olympics.
Iris instills in the young a desire to be outstanding students by attaining goals through self-discipline and hard work. She allows youngsters to recognize that failure may be bitter but makes success much sweeter. This is best exemplified by her quote, “my overall attempt is to reach out to each individual as an individual, in hopes of helping him expose his many successes and to face squarely, his many losses, to help him feel successful in any situation”.
Marie Mercer Lewis
When you think of female athletes, you think of this Hall of Fame inductee, born in Atlanta and reared in Floyd County. A tremendous athlete in high school at West Rome and then Shorter College, she brought state and national recognition to herself, her family and hometown.
Although well known for her ability in all sports, she is best remembered for her accomplishments on the tennis and basketball courts. Her career in athletics began at Elm Street Elementary in recreational basketball, softball and track programs. Her love for sports continued at West Rome High, lettering in five sports; basketball, track, volleyball, softball and tennis from 1969-1973. She was a starting member of the varsity basketball squad from 1969-1973 where she claimed honors as a team member of the 7AA Sub-Region and Region championships. She also garnered awards as the Most Valuable Offensive Player, Most Valuable Defensive Player, Most Dedicated, Highest Scorer and Highest Free Throw Percentage.
Marie held the title of Leading Scorer in Rome and Floyd County from 1971-1973, claiming a career point total of 1,611. She was selected for the Rome News Tribune All Star Team. In 1973 Marie was nominated to the 7AA All-State Track Team. She was a member of the 7AA Region Champions, claiming honors in the broad jump, 880 and 440 yard relays. In tennis she won the 7AA Region title in singles and was the state runner-up.
Marie also took titles in the City/County singles and doubles and received the Most Valuable Player award.
In her senior year of high school, she was selected as the school’s Most Athletic and the Rome News Tribune named her their Female Athlete of the Year. In addition to her supremacy in athletics, she attained other honors as well. She was a member of the National Junior Honor Society in 1969 and National Honor Society from 1972-1973. She also received the high school Principal’s Award.
Upon high school graduation, she received a basketball grant in aid to Shorter College, playing from 1973-1977. During her freshman year she was selected as the Most Valuable Player and Most Dedicated while winning awards for Most Assists, High Scorer and Best Defensive Player. In 1975, following physical therapy for her knee, she came back to try out for the Regional Women’s Olympic Team but failed to finish, due to reinjuring her knee.
Her interests turned to tennis shortly thereafter. In 1973-1976 she played on the Shorter Men’s Tennis Team, claiming honors in 1974. In 1975 she won the Georgia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GIAC) Singles and Doubles titles. In 1975 she teamed with a college teammate to win the GIAC Doubles Championship. Other honors included: Hustler’s Award 1973 and 1977, Best Doubles Award 1977, Outstanding College Athlete 1974-1975, Helen Franklin Award as Sophomore Women of the Year in 1975, Honorable Mention into the Hall of Fame for Tennis in 1974, Allison Ledbetter Athletic Scholarship in 1976-1977, Martin’s Biology Award, Vice President of Phi Beta Kappa Science Club and selected Who’s Who Among Students in American Colleges and Universities.
Upon graduation from Shorter College, she continued her interest in tennis, winning tournaments in singles, doubles and mixed doubles from 1978-1981. Wins included mixed doubles championships at the Georgia Indoor, Atlanta Open Classic, Dunwoody Hardcourt and South Fulton tournaments. She was ranked #1 in the state of Georgia in mixed doubles from 1979-1981. She was also ranked in the southern region. Her highest honor came in 1981 when she won the National Mixed Doubles Title in Memphis, Tennessee.
Marie has given unselfish service to the community and its individuals, as is exemplified by her being a teacher of 4 years in the Floyd County School System and her influence in the development of the Jr. Tennis Program. She has served on the Board of Directors for the Coosa Valley Tennis Association. She is an individual of the highest moral character with a warm heart and love for people.
During his high school years at Pepperell, Phil accumulated an impressive list of athletic honors. His background history reflects outstanding accomplishments in football, basketball and baseball from 1967-1971. To name all sports credits attributed to Phil while in high school would be impossible. However, a combination of academic and athletic successes earned him a baseball scholarship to the University of Georgia where he continued to be an asset to the sports scene for the next four years.
While attending UGA, Phil was a four year starter on the baseball team from 1972-1975. He was named Captain of the S.E.C. Championship team in 1975, named to the All Southeastern Conference Academic Team in 1973 and 1975, Honorable Mention in 1972 and 1974 and was the recipient of the Alumni Society Outstanding Academic Award for a UGA student in 1975. Upon receiving his degree, ending four successful years of college baseball, he signed with the Kansas City Royals baseball organization. His assignment in the professional ranks led him to Sarasota, Florida for the 1976 season.
Phil is very supportive of and actively involved in running. He is a member of the AT&T Corporate Cup National Team which won the National Championship Title in 1983 at Palo Alto, California and again in 1985 in Los Angeles. He is also a member of the AT&T Corporate Cup Relay Southern Regional Championship Team. Phil was a caldron runner in the 1984 Olympic Torch Relay and was very active in road racing in Northwest Georgia.
W.H. "Rocky" Huffman
At the age of eleven this nominee for the Rome-Floyd Sports Hall of Fame stepped onto the newly constructed hard courts in Rome, beginning an association with tennis that would shape his life for years to come.
In 1964 at the age of 14, he became the Crackerland Singles Champion. As the state Singles and Doubles Champion, he was ranked #1 and it was during the same year that he won five titles in singles and doubles in the Rome-Floyd County Tennis Tournament. Continuing to develop and finesse his talents, at the age of 16 he was the Georgia State Singles Champion and runner-up in the Southern Junior Open. In 1966 he was a member of the Junior Davis Cup Team and a proud recipient of the Georgia State Tennis Association Sportsmanship Award. By this time “Rocky” Huffman had earned high rankings at state, regional and national levels.
Rocky attended Darlington School and played the number one position for four years. His outstanding talent and proven ability led to a full scholarship at the University of Georgia. He played on the varsity team under the leadership of Coach Dan McGill for four years from 1968-1971. He also served as co-captain his senior year, which is also the first year in 33 years of play that a University of Georgia tennis team won the Southeastern Conference title, recording a 34 out of a possible 36 tournament points. That team compiled a dual match record of 25 wins and 1 loss. Individually, Rocky was Southeastern Conference Champion in both singles and doubles in 1971 with a record of 21 wins and 4 losses.
Beginning a brilliant amateur baseball career in 1930, Jack Gaston quickly established himself as an outstanding player.
The opportunity to advance his career into the professional ranks was there. However, at that time, careers weren’t certain; the pay was low and Jack preferred to stay close to home. He signed a contract with the Washington Senators. Their faith in his ability was reflected in a provision of that contract which stipulated he could never be farmed below Class “A” ball. Such a stipulation was quite unheard of at that time.
During his military years he pitched his team to numerous victories including a sparkling no-hitter and many shut-outs. The English exposure to baseball was increased by star player Jack Gaston and his team during the war years. In recognition of his accomplishments he was selected to play on the 8th Army/Air Force All Star team and became a leading member of a group that numbered several with major league baseball experience.
Following the war he was welcomed back home in Lindale and he took up right where he left off. He immediately re-emerged as a Textile League fan favorite star, almost as though he had never left to serve his country. He was a terror at the plate as he led the Northwest Georgia Textile League with a .422 batting average in 1936. In addition to leading his league’s batting averages, he also surfaced as a homerun leader. He continued to be a consistent hitter throughout his career.
His skillful talent extended well beyond the bat and his defensive ability. Over the course of his career he established and proved himself as a first class pitcher. In 1948 he batted .428 and posted a perfect 7-0 pitching record as a member of the Lindale Pepperells. That same year he earned Most Valuable Player honors in the league playoff series.
When his long and illustrious amateur baseball playing came to an end, Jack walked away with a career batting average higher than .400.
Her introduction to team sports took place on the basketball court at the Rome-Floyd County Recreation Authority. At that time no one could ever have predicted the accomplishments and recognition that would build and follow Barbara Kennedy throughout her life.
As a freshman in high school she made the varsity basketball team. Her apparent love for the game and awesome ability combined with an iron will to work hard to develop and finesse her talent immediately gained the attention and respect of her coaches and peers.
High school stats derived from a total of 91 games credits Barbara for: 43% of field goal attempts made, 58% of free throw attempts made, 592 offensive rebounds and 692 defensive rebounds. In addition, records show 221 steals and 193 blocked shots. Her game high stats include two games (one in each her junior and senior years) in which she scored 61 points. She also charted 30 rebounds in her sophomore and junior years. She received many honors while at East Rome High School including: Most Valuable Player all four years, All Area selection 3 years, All State team her senior year and Most Valuable Player of the All-Star game that same year. Barbara’s athletic prowess was not limited to basketball which was proven during her junior year when she set a state record in the Class “A” Broad Jump of 18’4”.
After high school graduation, Barbara chose to accept a scholarship and continue her education at Clemson University. During her playing days at Clemson from 1979-1982, she was a two time all American including a selection to the Kodak All American Team in 1981-1982.
That same year she set an NCAA record which still stood at the time of this induction, averaging 29 points a game to claim the single season record. Barbara led the Atlantic Coast Conference all four years of her college career. She is the first female athlete in Clemson University to have her jersey number, 42, retired. At this writing she was the only female Clemson athlete to be named IPTAY Athlete of the Year.
Barbara competed professionally in Europe from 1982-1984, averaging 28 points and 14 rebounds per game. With a strong desire to locate closer to home, she returned to the United States and played one season in the U.S. Professional Women’s Basketball League. She is currently an Assistant Coach at Clemson where her responsibilities include recruiting, scouting and on the court coaching.
Barbara’s athletic success is a reflection of the person she is away from the sports scene. She not only stands tall in this community, but is well supported and loved wherever she has traveled. Her personality, desire and determination have made her life a major success.
During his freshman year at Model High School, Mitchell Shellnut began his football career as a defensive end; but that was soon to change and the results can be found in the record books.
Mitchell, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Parks Shellnut, wasn’t very big as a freshman, but was a good player and possibly could have made a great defensive end. However, the coaching staff was impressed with Mitchell’s running ability and decided to give him a shot in the backfield, a change which was to later help produce two Class B State Titles for Model High. Twice during his high school years he was selected Outstanding Fullback of the Year. He is credited with a grand total of 41 touchdowns his final two high school seasons. Shellnut was a “four sport athlete” at Model, excelling in football, basketball, baseball and track. He played outfield on the baseball team for four seasons including one season in which the Blue Devils were runners-up for the state championship. Because of his agility and speed, it surprised no one to find his name repeatedly in track meet results as well.
He became one of the most outstanding offensive backs in Georgia. His performance in the state finals as a junior caught the attention of a University of Georgia scout who watched the game between Model and Ocilla. During the game, Mitchell gained 300 yards on 30 rushes and guided the Blue Devils to the state crown. The scout returned to the University of Georgia and informed Coach Wally Butts that had just seen the “best back of the year”. As it so happened, the scout was actually viewing the game for the purpose of watching an Ocilla player but was much more impressed with Shellnut.
This incident eventually led to Mitchell’s signing with UGA where he continued to add luster to his career with record breaking performances.
After completing his college career at the University of Georgia, Mitchell returned to Model to coach. After three years as an assistant football coach, he was named head baseball coach and eventually moved on to Atlanta as a grid coach for several years.
While visiting Colorado he decided he liked the area and made it his home. He later resigned from the rigors of coaching and turned to the business profession where he remained until his untimely death in 1984 at the age of 48.
Mitchell Shellnut was more than just a football player and star athlete. He was an outstanding citizen and shining example for those who would follow. He is survived by his parents, his wife, Elizabeth and two children. Mitchell’s reputation as a gentleman and excellent sportsman will always stand tall in this community. His friendly personality, determination, skill and athletic contributions will long be remembered by his family and friends.
James "Jimmy" Madden
Jimmy Madden was once described as a “rare breed of football player”. At a time when good linemen were expected to weigh well over 200 pounds, Jimmy stood out as a 170 pounder, well equipped with guts and desire.
As a player on Coach Paul Kennedy’s West Rome High School football team, Jimmy became the first Rome athlete ever to be selected to participate in the annual All American Prep Football Classic. Still trying to overcome the initial shock of his selection when asked for his reaction, words came a little hard as he could only exclaim, “I just couldn’t believe anything like this would every happen to me”. Only 50 of America’s best are chosen yearly for this competition and Jimmy’s selection came as no surprise to many people. Coach Kennedy stated that Jimmy’s ability to diagnose plays along with his burning desire to “hit” made him the best he had ever coached.
During his high school football career he was named All State and All American Tackle. He was also named to the Atlanta Journal Constitution All State squad for his outstanding play and later selected as a member of the Prep All American aggregation. It was through this final selection that he was able to gain an invitation to the All American Classic.
Following the North-South game in 1961 a press release read, “Rome can be proud of its All American guard, Jimmy Madden. The 5’11”, 170 lb. Georgian played a key role in the South’s 26-21 victory. Playing from a defensive left halfback position, Madden was credited with 7 individual tackles and he knocked down 2 North passes.
During Jimmy’s years at West Rome High School, his athletic ability and talent extended over into basketball and track. After graduation from West Rome, Jimmy attended Carson-Newman College.
Sandra Jones Duncan
As a young child, Sandra lived in the Fourth Ward community and it was there that her interest in sports began to develop. As a star athlete at Coosa High School, during a time when females played basketball quite differently from that of today, Sandra fired in 52 points to set a new high point record by a Floyd County female. As of her induction, this record still stood. Her athletic ability blossomed at Coosa High, where she spent 4 years on the varsity basketball team. In addition to the memorable 52 point game, she once scored 49 points in a state tournament. Her 40 point game average during region tournament play led her team to the state competition and Sandra was named to the Class “C” All Tournament State Team in 1955.
Sandra also played softball beginning in the fifth grade. It continued to be an integral part of her life following marriage. She founded the Rome Ladies Softball League and as a “fire-baller”, played in 5 Softball World Series Championships, emerging victorious on three occasions.
She describes the game of golf as the one sport she loves more than any other and the one for which she remains well known today. Convincing her it would improve her timing for softball, her late father, who was an accomplished golfer, encouraged her interest in the game when she was 25 years of age. Sandra won every invitational tournament held in Rome and takes great pride in having won the City-County Tournament 13 times. In addition, she has won events in Rockmart, Gadsden, Anniston and Arab, Alabama. Trophies commemorating golfing triumphs decorate the Duncan living room.
In addition to her many trophies and successes, Sandra was named the Rome News-Tribune “Athlete of the Year” in 1965.
Sam "Red" Byrd
A stellar fast pitch softball career that spanned over 20 years had its humble beginning in a make shift recreation area at the local Georgia Power Company in 1938. As former Georgia softball great, Leon Jones went through his pre-game warm-ups, Sam “Red” Byrd made more than a casual observation of Jones’ pitching proficiency. Five years later, armed with the pitching style he picked up from his former workmate, “Red” Byrd began his own softball career in Lake City, Florida while serving in the United States Navy. It would be a career full of great moments including numerous no-hit games. So many, in fact that “Red” admitted he stopped keeping count!
Red’s pitching prowess quickly gained him notoriety in the U.S.N.A.S. While stationed at Kodiak, Alaska in 1944, he and his fellow air crewmen formed a scrub team with Red elected as the team’s pitcher. The opposing team quickly discovered that Red had a full arsenal of pitches, including a 90 mile-an-hour fastball. Most went back to the dugout with bat in hand. Red’s Alaskan exploits were featured in a cartoon that was published through the U.S.N.A.S.
Following his overseas stint, Red returned to Lake City and recorded another of his great career moments as he struck out 22 batters in a 7 inning varsity contest. Only one player reached base for the opposing team, following a dropped third strike by the catcher.
Red returned to Floyd County in 1947 and led the Andrews Motors team to the National Softball Congress Tournament in Phoenix, Arizona.
Red and his teammates advanced to the tournament semi-finals before losing to Phoenix, the eventual national champion. The tournament featured another career highlight for Red as his pitching helped defeat a Seattle team starring Eddie Feigner, who later gained national prominence as one of the game’s finest fast-pitch hurlers while touring with a four-man team known as “The King and His Court”.
Red continued his career during two periods of service in the United States Marine Corp from 1947-1948 and 1950-1951. Following his return to Rome, Red pitched for several local teams including Phillips 66, Harry’s Auto Parts, Georgia Power and West Rome Baptist. It was in a Westcott All-Stars uniform, however, that Red recorded his only career perfect game against General Electric in 1958.
The night of August 5, 1960 perhaps stands out as the greatest pitching performance of Red’s career. Battling heat and fatigue, he led the Westcott All-Stars to the District One Championships by pitching both games in the tournament finals against Dalton. The box score for that night showed Red winning 2-1 in a 10 inning contest followed by a 1-0 shutout that went nine innings. The ball from that game remained proudly on display in Red’s home at the time he was inducted.
Willie Montgomery Jr.
The term “scholar-athlete” can certainly be aptly applied to this inductee. After he graduated as Valedictorian of his class at Main High School, he enrolled as a non-scholarship athlete at Clark Atlanta University where he majored in Mathematics. He became the only freshman member of Clarks’ conference winning team. For this achievement, he won the first of four athletic letters in golf. This inductee has truly distinguished himself in the sport of golf and his name is Willie Montgomery, Jr.
Montgomery’s success in golf began when he was named the Georgia Black High School Champion in 1960. In 1962 at Clark Atlanta University, he led his team to the State Championship and then to a top 20 finish in the NAIA National Tournament in Davenport, Iowa. He and his team repeated the State Tournament honors in 1964 and Willie claimed the individual conference championship with a score of 72 at Adams Park in Atlanta.
In 1964, Willie returned to Rome to teach mathematics at Main High School. He initiated his amateur golf career on the Rome golf circuit. His victories locally included the Shoney’s FCA Tournament, Wantu Wazuri Invitational and the Floyd College Alumni Invitational. Other achievements include: Southern Intercollegiate Champion in 1964, first in the GEAA Lowball Tournament in 1977, second in the Sportsmen’s Club Limited in 1980, First Flight Winner in the Jim Jordan Invitational and third in the Boys Club Choir Annual Tournament in 1977.
A true sportsman excels in a sport not only for his own self satisfaction, but also for the self fulfillment he gains in helping others. Willie has shared his time, knowledge and love of sports with the community for many years. He was a volunteer golf instructor at Clark Atlanta University for four years, volunteered as a scorekeeper for men’s adult softball locally for four years and was on the Citizens Advisory Committee for the National Sports Summer Program at Floyd College. Montgomery also coordinated the “Walk for Mankind” committee for local black churches and high schools.
As a star athlete at Coosa High School, “Mercury-Healed Wayne Boyd” was the player other teams had to contain if they were going to stop the ever dangerous Coosa Eagles.
Wayne Boyd grew up in Rome and that is where he learned the sport of football. He played at Coosa High School in 1969 and 1970. He was named Rome Area’s Number One Player in both kickoff and punt returns. He returned 14 punts for an amazing 429 yards and 4 touchdowns and ran back 12 kickoffs for 341 yards. He handled the ball in one form or another, 68 times and responded with 1406 yards and 12 touchdowns. Boyd averaged 20.7 yards when he got his hands on the pigskin. Wayne just had a way of getting behind his blockers and then turning on the speed. Wayne was “Back of the Week” after he helped Coosa capture the Region 3A Football Title. He was named “Most Outstanding Player” after he intercepted 2 passes in the 1969 State Class A playoff game. As part of the “BBB Gun” which included Boyd, Bobby Bishop and James Blanton, the Coosa Eagles were a shot to beware of!
In 1971 Wayne Boyd headed to Jacksonville State University to play for the Gamecocks. He was graded a perfect “100” in a scrimmage before the opening game. The coaches could not decide where to play Boyd. The decision was made a little easier after reading a pre-season football survey Wayne completed. He stated that he enjoyed the game of football so much because of the physical contact the game employs.
The coaches soon learned what he meant. Boyd retained his high school position of defensive back. During Wayne’s sophomore year he was a defensive starter. When his junior year rolled around he was Gamecock Captain. That same year he broke Little All-American, Ray Vinson’s record for punt returns for one season with 309 yards, clipping Vinson’s mark of 303 yards. He established a Gulf South Conference one game record for most punt return yards with 123 against Southeast Louisiana. That same year he either scored or set up 6 touchdowns on punt returns and interceptions. Also in 1971, the J Club awarded Wayne Boyd an “Outstanding Achievement in Athletic Awards”. In 1972 and 1973 he was on the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) All Star Squad, which is voted on by the coaches in Alabama and Mississippi. He was selected as All-Conference in 1972 and 1973 and one of six teammates selected to the All District Team for football in 1972 and 1973.
Wayne has played on 2 State Championship Softball Teams with B&S Construction and has participated in many fishing tournaments.
Culberson stood 6’ tall, weighed 180 pounds and was lightening fast on any ball field. He was an outstanding hitter, outfielder and pitcher on the baseball diamond, was a member of the all Star Basketball Tournament Team and was known as “Long Run” on the football field. J.M. Culberson grew up in Shannon and attended Darlington School.
It was at Darlington that his illustrious sports career began. As a football player, Culberson was a standout. He was known as the best kicker in the school’s history and was an excellent passer. In 1941 he set a record that as of this induction, still stands. Against the Duncan School, after intercepting a pass in his own end-zone, J.M. ran 109 ½ yards for a touchdown. Later that same year, he scored 72 points and gained a total of 192 yards in one game. He was one of the leading scorers in the Georgia Intercollegiate Athletic Association and was named to the All Mid-South Football Team, where he quickly became known as “Long Run Culberson”.
After football, it was on to the basketball court. J.M. was a forward for the Darlington Tigers. Named to the All Star Tournament Team by the Chattanooga Times and listed among the tournament’s 10 leading scorers, J.M. Culberson was a Tiger that couldn’t be tamed. He finished third among the top ten tournament players with 31 points.
There were those who said that baseball was J.M.’s best sport. He was named to the All Mid-South Baseball Team while at Darlington and later became the leading hitter for the Brighton Mills Orphans.
He played most of his baseball for the Brighton team, playing every position except catcher. One newspaper was quoted as saying “he was without doubt, the best all around player to ever don a Brighton uniform”. In 1942 he was offered an opportunity to try out for the Atlanta Baseball Club, but he opted to go the University of North Carolina on a football scholarship.
While at UNC-Chapel Hill, J.M. was named to the All Southern Conference Freshmen Football Team. He helped lead the Tarbabies to a win over the Wake Forest Deaconets with a 77 yard touchdown. After football at Carolina, J.M. went into the Army for 3 ½ years. In March of 1946 his Army service ended. He stayed home for two weeks until his brother Leon, already a Hall of Fame member, called and said the manager of the Red Sox wanted him to work out with the team. J.M. played the whole pre-season with his brother and the Red Sox that year.
J.M. compliments his successful sporting career of six decades of play to the local Parks and Recreation Authority. In 1939 he played fast pitch softball. From the 40’s to the 70’s he played slow pitch softball and in 1980, at the age of 60, he played his last year of softball. Mr. Culberson also spent 20 years as a football referee for the Georgia High School Association and managed the Brighton Pony League team for five years.
In 1965 Lynn Hunnicutt moved to Rome and became a star athlete at Pepperell High School. While there he participated in four sports, excelling in football, baseball, basketball and track. In the sport of football, he helped make the Pepperell Dragons a legendary team.
In 1967 Lynn led the Dragons to the Sub-Region Playoffs and was honored as the Northwest Georgia Lineman of the Year and Rome News Tribune Lineman of the Year. During his junior and senior years he was the leading receiver in Northwest Georgia. In 1968 he became one of the few athletes to be selected All-Area for both football and basketball in the same year.
Lynn graduated with honors from Pepperell in 1969 and was granted a football scholarship to the University of Georgia. Under the famous Georgia coach, Vince Dooley, the 1971 Bulldogs became one of the top ten teams in the nation. The team went on to be Gator Bowl Champions, with Hunnicutt receiving honorable mention as an all Southeastern Conference performer. He was the leading receiver at Georgia during his junior and senior years, playing both tight end and split end positions. Hunnicutt’s final year with the team brought several awards including: the Coffee County Hustle Award, the J.B. Whitworth Award for Most Valuable Lineman, the “Top Dawg” Special Teams Player Award and the prestigious Offensive Captain’s Award.
With numerous awards attesting to his athletic talent, Hunnicutt opted against becoming a free agent in professional football.
Instead he chose to pursue his interest in high school coaching. He began his career at Warner Robins as an assistant football coach, head coach in wrestling and head coach in baseball from 1973 to 1980. The 1976 Demons team became State and National High School Football Champions. Lynn was voted Assistant Coach of the Year seven times in recognition of his work with such a successful program. Hunnicutt then moved on to Fitzgerald High School as the head football coach and athletic director. Although his stay at Fitzgerald was brief, he was honored as their 1981-1982 AAA Coach of the Year. In 1983 Hunnicutt returned to his alma mater of Pepperell to become head football coach and athletic director. He has taken the Dragons to five state playoffs, two region championships and the 1990 AA State Championship.
For some people being good at one sport is enough. For others being great at three sports is just the beginning. This is the case of inductee Glenn Johnson.
In 1948 Glenn was the starting quarterback and defensive back for the Rome Hilltoppers. In the 1949 and 1950 seasons, Johnson led the team to consecutive winning seasons. During this time he also led the north in Georgia’s Annual North-South Game, where he started at defensive back and displayed his versatility by also playing running back.
After leaving his mark on the football field and in the record books, Glenn turned his attention to basketball. Noted as a floor leader, deadly shooter and brilliant passer, he led the Hilltopper Cagers to the North Georgia playoffs two of the three years he was on the team.
Even with his success in these two sports, Glenn’s first love and best sport was baseball. In his years as a Hilltopper, he led the team with his bat and arm to the playoffs three consecutive years and to the state championship in 1951. Some of his baseball highlights include: pitching a 13 inning game during regular season winning 2-1, pitching a no-hitter to clinch the Region 4AA Championship and pitching three complete games in five days to win the North Georgia Class AA Championship. Rome eventually lost the State Class AA Championship to the southern champion, Richmond Academy of Augusta. Glenn lost the first of a 3 game series by a score of 3-2. He pitched the third game but lost by a score of 3-1.
Johnson was selected as the starting pitcher in the North-South High School All Star Game and became the first athlete in the North Georgia Region to play in both football and baseball high school North-South All Star games.
Some of his high school athletic awards are: 1949-1950 Best Defensive Basketball Player, 1950 WRGA Sports Award Football MVP, 1950 All State Football Team, 1950-1951 Best All Around Athlete and 1951 Baseball MVP.
The recognition would draw the attention of the legendary Bobby Dodd who later extended an invitation to Glenn, which he accepted, to play football and baseball at Georgia Tech. Prior to attending Tech, Glenn attended Darlington School as a post-graduate and played quarterback on the football team, guard on the basketball team and pitched on the baseball team. The football team had a break even season and the basketball team had a winning season. In baseball Glenn pitched three games of a 2 of 3 series in three days, winning the first game in extra innings 2-1. Two days later he pitched the first game and lost by a score of 5-0. Teams took a 30 minute rest and Glenn pitched the second game, winning 5-1 to clinch the 1952 Mid South Baseball Championship. Glenn received the 1951-1952 J. M. Harden Award for Best All Around Athlete and the 1952 Harry Boss MVP Baseball Award.
Glenn pitched one year both for Lindale and Brighton in the Northwest Georgia Textile League, was a referee in the Northwest Georgia Football Officials Association, coached pony league baseball and played fast pitch softball for the Westcott All Stars.
Glenn has also found time to serve his community including: president of Rome Jaycees, Rome- Georgia Tech Alumni Club, Coosa Country Club, board member of the Rome-Floyd Parks and Recreation Authority, board member of the Rome Boy’s Club, Darlington School Board of Trustees and Chairman of the Deacons at First Baptist Church. He has also been a member of the Rome Exchange Club and served as a Floyd County Commissioner from 1981-1982.
Jerry P. Sharp
Jerry Sharp has a long list of honors to his credit. At his earliest involvement at the Rome Recreation Department and Rome Boys Club, Sharp excelled in sports. He not only played but also lettered in football, basketball and baseball for three consecutive years at East Rome High School. In 1962 Jerry captained all three high school teams; baseball, football and basketball. He was named “Back of the Year” in the Rome area and was inducted into his first Hall of Fame, the East Rome High School Hall of Fame.
Jerry attended Gordon Military College for one year, playing football. From there he received an athletic scholarship to Carson Newman College. He was a standout player while there, lettering for four years and co-captain of the team his senior year.
In addition to his extraordinary amateur athletic career, he has had an amazing tenure as a coach. In 1967 he returned to East Rome High School as an assistant baseball, football and basketball coach. He was promoted to Athletic Director and Head Football Coach in 1972, serving 14 years in that position and winning two state football championships. In 1986 he accepted the position of Athletic Director, Head Football Coach, chairman of the Physical Education Department and the Administrator of the Lifetime Fitness Program at Darlington High School.
In his twenty nine years of coaching, he was named “Coach of the Year” numerous times by various institutions and organizations including the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association in Region 7AA and State Class AA, the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Atlanta Touchdown Club and the 100% Wrong Club.
Many of Rome’s local media honored him with the same title including WROM, Broadside News, WAWA Channel 14 and the Rome News Tribune.
Jerry has been honored nationally as Athletic Director of the Year and twice at the state level. His career spans many years and many honors but most importantly, it has brought him into contact with thousands of young people early on in their athletic careers. He has helped these students further their athletic careers at over twenty different colleges and universities. He has coached athletes on their way to professional football including Mike Hogan of the Philadelphia Eagles, Larry Kinnebrew of the Cincinnati Bengals, Ray Donaldson and Ray Brown of the Dallas Cowboys.
181 wins, 88 losses and 9 ties reflect but does not sum up, a man’s career. He has held the community's respect long and has been a leader in athletics since his youth.
Robert G. Wyatt
One hundred and twenty five years ago in 1873 the game of tennis was officially developed. Only fifty years later, a young Roman joined the growing ranks of competitive tennis players. He continued throughout his life, to make tennis part of the Roman Heritage. He was Robert G. Wyatt.
Better known as Bobby, he began his tennis career playing Junior Tennis in the mid 1920’s on the original city courts at Myrtle Park Playground. Playing in the men’s division, he won the singles event in 1934, 1935 and 1936, retiring the championship trophy. He played on one of Darlington’s finest teams, which included Ramsey Potts.
Bobby attended Emory University and in 1938 was captain of the Emory tennis team. His doubles partner was Dr. Tom Harbin. That same year he won the singles in the Rome City Tournament and in 1939 he took the singles championship in the North Georgia Tournament.
In the early 30’s, badminton saw a resurgence of popularity nationally and Rome became a southeastern “hot spot”. Bobby proved that tennis was not his only talent by winning the City Badminton Singles in 1937. In 1938 he represented Rome at the Southern Badminton Championships in Chattanooga, claiming both the singles and doubles titles. In 1939 he competed in the National Badminton Tournament.
1939 saw the beginning of World War II. Bobby served as a Lieutenant Senior Grade on a fleet mine sweeper in the Navy.
In deference to the war efforts, there was no tournament tennis or badminton for several years after.
Bobby paired with Dr. Harbin again in 1962 to win the Senior Doubles City Championship and continued to take the title until 1967. In 1965 and 1966, Bobby and Sissy Rogers won the mixed doubles division.
His contributions to tennis were exceptional but Bobby was also an outstanding citizen of Rome. He was the longest serving member of the Board of Directors of SunTrust Bank, formerly First National. He was a life Trustee at the Darlington School and served as a Trustee and Heritage Society Member at Shorter College. He was a charter member of the Coosa Valley Tennis Association Board of Directors, supporting the sport he loved.
Participating in both basketball and football, Jim Doss began an athletic career in high school that built a foundation leading to both personal and professional athletic successes. As a center and linebacker for Rome Boys High School, Doss was named Most Valuable Player and Second Team All State in 1946. His athletic abilities, teamed with his academic successes, led him to accept a football scholarship at the University of Georgia. After a short period of time at UGA, he returned to Darlington School for additional college preparatory courses.
A four year football scholarship led Doss to the Citadel where he played center on the team while earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Health and Physical Education. As a distinguished military college graduate, he is listed in the 1952 edition of Who’s Who Among America’s Colleges and Universities.
As a First Lieutenant in the United States Air Force, Doss served as Base Athletic officer and was a member of the United States All Conference Volleyball Team. From the Air Force, Doss journeyed to the University of Kentucky. It was here that he attended graduate school, coached the red shirt football team and served as football recruiter for the University of Kentucky Wildcats.
After receiving his Master of Science Degree in Health and Physical Education, Doss returned to Darlington school where he taught math and served as head football coach for 9 years and wrestling coach for 5 years.
During his stay at Darlington School, Doss was president of the Mid South Athletic Conference and coached the first Darlington Football team ever to beat Baylor, which he did two consecutive years. Doss had a very successful stay at Darlington, coaching several outstanding teams and achieving several team records. As the founder of the Darlington Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Doss was an influential leader to many outstanding players who went on to play collegiate sports.
Clara "Cissy" Rogers
As the daughter of a former baseball coach and a competitive badminton player, Clara “Cissy” Rogers grew up around sports and athletics. After playing during her years at Rome High School, she went on to attend Auburn University. However, her notable sports career did not even begin until she was in her thirties.
As the mother of six children, Cissy’s main priority in life was her children. At the age of 35, shortly after her youngest child began kindergarten, Cissy learned to play tennis and rapidly became one of the dominant female players in the area. In 1965, 1966 and 1967 Cissy teamed up with Bobby Wyatt to play in both the Coosa Country Club and City/County Mixed Doubles Tennis Tournaments. She continued her success in doubles, playing with several notable tennis players in the area including Sara Dickinson, Joan Brown, Suzy Gilbert and Bobbi Aranda with whom she played in the Rome Tennis Club League, Atlanta Lawn Tennis Association and USTA Team Tennis.
Cissy began competing in Georgia state tournaments in 1972 and earned a #10 ranking in 35 Singles. In 1974 while playing with ALTA, she helped her team become High B Division Champions. In 1976 she was a finalist in the 45 Division in Chattanooga in the Tennessee Valley Invitational. In 1978 she began hitting her stride with a Georgia state ranking of 4th in 45 Singles.
Teamed with Pat Hillman, Cissy went on to earn a ranking of 4th in 45 Doubles and ranked 14th in 45 Doubles in the Southern Lawn Tennis Association.
By 1979 Cissy’s tennis career reached high gear with a ranking of #1 in 50 Singles in Georgia, #2 in 50 Doubles with Pat Hillman and 4th in 45 Doubles with Peppy Williams. During the same year, she won the Coosa Valley Invitational 45 Singles and Doubles. She reached her highest goal in 1980 by achieving the #1 ranking in Georgia 50 Singles and 50 Doubles with Jo Higgins. She didn’t stop there. She went on to help her AA Alta team become Division Champions in 1987 and finalists in the Atlanta City Championships.
Not only a fine athlete, Cissy served her community as a model citizen, mother and spouse.
Harry Penn Lloyd
Harry Lloyd began his sports career at Darlington School for Boys in the late 1920’s. Harry was one of many to come out of the Darlington Sports program, as his era included notable sports stars like Harry Boss, Billy McWilliams and Jennings Gordon. While at Darlington, Harry achieved the status of captain of varsity football, but his sports priority was baseball. Harry helped lead Darlington to win the state baseball championship in 1927, his senior year. Harry was an excellent student and served as President of the Honor Council and a member of the Who’s Who Club. Harry also received the Faculty Medal of Excellence from Darlington.
Mr. Lloyd chose to attend Auburn University where he enjoyed a stellar four year career and achieved outstanding honors as a first baseman. In 1931, as a junior with a batting average of .365, Harry was selected to the All-Dixie College League Team. In 1932, Harry was selected for the high honor of College All American. During this impressive baseball season, Harry clouted a .400 batting average and did not commit a single error in 135 chances. He was simply the best player on the squad.
Harry was offered the opportunity to play pro baseball in the Southeastern League with the Macon Peaches but the league disbanded before Harry finished his college degree. As a young newlywed in the early years of the Great Depression, Harry went to work instead of pursuing a professional baseball career. He continued to play Textile League ball and eventually went on to coach and manage during the 1940’s and ‘50’s.
Harry Lloyd passed away in 1970 but will always be remembered by his family and friends as an avid sports enthusiast who loved the game of baseball.
From 1950 to 1953, Donald Traylor amassed numerous honors on the football field and baseball diamond for the Rome Hilltoppers. In football, Donald was named First Team All State, First Team All Region, Most Valuable Player and was selected as the starting running back for the North-South Football game. He also received Parade High School All American Honorable Mention. In baseball Donald achieved honors of All State, All Region, Batting Champion, starting third baseman in the North-South baseball game and the MVP two consecutive years.
Donald Traylor was one of Rome’s finest young athletes. The Atlanta Journal Constitution hailed him as “one of the best running backs in North Georgia”. During his senior year he compiled over 2000 yards and scored 16 touchdowns. He completed his high school career with a total of 23 touchdowns, a record for the Hilltoppers and became the leading scorer in 4AA High School Football. On the baseball diamond he started at third base for three years. He sported a .426 batting average as a junior and .370 average for his overall high school career.
Major league clubs including the Braves, Reds and Cardinals wanted Traylor as a player. However, with 20 major college football scholarship offers, Donald chose the gridiron over baseball and accepted a scholarship to play football at the University of Alabama. Unfortunately a serious knee injury during his sophomore year ended his college sports career and with that, his lifelong dream of playing professional football. Donald never gave up his love for the game as one of the Tide’s biggest fans.
James "Len" Traylor
As a high school All American and a college record setter in track and field, James “Len” Traylor has amassed numerous awards and records, some of which are still in place at the time of this writing.
Traylor specialized in both the 120 yard high hurdles and 330 yard intermediate hurdles. As a senior at East Rome High School, he capped his last season by winning the Region 7AA Championship in both events. Traylor consistently ran the highs in 14.9 seconds and still held the East Rome High School record in the 330 hurdles when the school closed in 1992. Through competing in events such as Rome Relays, Georgia State Track Championships, Junior AAU District and Regional Championships, Len established several school records, including a 6’5” high jump, 38.9 seconds in 330 yard intermediate hurdles and 56.0 seconds in the 440 yard intermediate hurdles.
Len was also selected to be part of the Prep All America Track Team, a national selection out of Hanover, New Hampshire. As a result, his name appeared n the group’s national publication. A fitting climax to his high school career was winning the Floyd County Decathlon for the second consecutive year, where he won 6 of the 10 events outright and set a decathlon record of 14.7 seconds in the high hurdles.
After receiving recruitment offers from colleges across the region and nation, Len chose to stick close to home and attend Berry College. As a track competitor for Berry, Len consistently placed first in three events; high hurdles, intermediate hurdles and 100 yard dash.
He also qualified to run in the NAIA National Meet in the high hurdles with the 14th best time in the country in NAIA stats. At Berry, Len competed against Edwin Moses, a past world record holder in 440 intermediate hurdles and Renaldo Nehemiah, a world record holder in 120 yard high hurdles.
Len contributes much of his success to past high school coach, Frank Pinson. A newspaper article from 1976 begins by saying “Len Traylor, who follows in the footsteps of a long line of impressive hurdlers at East Rome High, has received still another honor. “
Between the years of 1951 and 1955, Model High School was privileged to have this multi-sport star athlete as a student. Wayne Shellnut wasn’t satisfied with playing just one sport, so while he attended Model High, he participated in football, baseball, track and basketball and became a four year letterman in all four sports.
One of Wayne’s accomplishments included playing varsity football in the eighth grade, where he quickly earned the nickname “headhunter” because of his lethal tackling ability. Wayne went on to play on state championship football teams in 1953 and 1954, and was selected to the All Region and All State Football teams in 1952, 1953 and 1954. His high school football career was highlighted with his selection and honor as the Georgia Class B Lineman of the Year Award in 1954.
On the track, Wayne set records in the 180 yard low hurdles with a state record time of 21.065, to become the Georgia Class B State Champion. When the football and track seasons rested, Wayne did not. He took the mound for Model’s baseball team where his outstanding play earned him an appearance as the starting pitcher for the North All Stars in the 1954 North-South All Star Game.
As his high school career came to a close, Wayne was awarded a football scholarship to the University of Georgia (one minute after midnight on signing day) where he played as a defensive lineman in 1955 and 1956 under Wally Butts. Still not satisfied, Wayne went on to another dream, a dream of playing professional baseball.
This dream became reality in 1956 when he was invited to join the St. Louis Cardinals organization as a pitcher. Wayne remained with the Cardinals for 2 ½ years, when an arm injury forced him to leave the game.
He continued to remain involved in sports, raising 3 sons who went on to play college baseball and basketball. He also led a team of 11-12 year olds from Forest Park, Georgia to the Little League World Series in 1975.
Cary Steve Catanzano
Coosa High School is the alma mater of this inductee. From 1973 to 1976, Cary Steve Catanzano amassed numerous awards and recognitions in the sports of basketball and baseball.
During his freshman and sophomore years at Coosa, Steve received Most Improved Player awards in both sports and later went on to become Coosa High School’s Most Valuable Player in basketball his senior year. It was also during his senior year that Steve was selected to the 7AA All Tournament Basketball Team and was named High School All American in baseball. Upon his graduation from Coosa, Steve had scored just under 1,000 points in basketball and was second only to former Eagle, Mike Glenn, with 155 assists and third in steals with 65.
In addition to being an outstanding athlete in basketball, Steve was a three year starter in baseball, playing second and third bases as well as pitching. During his senior year he hit .464 and had 4-0 record on the mound. This helped Coosa win the Region 7AA title and a runner up spot in North Georgia. According to Darrell Black with the Rome News Tribune, “Steve Catanzano’s defensive ability at second base seems to be unapproachable by any other second sacker in the area. He is the only player that was a virtual unanimous choice in any position for the 1976 All Area Team”. It was because of these achievements that Steve was offered a full scholarship to Shorter College in both basketball and baseball.
Once at Shorter, Steve’s love of basketball dominated and he began another phase in his sports career. While playing for the Hawks, Steve was named to the GIAC All Conference Freshman Team for the 1976-1977 season.
It was in that same season that the Shorter Hawks were the GIAC Conference Champions. During his career at Shorter, Steve recorded the best field percentage for two consecutive seasons, lettered all four years and was named Shorter College’s Most Valuable Player for Basketball his senior year. Steve scored over 1,000 points in his four years with the Hawks.
Steve and his wife Elaine Mason Catanzanohave have remained in Rome and have been actively involved in the research and fight for a cure for Type I (Juvenile) Diabetes since the diagnosis of their daughter in 1992. Steve says a cure for this disease, which he has come to know personally, will be the most important victory of his life.
When you begin to toss around the names Nick Hyder, Charles Tarpley, Doc Ayers and Larry Parker you know that something good is coming. How about if you throw in Erk Russell? This inductee into the Rome-Floyd Sports Hall of Fame was coached and influenced by all five.
Brad Cescutti began his football career at St. Mary’s School in 1964 as a Mite Division player and was named a Santa Bowl All-Star. His career continued through 1977 where Brad played inside linebacker for the University of Georgia Bulldogs, participating in the 1975 Tangerine Bowl, 1976 Cotton Bowl and the 1977 Sugar Bowl as Southeastern Conference Champions.
West Rome High School held the bragging rights on this young man. Brad led the first undefeated JV football team as a starting running back and linebacker in 1969. In 1970 he gave up running the football and focused his attention to the inside linebacker position where he earned the starting role on the varsity squad as a sophomore. During that season, West Rome went undefeated in the regular season, won Region and became the Northwest Georgia Champions. This task would be repeated in 1971, earning Brad a selection as runner up on the All State Football Team. During his senior year Brad, as team captain, once again took the ball as starting fullback while maintaining his role as inside linebacker. With a record of 9-1, they won their third Region Championship, Northwest Georgia Championship, and went on to win the North Georgia Championship. Brad was selected as All State, Northwest Georgia Player of the Year, Player of the Year by the 100% Wrong Club and West Rome High’s Most Valuable Football Player.
He also received the Golden Helmet Award from area referees.
In addition to his many accomplishments on the football field, Brad excelled in track as a member of the Region Championship Team for four years, competing in the 880 run, mile relay, shot put, pole vault, discus and was the co-holder of the school record in the 2 mile relay. Successes were also enjoyed on the mat as a 3 year letterman of the wrestling team where Brad served as captain his junior and senior years. Brad amassed an undefeated regular season record and was state runner up in the 185 lb. division during his junior year. He was undefeated and won the State Championship in the 185 lb. division his senior year. Brad was voted Most Athletic by fellow students.
Following his outstanding high school career, Brad accepted a full scholarship to the University of Georgia where he played inside linebacker on the freshman team. He went on to become a 3 year letterman for the Bulldogs and was named Most Improved Linebacker during two consecutive spring training sessions.
Brad completed a successful college football career at UGA and earned a Bachelors Degree in Education before moving to Cedar Bluff, Alabama.
Don C. Law
Don Law moved with his family to Rome in 1955 from Oxford, Alabama. Don was the oldest of the Law’s four children and was 11 years old at the time. His love for baseball led him to YAI ball “behind the levee” where he played in the Bronco, Pony and Colt leagues for six years.
Don attended school in the Johnson district sixth through ninth grades. As a high school freshman, he lettered in varsity football, basketball and baseball under coaches Bobby Chappell and Gene Sheets. Don attended West Rome High from 10th to 12th grades, graduating in 1962. While wearing the green and white of the West Rome Chieftains, Don not only lettered in baseball, basketball and football for three years, but he also served as team captain in all three sports his senior year. He achieved a personal sports highlight by being named to All State honors in all three sports during his senior year. Don was coached by some of the best in the region; Paul Kennedy, Nick Hyder and Owen Blanton. All left indelible marks on Don’s sports career and his life.
Don’t high school sports accomplishments did not go unrecognized by college recruiters. After visiting several schools, he accepted a football scholarship to the Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina. Don later transferred to Berry College where he continued his collegiate sports career. He lettered in basketball for two seasons under Coach Larry Taylor. With baseball remaining a personal passion, Don played three seasons at Berry under coach Jerry Shelton and was an honorable mention All American his sophomore, junior and senior years.
After college, Don made his way to the Atlanta area where he taught and coached varsity sports at Bass High and Marist High for a total of eight years. Don later moved into sales and management working in both Atlanta and Birmingham. He relocated back to Rome in 1999 after being away for 32 years.
In 1945 Dudley Sheppard moved from the Pepperell School district to Rome High School, a move that was greatly welcomed by both the student body and administration. Dudley’s football talents had been recognized at an early age and he proved himself at Rome High by leading as team captain for three seasons. He also led team scoring each of those three seasons. Dudley received many honors for his athletic accomplishments including the first WRGA Outstanding Performance trophy for players in the Rome area. Dudley was also selected to the GIAA Honors Team made up of the best players in the conference.
College recruiters from across the southern region courted Dudley. Virginia Military Institute (VMI), Alabama Polytechnic Institute, the University of Georgia, West Georgia College and the Citadel of Charleston, SC were among the schools that recognized Dudley’s football talent. However, Dudley wanted to stay close to home and accepted a full scholarship from the University of Chattanooga in Tennessee. Dudley earned the nickname “rabbit” as a freshman. As a halfback, his lightning fast speed was unmatched. His skills as a runner were recognized by the sports writers in Chattanooga who voted him to “Outstanding Player” status in his first spring Blue & Gold contest. Dudley had two successful seasons at the University of Chattanooga before enlisting in the U.S. Navy in 1946.
After completing his basic training with the Navy, Dudley was fortunate to continue his football career as a member of the Navy team.
He was stationed in San Diego where he competed in both football and fast pitch softball for Navy teams. Dudley completed his military service and signed with a Washington Redskins AAA farm team in Annapolis, Maryland, called the Anacostia Eagles. Dudley performed well with the team as a running back, defensive end and punt return specialist. Dudley stayed with the Eagles for two seasons before returning to Rome to go to work with the General Electric Corporation.
Dudley always maintained a high interest in sports and recreation and was instrumental in organizing the sports program at Garden Lakes Elementary School. He coached senior midgets football and his team won the League Championship, the first State Championship in Brunswick and went on to win the Camellia Bowl Georgia-South Carolina Championship. The game was played in Savannah and Dudley’s team defeated a team from Charleston by a score of 19-0. The win was very special for Dudley.
In addition to his sports involvement, Dudley was active in community services through the Boy Scouts and the Oostanaula Masonic Lodge. He was an avid trained swimmer and spent many hours instructing swimming courses for the Red Cross. He also umpired baseball, softball and football through the Northwest Georgia High School Officials Association. He also became quite a good golfer in his later years.
It is no secret that West Rome High School was a football powerhouse, a dynamo for producing outstanding teams in the decades of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. And, as we all agree, great programs are not the product of just luck or accident. Great coaches and talented athletes combine to set the stage for successful high school football programs. Such was the case at West Rome High from 1965 to 1968, when an outstanding young talent by the name of Roger Weaver took to the gridiron.
In his freshman year, Roger helped his Chieftains win a region title by tallying 289 net yards with 56 rushes for an average gain of over 5 yards per carry. The 1966 Chieftains squad produced another region title with Weaver lighting up the scoreboard with 1198 rushing yards, good enough to earn the 6AA rushing honors for Roger.
Experience fosters success and under Roger Weaver’s leadership as a running back, the green and white Chieftains landed its third consecutive region crown in 1967. Roger had an outstanding year handling the ball 516 times for a total of 2,923 yards and received Back of the Year honors.
Roger ended his career in 1968 after compiling outstanding stats for a high school running back, gaining over 4,400 yards and averaging better than 5 yards per carry over his four seasons.
Weaver, while known for his ability to move the pigskin, also excelled as a track star and was a pretty fair boxer, winning a Georgia Golden Gloves Championship in 1964 and an Alabama Championship in 1970.
A lifelong resident of Lindale where he is affectionately known as “The Legend”, Jim Yarbrough has been involved in sports in Rome and Floyd County throughout his life; as an athlete, an umpire and as a volunteer coach. As a four sport letterman at Pepperell High School, Jim was a standout in baseball, football, basketball and track. Baseball, however, proved to be the sport of achievement for this local star.
In the early 50’s, Coach J. W. Sutton and his Pepperell Dragons won two straight Class B State Championships in baseball. The Dragons captured these titles with the help of outfielder Jim Yarbrough, who also hit the first ever homerun out of the “old” Pepperell baseball field. With a .511 overall batting average, Jim was voted in 1953 to the Georgia North-South All Star game by the Georgia Baseball Coaches Association. He was appointed co-captain of that team as well. That same year, Yarbrough was part of a Pepperell team that enjoyed a benchmark season, including going 8-0 during the regular season while outscoring their opponents 99-15. That same Pepperell squad went on to sweep through a set of four district games to improve to 12-0 and earn a berth in the state playoffs. Jim helped lead his team to five straight wins to capture the elusive state title. Jim enjoyed legendary successes at Pepperell High School.
Upon graduation, he, along with teammate Baltimore Smith, signed with the Cincinnati Reds organization where he began playing in 1953.
He was drafted into the Army and served from 1956 to 1958, then returned to the Reds organization where he played through 1959. After returning home, Jim continued his on-field successes as pitcher with the Rome Loan Exchange baseball team, playing in the Northwest Georgia Amateur Baseball League with other local notables including Wayne Shellnut, also a member of the Rome-Floyd Sports Hall of Fame. He played for Elliott Sales Softball team, winning nine district championships and the state championship in 1964.
Throughout the years, Jim remained active in sports and athletics by participating in softball, golf and baseball. As an ASA umpire with the Rome Association, Jim umpired more than 32 years and was inducted into the Umpire’s Hall of Fame in 2004.
Jim was very competitive in area golf tournaments as well, attaining Club Champion status and numerous “hole in one” honors around the area. In 1955 Jim retired from most of his athletics so he could coach behind the levee, where he helped lead numerous teams to district, state and World Series tournaments.
So often in the Rome-Floyd Sports Hall of Fame we hear and see the names “Paul Kennedy” and “Nick Hyder”. Gerry Law trained under the coaching skills of these legendary Romans, paving his path into the Sports Hall of Fame.
Gerry Law began competing at an early age through the Rome Youth Baseball and Football Leagues. In the 1960’s at West Rome High School, Gerry played and lettered four years in football, baseball and basketball. Gerry became the first athlete at West Rome to play and letter in three sports for four years. The highlight of his freshman year was making all State as a player in baseball and being a member of the State Championship winning team.
Gerry received a baseball scholarship to Berry College, where he played and lettered four years. He led the baseball team in hitting three out of four competitive years and received Honorable Mention for All American during his junior and senior seasons. Upon graduation from Berry, Gerry signed and played professional baseball for the San Diego Padres Organization, retiring to Atlanta to begin a career with General Motors.
Law instilled in his children a love for athletics as he coached his sons and daughter in youth baseball, basketball and softball leagues for eighteen years.
When one thinks of water sports, one seldom thinks of Rome, Georgia and its surrounding area as a breeding ground for exceptional water sports athletes. One exception to that rule is none other than Shay Langley. After joining the American Water Ski Association at an early age of 8, Shay went on to ski in many novice tournaments in Tennessee and Georgia in the Junior Boys division for three years.
As a student at the Linda Giddens Ski School in Eastman, Georgia, Shay achieved greater heights in his water skiing career. While attending, Shay won the Georgia State Title in the Junior Boys Slalom in 1975. In 1976 he claimed the Georgia State Trick Title with a record setting score of 3,180 points. He then went on to clench his first Georgia State Overall Title at the age of 14.
Apart from being a student, Shay was also an instructor for the Linda Giddens School from 1980-1986.
During his tenure there, he set the Southern Regional Trick Record at 6,380 points in 1982 as well as standing for the Georgia state record.
In 1983 Shay was offered a scholarship to Northeast Louisiana University where he won the Intercollegiate Trick Title his freshman year and was seeded the #1 Trick Skier for 4 of his 5 years attended. During his stay at Northeast Louisiana University, the university water skiing team won the National Title in 1983, 1984, 1985 and 1987. Shay placed in the Men’s Trick Division in 1983 and 1985. In 1986 Shay went on to hold the 1st Place title in the Men’s Trick Division of the U.S. Nationals.
In 1989 Shay was nominated and chosen as 1 of 4 skiers to represent the United States in the 1989 Winter Collegiate Olympic Games in Sophia, Bulgaria. Shay went on to place 3rd in the Tricks Event, in an indoor water skiing event that the Americans had never before attended in the event’s 10 year existence.
After completing the 1989 Intercollegiate Olympics, Shay moved back to his hometown of Rome to continue training.
Jack T. "Beanie" Ozment
For more than one hundred years, Pepperell High School has educated and trained top quality athletes and students that continue their successes long after the graduation ceremony. One such student was Jack T. “Beanie” Ozment, one of two Pepperell baseball catchers to advance to Minor League Baseball. During the early 50’s, Beanie was known as the player trained at any position. He batted .500 in Little League and Pony League and .750 in Colt League as an outfielder. Beanie was named to the All Star team and advanced to the World Series in 1958.
In 1959 while in spring training with the Detroit Tigers, Beanie suffered a fall and subsequent injury that limited his throwing ability. Detroit Tigers General Manager, Jim Campbell, informed Beanie that the injury would prevent him from soaring past the Minor Leagues, yet recommended he continue his love for baseball by attending Umpiring School in Orlando, Florida.
Beanie obtained his release from the Tigers and returned to Lindale. He then enlisted in the Army and served for 22 months in Bavaria, where he was used as a German interpreter for the 663rd Ordinance Group.
Beanie retired in 1997 from the Floyd County Sheriff’s Department after serving for 33 years, more than 25 years after a debilitating accident on the job left him disabled. Even since his retirement he strives to serve others, spending time assisting neighbors and senior friends with yard work and charitable tasks.
As a child, Van Boozer wanted to do what most children did….play sports. He joined Maple Street Community Center with the hopes of playing sports. However, during that time he was too small to play many of the sports they offered, weighing only 67 pounds. It was then that he decided to try out for the boxing team and was accepted. He won his first fight that lasted one minute and 44 seconds. Boozer notes that boxing has progressed from the early days when equipment consisted of swim suit, tennis shoes and towel.
Boozer was influenced by a great boxer by the name of Carol Knowles. In 1947, he began to train for the Golden Glove. That year he was runner up and won the Silver. In 1951, he joined the US Navy and was stationed in San Diego, Cal. After boot camp, he tried out for the Navy’s boxing team and to his surprise, he made it. He won several non-title fights before being deployed to his home fort at Barbers Point Naval Base in Hawaii. While there, he began training for the Olympic Boxing Team. After wining the Pacific Championships, all Navy Championship Hawaii and Far West Lightweight Championship at 132 pounds he was eligible for the Olympics. He won two out of three fights, but unfortunately needed to win three to progress to the Olympics. While boxing in the navy, he had the privilege of fighting on the same card with Floyd Patterson, who went on the win the Olympics and become one the Worlds Greatest Fighters.
In 1955, he was honorable discharged from the Navy and came back to Rome where he worked for Carolina Freight Carriers for 17 years and then at Southeastern Mills for nine years, where retired in 1996. He also volunteered a youth baseball coach for five years.
A life-long resident of Lindale, Todd has been involved in athletics in Rome and Floyd County his entire life. As a Pepperell Dragon, Todd had many great accomplishments including achieving three time qualifier in track in shot put and discuss, placing in State track meets and setting school track records. Todd was selected to play in the Georgia Athletic Coaches Assoication North South All-Star Football Game and in the first Georgia-Florida All-Star Football Game. As a student athlete he lead his high school football team as team captain, achieved All State Offensive Lineman and was recognized as Most Athletic Superlative.
Todd’s high school sports accomplishments did not go unrecognized by college recruiters. He received a full athletic grant to the University of Georgia. Todd began his college career receiving the Freshman of the Year Award.
In 1988 Todd was a consensus ALL SEC player at Georgia and the Captain of Coach Dooley’s last team. He also received the Southeastern United State Offensive Lineman of the Year in 1988 from the Atlanta Touchdown Club as well as the Lower Alabama Bulldog Club Player of the Year.
In 1989 he became a member of 1980’s All-Decade Team. Todd served in the community as a volunteer, a teacher and a coach. He worked as a Rome Relays volunteer for 13 years. As a High school Coach, Todd has coached a 3 time state track & field champion in Shot Put and Discus, and three state champions in wrestling. During his 15- year tenure at Pepperall, he led the football team to two semi-finals and was recognized as the 7AAA assistant coach of the year. Todd Wheeler continues to serve as head coach of the Model football and track teams. In Vince Dooley’s recommendation for Todd’s Hall of Fame nomination, he stated of Todd, “I hold him in an elite group of football players both as an athlete and a person that I had the privilege of coaching in my 25 years at the University of Georgia.”
Gary Tillman is a man who embodies the spirit of the Hall of Fame. He was a wonderful family man, model citizen, local businessman, track and field athlete, and coach. Gary Tillman started his life here in Rome as a high school junior and track star at West Rome High School. He consistently achieved top honors in most of his events at local, district and state meets. He holds the West Rome High school record in the mile run, the 880-yard run and the two-mile run. He also ran legs on record-setting teams for the spring medley, distance medley and two-mile relay. Gary was named Who’s Who for Track and Cross Country. His accomplishments caught the attention of Coach Lewis Gainey who recruited and signed him to a scholarship to the University of Georgia where he lettered in track and cross country in 1976 and 1977. The University of Georgia’s coach and athletic director, Vince Dooley awarded Gary membership into the UGA Varsity Club. In 1978, Gary then transferred to Cumberland University in Williamsburg, Kentucky and became All American in Outdoor and Indoor Track and Cross Country.
After college, Gary returned to Rome and coached the Track and Cross Country teams at Berry College. He worked closely with Dr. Pearson, Athletic Director at Berry, to achieve winning teams and taught that success comes with hard work and dedication. For several years, he assisted with the Rome Relays Invitational Track meet where he encouraged thousands of student athletes across the state.
He could be seen most weekends competing in local road races. In 2006, in tribute to Gary and his dedication to the track & field community, The Clocktower Road Race was renamed the Gary Tillman Memorial Clocktower Road Race.
Gary was also well known for business and community leadership positions. As owner and President of Tillman Insurance and Aviation Insurance Brokers of North America, he held local, state and national leadership roles in the Insurance business. Locally, he served on the Board of Visitors for GA Highlands College, was active in Rome YMCA, and an active Exchange Club member.
Gary gave generously in sharing his talents. He was a Captain in the Civil Air Patrol and flew many search and rescue missions. He was known nationally as a pilot who flew patients and families who were in need of travel. Mary Smith, a long time friend, shared a story of how Gary had promised to fly her to Virginia should she need to go home hurriedly due to her father’s illness. Two years later, he kept that promise when he flew her to her father’s side. The civil air patrol recognized Gary’s character and honored him for his leadership work with training cadets.
Gary touched many lives from friends to strangers, students to colleagues, community groups to business groups. Gary was the embodiment of friendliness and wholehearted acceptance. His passing left a huge hole in the heart of this community.
Jackie Miller Walburn
Jackie Miller Walburn started shooting hoops at the young age of 7, when her father purchased the only basketball goal in town. Upon entering Armuchee High School in her freshman year, Jackie stood 5’10’ tall and immediately found her place on the Girl’s Varsity Basketball Team While at Armurchee, Jackie achieved Most Points in a Season; Highest Point Average per game (at 30 points); Most points in a game (at 48 points, which she achieved 3 times); and Highest Career Points. The girl’s basketball team was one of the top teams in the entire state in Class B. The Georgia School State Basketball Tournament sports writers labeled their team as the “The Amazons” and Jackie was labeled “The Queen of the Amazons”. One of the highlight’s of Jackie high school athletic accomplishments was being named to the All-State Basketball team two successive years and was the first Armuchee athlete to be named to the All-State team.
Jackie’s athletic accomplishments were made even more outstanding considering she also excelled in softball and tennis and she graduated Valedictorian of her class. As one of the most prolific scorers to ever play in the Rome area, her basketball jersey was retired upon her graduation from Armuchee.
Jackie continued her basketball career at West Georgia Junior College in 1955. In her first year she made school records for Most points in a Season. She set the record for Most Points in a Game at 52 points. She also set the record for Most Points in a Career, and held this record until the 2 year college became a four-year institution. In her freshman year, West Georgia College awarded Jackie the Herndon Award, recognizing her as an outstanding freshman student. In 1957, Jackie achieved Best Female Athlete.
After college, Jackie played with the Atlanta Tomboys in the Amateur Athletic Union or AAU. Jackie played the position of “Rover”. As a “Rover”, Jackie played both ends of the court and was the only player permitted to play this position in AAU. In the Regional AAU All-Tournament Team, Jackie was the team leading scorer at 26 points per game. She helped the Atlanta Tomboys qualify for national tournament, but the team chose an exhibition tour in Cuba as representative of the United States Government. As a result of Jackie’s high performance on the court, she was selected for the All-Time Tomboy Team. After playing with the Atlanta Tomboys for six seasons, Jackie was offered a professional contract to tour with the Arkansas Redheads women’s basketball team.
In 2007, Jackie was recognized by the Georgia Trend Magazine as a Legendary Athlete for establishing and holding school records for more than 50 years – her high school records still stand – all of them!
Coach Hugh Selman says of Jackie, I have never coached anyone with more athletic ability, character, desire to win, sportsmanship, leadership and love for teammates.”
Dickie Sapp who was an All-State Tailback for the West Rome Chieftains from 1963 to 1965. He was selected All-area for all 3 years and was honored as Player of the Year in 1964.
It is said that if you have ever watched Barry Sanders, you have watched Dickie Sapp at a High School level. He was a performer on the football field who used his speed, balance and agility to break a game wide open.
A speedster on the track and on the football field, Dickie was a standout as an offensive player - game after game, twisting and turning his way through several great gains. Dickie was once called “a lad with wings on his heels”.
On the track, Dickie was a record setter. He launched a record-breaking afternoon by running the 100 yard dash in 10 seconds flat, eclipsing his old record by 1:5 seconds. Ninety minutes later he defended his Georgia Class AA Champ title for the long-jump and leaped 22 feet – 8 ¼ inches, breaking his previous record of 22 feet – 1 ½ inches and setting a new state record. The Rome-News Tribune described Dickie as a “mercy–heeled senior who will go down in history as one of the school’s finest athletes”
Dickie was awarded a scholarship to Austin Peay in football where he played a year before joining the National Guard.
Dickie’s character has been revealed off the field throughout his life. He has always quietly gone about the work he really enjoys – volunteering for children. He has coached girl’s softball, t-ball, coach-pitch and soccer. Dickie was once described as “the kind of dad every kid would love to have”
David Watkins is a person that both athletes and non-athletes look up to. Starting in high-school, his discipline, hard work and dedication made him a leader that inspired others. Early morning workouts before class, football practice after school or staying conditioned during the summer, David led the way and others followed his leadership.
David’s hard work and dedication paid off. He was a feared linebacker. Teams designed their offensive schemes to run the ball away from Watkins, but it did not matter – he covered the field from sideline to sideline and always led the team in tackles. David also played center and tight-end and was as aggressive on the offensive side of the ball as he was on the defensive side. He was an excellent blocker and when he hit you, you knew you had been hit.
David’s performances on the field caught the attention of college coaches and he was very heavily recruited receiving scholarship offers from over 20 schools. David chose the University of Alabama and Coach Bear Bryant flew to Rome to personally get his signature on the scholarship offer.
David played defensive end at Alabama and was a three-year letterman. He started games his sophomore year and was a regular starter his junior and senior seasons where he and his team won the SEC Championship three years running from 1971 to 1973 and was also declared the United Press International’s National Champions in 1973.
When David graduated from Alabama, Coach Bear Bryant came to Rome again and participated in a “David Watkins Day” celebration. David graduated from Alabama and went on to coach at the high school and college level.
As a teacher, an administrator and a coach, David has always been respected because he is a consistent leader who is fair and kind.
Willie Lewis Brown Jr.
Some athletes compete to discover their limitations; Willie Brown competed to defy them. Willie Lewis Brown Jr. – a dominating 6 foot 8 basketball player gained national acclaim for his amazing athletic abilities as the number one rated deaf basketball player in America.
When Brown was 13, he met Mike Glenn, an Atlanta Hawk veteran guard who could understand sign language. Brown attended Glenn’s basketball camps, where he picked-up pointers from NBA players and applied them on the court.
While attending Georgia School for the Deaf, Brown took command of the basketball court. He led the school to the Mason-Dixon Championships three years in a row and was named Most Valuable Player all three years. He was named the number one high school player in northeast Georgia.
In his senior year, Brown set a school record with 536 points, averaging 25.5 points a game and 18 rebounds a game – he was named the National Deaf Player of the Year in 1984 and became the first player at Georgia School for the Deaf to earn an athletic scholarship to a Division 1 school. Brown finished his high school career with a record of 2,016 points for an average of 25.3 points per game and 10.8 rebounds.
Brown pursued college basketball at Hofstra University in New York where he played alongside hearing teammates.
As one of the first deaf persons to ever play major Division 1 college basketball, Brown gained a reputation for his quick moves and being a great shot-blocker. He played for Hofstra for two years before transferring to Georgia State University. Brown served as the captain of two World Games for the Deaf and a Pan-American Games for the Deaf team, leading his undefeated teams to three gold medals.
Since his days on the court, Mr. Brown has dedicated his expertise in basketball as an official for college games, state tournament high school games and semi-professional games and has inspired young athletes as a coach and as a volunteer at Mike Glen Basketball Camp and the Atlanta Hawks’ youth camps.
In 2010, The Georgia House of Representatives resolved to commend Brown for his amazing basketball career and selfless service to others.
Mary Brock McMahon
Mary Brock McMahon who enjoyed a standout prep career at Model High School. She led her team to the Rome News-Tribune Christmas Tournament Championship and to a second-place finish in the state tournament while collecting all-state honors as a sophomore, junior and senior.
McMahon led the Model Lady Blue Devils to the Sweet 16 of the Class AA state playoffs, was an all-state selection and set the school record in both rebounding and scoring. In her career at Model, she scored 2,195 points averaging 20.51 point per game. A versatile athlete, McMahon earned letters in four sports during her prep career, including softball, tennis and track.
To add to her list of accomplishments, McMahon graduated Valedictorian of her class at Model and she received a full athletic scholarship to Furman University.
In 2002, McMahon became only the third Lady Devil in Model’s basketball program’s rich and storied history to have her jersey retired joining former Model standouts LeAnda Hutchins and Cheryl Autry.
A four-year letter winner at Furman, McMahon played in each of the Paladins’ 116 games during her career, 64 of those as a starter. During her senior season she averaged 9.6 points and 4.9 rebounds per contest. She was named to the Southern conference all-Tournament team following the 2001-2002 seasons.
Mary’s friend and former-teammate described Mary as “Exemplifying what a female athlete should and could be if she works hard enough.”
Ray F. Brown has been described by sports writers and coaches as an elite player. In high school, Ray played football, basketball and track, but his passion was for football. He lettered all four years of high school. He was a starter for three years, and member of Rome All-Area team for three years. Ray was a member of two state champion football teams in 1977 and 1978. In 1978, he was the Atlanta Constitution State Lineman of the Year and Parade Magazine Honorable Mention High-school All American. He represented Rome, in the Georgia North /South All Star football game in Atlanta. Jerry Sharp who coached Ray at East Rome High School said, “Ray is one of the best players I’ve ever coached.”
At the end of his high school career, Ray had football scholarship offers to Georgia, Florida State, University of Florida, Auburn and Clemson. Ray chose Clemson University and became the first player in the school’s history to start at least one game in five different seasons. He started as a freshman at defensive-end. Also as a freshman, he was voted defensive MVP in the Peach Bowl. He was a member of the Undefeated Clemson National Championship football team that defeated Nebraska in the Orange Bowl in 1982, coached by Danny Ford. He also played in the Mirage Bowl held in Japan against Wake Forest.
While at Clemson, Ray served as team captain and president of Clemson Letterman Club. Ray was chosen for leadership positions because he got along well with everyone.
Clemson’s head coach, Danny Ford said, “Ray has one of the most outgoing personalities on the team, he is the one who nicknamed William Perry: The Refrigerator.”
After college, Brown was drafted to Pros by the Old U.S.F.L Professional Football League to the Washington Federals and later played for the Jacksonville Bulls finishing his career with the Dallas Cowboys.
Ray is a vital part of his community in a variety of ways. He coached his son’s undefeated youth football team to a state championship; served as President of Clemson Lions Club, which he has been a member of for 8 years, which he currently serves as the zone chairman; he currently serves on the Board of Directors for Family Connections, a support group for children with disabilities; and he currently works for the Head Start program, a comprehensive child development program that serves over fifteen hundred children ages six weeks – four years old. Ray is a diligent server of his community and volunteers for many other organizations. He will often quote: Matthew 23:11, "He who is greatest among you, shall always be your servant."
Jerry James graduated from East Rome High School in 1967; while attending East Rome he played football, basketball and ran track; lettering in all 3 sports. He made the All-county football team his senior year, catching 35 passes for 537 yards in 8 games; this is believed to the school record with the doors closed at East Rome.
Also as a senior he placed 2nd in the Floyd County Decathlon. James was an exceptional athlete but basketball is where he excelled as an individual. He was All- County his junior and senior year, averaging 19 points per game with a career record of over 1,000 points. During his senior year, Jerry played in the North vs South All-Star Basketball game, scoring 14 points. In 1968 he was inducted into the East Rome Hall of Fame.
After graduation from East Rome High School, Jerry attended Jacksonville State University on a full scholarship. While at Jacksonville State he made All Conference and All Alabama team his junior and senior years. As a senior he led the conference in scoring and was third in rebounding; averaging 26 points and 10 rebounds per game. In 1971 against Florence, AL James set the Individual Single Game Scoring Record for Jacksonville State with 53 points; James ranks 17th in the school’s history with 1,188 career points. In 1981, Jerry James was proclaimed one of the 100 Greatest Athletes in the first 100 years of Jacksonville State University.
After college, James joined the United States Army serving our county with honors. After leaving the Army he began a career with Georgia Power and has recently retired with 32 years of service. He and his wife Peggy live in Villa Rica.
John Sapp was an outstanding high school athlete at West Rome in both football and track; lettering in both. A former teammate once stated “no individual matches the sheer athletic talent that John displayed during his school days” beginning at West End Elementary through graduation in 1971 at West Rome High School. During his senior year, Sapp rushed for 1,300 yards and scored 100 points as the Chieftains went 11-1. He was named to the “All-State” team and “All-American,” as one of the top 100 football players in the nation.
While Sapp excelled on the football field, his track career was most impressive. He is the only Floyd County athlete to win the Floyd County Decathlon three years in a row! His first year as a sophomore, he scored the highest number of points in the history of the event with 7,239. His junior year, he scored 7,641 beating the record he had set the previous year as a sophomore. As a senior he faced his third Decathlon with a foot injury, which knocked him out of the 7-AA sub-region and region track meets, eliminating him from the state meet. Even with the odds against him, he prevailed to win his third Decathlon. During his final year competing, he won five of the ten contests and set a new record with the high jump.
In December of 1970 he signed a full football scholarship to the University of Tennessee, where he played for Coach Bill Battle his freshman and sophomore years until a back injury ended his football career.
He graduated from UT in 1975 with a B.S. degree.
Today John lives in North Carolina with his wife Kathy Richards Sapp, a graduate of Coosa High School. They have two married sons who reside in Portland, Oregon. John retired in 2012 after a successful career in Supply Chain and Logistics Management.
Bonnie Tate Goff
A graduate of Cave Spring, Bonnie Tate Goff attended Georgia Tech as the first female on a full athletic scholarship from 1976-79.
A three-year letter winner, Goff scored 1,088 career points and is one of just 22 players to have reached the 1,000 point plateau as a Yellow Jacket. She still holds the record for career rebounds (1,039) career rebounding average (13.9), rebounds in a game (29) and steals in a game (11). In 1977 she set two school single-season records, which still stand today, with 420 total rebounds and a 16.2 rebound per game average. In 1991 Georgia Tech honored Goff as a Hall of Fame inductee; only second female at the time to be inducted.
In 2008, Goff was inducted into the ACC Basketball Legends; each year the twelve schools honor an individual who has contributed to the leagues rich history.
In 1982, David McCluskey helped lead West Rome High School to the first of four consecutive state championships. He was the second player ever be chosen by the AJC player of the year. In 82 he was the McDonald’s All American for Running Back and Defensive Linebacker.
As a top recruit for the University of Georgia he lettered and started as running back from 1983-1986. He played in four bowls; Cotton Bowl, Hall of Fame Bowl, Sun Bowl and as a senior he was selected as a captain at the Citrus Bowl.
In 1987 he was drafted in the 8th round by the Cincinnati Bengals and played one season in the NFL. In 2013, McCluskey had a different calling a left the gridiron for the gospel, today he serves as the pastor for the Greater Bethlehem Temple in South Rome.
Alvin Ragland enjoyed an exciting basketball career in Rome / Floyd County area from the late 1960’s until he completed a successful 4 years at Berry College.
On a full athletic scholarship at Berry, he scored over 1,000 points and took the number one scoring position. While at Berry to play basketball, he also ran track and was name to the NAIA honorable mention team. He was inducted into the Berry College Hall of Fame and in 1980 invited to participate in the NBA tryouts in Cincinnati Ohio.
Today the passion and drive he had as a player can be seen through his coaching and mentoring of young players in our county programs.
As a player, Will Muschamp earned his way from walk-on to a scholarship player by the spring of his redshirted freshman season at the University of Georgia. In 1993 he earned a spot on the SEC Academic Honor Roll and in 1994 received the Scholar Athlete Award from the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame. After graduating from Georgia in 1994 he immediately began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Auburn. After earning his master’s degree in 1996 he worked as a secondary coach at West Georgia and Eastern Kentucky before moving into his first defensive coordinator position at Valdosta State in 2000, after a 10-2 record and a Gulf South championship with the Blazers, he began his first full-time coaching experience in the SEC at LSU. In four of his nine seasons as an FBS defensive coordinator, his teams allowed less than 100 rushing yards per game and twice led the nation in rushing defense. In 2003 his LSU defense lead the country by allowing 67 yards per game on the ground, the best mark by an SEC in the 2000s while Texas gave up just 73.1 yards on the ground in 2009. During this time he coached in two national championship games, winning with LSU in 2003. With 16 years of coaching experience under him, Muschamp took over the reins as head coach at the University of Florida in 2011. He led the Gators to three bowl games in his four seasons and was recognized as the SEC Coach of the Year in 2012 after an 11-2 record and top 10 finish. In 2015, Muschamp became the 34th head football coach at the University of South Carolina. In his six years as a head coach, all in the SEC, Muschamp’s record is 43-32, a .573 winning percentage. With a 15-11 mark at South Carolina, he has matched Joe Morrison and Steve Spurrier for the most wins in their first two seasons at the helm.
NaeNae Daniels Saxton
A West Rome graduate and the first female to dunk a basketball in Rome during warm ups, NaeNae Dainels Saxton participated in numerous sports including softball, tennis, cross country and track but it was basketball that she loved and thrived in. Breaking numerous records in points, rebounds and blocks, NaeNae was a member of the All-Tournament Team all four years of high school at the Rome News Tribune Christmas tournament. After high school, NaeNae attend Connors State College where she played for two years receiving the JUCO Freshman of the Year Award and MVP of the Lion’s Den Thanksgiving tournament in Texas, scoring 43 points, the most in the school’s history. NaeNae went on to the University of Alabama, where she was a member of the Crimson Tide’s women’s basketball team, this squad of women are members of the only University of Alabama basketball team to reach the NCAA Final Four in 1994.
An outstanding multi-sport athlete at Mt. Berry School for Boys, Renny lettered three years in basketball (MVP for three years); three years in baseball (MVP for two years); and two years in track. He was named to Who’s Who in America and was a member of the Varsity Club, serving as President. While at Berry College, he lettered all four years in basketball (captain of team for two years and MVP for three years) and baseball (MVP for three years), and ran track for three years (winning All-Conference honors in three events). To round out his love of sports, he was also on Berry’s bowling, golf, volleyball, and cross country teams. He is a member of Berry’s Wall of Fame. After graduating from Berry, he coached basketball, track, and cross country at Berry College, making him the only Mt. Berry School for Boys and Berry College graduate to ever coach a major sport at the college. He was inducted into the Berry Academy Sports Hall of Fame in 2017.
An outstanding multi-sport athlete at Mt. Berry School for Boys, Renny lettered three years in basketball (MVP for three years); three years in baseball (MVP for two years); and two years in track. He was named to Who’s Who in America and was a member of the Varsity Club, serving as President. While at Berry College, he lettered all four years in basketball (captain of team for two years and MVP for three years) and baseball (MVP for three years), and ran track for three years (winning All-Conference honors in three events). To round out his love of sports, he was also on Berry’s bowling, golf, volleyball, and cross country teams. He is a member of Berry’s Wall of Fame. After graduating from Berry, he coached basketball, track, and cross country at Berry College, making him the only Mt. Berry School for Boys and Berry College graduate to ever coach a major sport at the college. He was inducted into the Berry Academy Sports Hall of Fame in 2017.
Rome has long been known for outstanding football players and teams, and over the past 40+ years Charles Smith has played a pivotal role in the sport on multiple levels.
Smith attended East Rome High School where he played football and baseball, lettering in football three times and baseball twice. He was a key member of the Gladiators’ football squads that won back-to-back state titles in 1977 and 1978. Smith earned All-Area and All-State recognition for the Gladiators and signed to play football at the University of Georgia, where he was a member of the legendary 1980 National Championship team and earned his degree.
Upon returning to Rome, Smith turned to coaching football and has spent several years as as outstanding football coach and as a mentor to hundreds of kids in the community.
Smith’s impact can be seen in the Rome Middle School program where he has led eight sixth, seventh and eighth grade teams to the Georgia Middle School Athletic Association state finals with four teams claiming state titles. He was inducted into the GMSAA Hall of Fame in 2018.
However, it’s not only about sports with Smith, who founded the Building Positive Families Foundation and the Distinguished Gentleman Club. His efforts in both organizations have helped countless local youth learn important life skills. Smith was honored for his community work as a 2018 Heart of the Community Recipient.
Rome High School has a tradition of turning out top-notch football players, and Toryan Smith ranks among the greatest to play for the Wolves.
The multi-sport star lettered in football, basketball and baseball, but he shined the brightest on the gridiron where he terrorized opposing offenses as a linebacker for the Wolves.
During his time, Smith earned a long list of accolades, including twice being named the Region 7-AAAA Defensive Player of the year, twice earning first team all-state honors and earning USA Today All-America honors as a senior. Smith helped the Wolves win four consecutive region titles and reach the Class AAA State quarterfinals both his junior and senior years. Smith received scholarship offers from schools across the country and opted to sign with the University of Notre Dame.
Smith played in 40 games during his tenure at Notre Dame, lettering all four years. Smith had many memorable moments, including returning a blocked punt for a touchdown against Navy in a 2008 Notre Dame victory and playing in the 2006 Sugar Bowl and 2009 Hawaii Bowl. Along with his exploits on the football field, Smith managed to graduate from Notre Dame in less than four years with a double major in sociology and computers.