Last Saturday evening at Upson-Lee High School the Thomaston-Upson Sports Hall of Fame put the closing touches on its first decade. And boy did we finish off that decade with a real touch of class and distinction. It was a great night!
This organization got started back in 2004 and inducted the first class in February 2005. We’ve inducted a class every year since then and the size and distinction of the Hall of Fame has increased to a point where today it can compare favorable with any Hall of Fame from a similarly-sized community. As a matter of fact, I’ll put our organization up against any other of a comparable size!
We had our largest induction banquet crowd on Saturday as about 345 people filled the room. Among these was a large contingent of supporters for the Drake High School boys’ basketball teams from 1962 and 1963. These folks were excited to see a Drake team inducted and also thrilled to be able to once again celebrate the athletic history of Drake High School. These teams of Coach Eugene Walker won back-to-back state championships and set a high standard for basketball in our community. Joining Walker in attendance were Monroe Banks, James Wonnum, Curtis Carthon, Bobby Sanders, Ernest Wilder, and Henry Wilder, who led the Drake players’ contingent.
Another large portion of the crowd was made up of the players, coaches, and supporters of the 1970 R. E. Lee football team. This team was the first in Lee history to finish a regular season undefeated. Coaches Tommy Perdue, Darryl Jones, and Ronald Johnston were in attendance and were joined by a group of players including Pete Cavan, Mickey Thrasher, Raymond Phagan, Buck Fulghum, Stan Searcy, Chuck Thompson, Rick Rawlins, Ronnie McRae, Jerry Paul, David Hardage, Ricky Harris, Steve McGee, Steve McCrary, Webb Nall, Ed Burkett, Charles Brazil, Allen Smith, and Alan Ormand.
Individual inductees were well represented also. Clint McAbee had a large contingent of family members to support him as well as the backing of the 1970 team. McAbee was an assistant coach on that championship Rebel squad. Raymond Phagan had a strong backing as did Foy Bentley. Dickie Deal was represented by his wife Frances and we really appreciate her making the effort to be a part of our evening. Michael Hicks had a strong group of supporters at his table and Michael looks like he could still play football today. He’s in great shape!
One of the highlights of the evening for me was the introduction of the present Hall of Fame members who were in attendance. It was a large group made up of Tommy Perdue, Joe Jones, Mike Cavan, Pete Cavan, Joannie Cavan, Charles Gordy, Rusty Deen, James Dawkins, Harold Tarrer, Terry Osbolt, Barbara Fowler, Jerry Paul, Ronnie Paul, Rick Thomas, Jeff Neighbors, Jessie Wilder, Ronnie Lowe, Jim Fowler and the five 2014 inductees. This is the largest group of members that we have ever had at a banquet. It was really great to see all of these Hall of Famers!
The purpose of the Hall of Fame is to honor athletic achievement and to educate the public about this achievement. One of the off-shoots of our induction banquets has been the reunions that we have created when we induct teams. It has been very enjoyable over the years to see players and coaches from great teams come back to be reunited during their induction. It is reasonable to believe that these reunions would never have occurred had the Hall of Fame not honored these teams. This really makes our Board of Directors happy and we feel that we have given these players/coaches a chance to be reunited with friends that they have not seen in years. These are chances to share old memories and to make new ones.
I want to thank our wonderful Board of Directors who make all of this possible. Vice-Chairman Jim Pruett and Treasurer Ronnie Lowe have served with me for the entire ten-year existence of the Hall of Fame. They are educated, interested, motivated, and loyal. I appreciate all of their service over the past ten years. The rest of our ready-to-go group is Marcus Cunningham, Steve Ellerbee, Ronald Johnston, David Millen, Toiee Park, Robbie Sheppard, Freddie Sparks, and Jessie Wilder.
We are very appreciative of the support that we have received from our community. Businesses who advertise in our banquet program help us to meet our financial obligations and we are thankful for their willingness to help us. Those who have attended our banquets have given us the incentive to go forward and find even more nominees. Those who make positive and complimentary remarks give us the confidence that we need to continue to make our organization even better. We appreciate all of the support that we have received.
The first ten years are in the book, but we still have lots of work to do. As a Board of Directors we look forward to the opportunity to honor many more worthy athletes and teams by inducting them into our Hall of Fame. Personally, I have really enjoyed the first ten years. This Hall of Fame has been even more successful than I could have ever imagined and I am thankful for the opportunity to have served as Chairman of the Board of Directors. I look forward to many more satisfying and exciting years.