Carlton Guthrie Biography – 2013 FCSHOF Inductee
On the night of September 11, 1959 the West Fannin football eleven was engaged in an epic, rockem-sockem defensive struggle with the arch-rival Gilmer County Bobcats on the Gilmer field in Ellijay, Georgia. The game was nearing the end and neither team had posted any points on the scoreboard. The Yellow Jackets had threatened a few times but were never able to cash in. Given one last chance, the Jackets marched down the field but appeared to be stymied once again as they faced a fourth down and 15 yards to go situation at the Gilmer County 25-yardline. At that point, the great West Fannin quarterback, Carlton Guthrie, took the snap from center turned to his left, made a 180-degree turn and swept toward the right sideline behind a phalanx of blockers. In a flash he turned the corner and sped down the sideline and into the end zone 25 yards away. The Jackets won 6-0.
Just as in the 1959 Gilmer County football game, Carlton Guthrie was the hero on many occasions for the football and basketball teams during his years at West Fannin High School. His athletic heroics have earned him a place in the 2013 inaugural class of the Fannin County Sports Hall of Fame.
Guthrie grew up in the community of Epworth about equidistant between McCaysville and Blue Ridge in Fannin County. He was the second of four sons born to Travis and Lucy Guthrie. Many will remember Travis Guthrie for his service as Fannin County Superintendent of Schools from August, 1945 until January 1, 1969. All four boys were outstanding athletes and all four were elected as captains of their teams at West Fannin; Leon as co-captain of the 1957 football team, Carlton as tri-captain of the 1959 football team, younger brother Robert as tri-captain of the 1964 football team and youngest brother Jerry as co-captain of the 1965-66 basketball team.
Carlton’s contributions to West Fannin athletics started even before he entered high school. He and Mike Hartness served as managers for the first West Fannin football team during the fall of 1955, when both were in elementary school at Epworth. After entering high school, Carlton made the varsity basketball team as a freshman in 1956-57 and won the starting quarterback job on the football team very early in his sophomore season of 1957. He led the 1957 and 1958 Jacket football teams to back-to-back 6-3-1 seasons, the best records in the history of the school.
It was during the 1958 football season that Carlton Guthrie emerged as a true superstar. That season, the junior quarterback rushed and passed for a total of 1148 yards. He scored ten touchdowns in every way imaginable. He ran for six touchdowns, two against Gilmer County, one against Lafayette, one against North Whitfield and two against Copper Basin. He returned a punt for a 70-yard touchdown against North Whitfield. He returned two intercepted passes for touchdowns, one for 27 yards vs. Lafayette and one for 100 yards vs. Copper Basin. Guthrie’s most spectacular touchdown was his 85 yard kickoff return against the powerful Rossville Bulldogs.
In addition, during the 1958 season, Guthrie passed for five touchdowns, including three vs. Murphy, one against Lafayette and one against Copper Basin. He rushed for 140 yards in ten carries vs. Gilmer County, was the punter and played stellar defense all season. He was also a starting guard for the 1958-59 edition of the West Fannin basketball team.
Guthrie was elected as one of the football captains prior to the 1959 season. The Yellow Jackets lost seven starters from the 1958 team to graduation, so the 1959 model would slip a bit to a record of 5-5. By far the bright side of the 1959 season was the continued outstanding play of Guthrie. In addition to the heart-stopping run to defeat Gilmer, Guthrie scored an additional seven touchdowns and passed for another during the 1959 season. His touchdowns included a scintillating 90 yard run against Rossville after stealing a pitchout from Bulldog ace Buster Adams.
He accounted for 1062 yards rushing and passing in 1959. Following the season, he was named to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Class AA All-State team and was selected to play for the North team in the annual North-South All-Star Game played at Grant Field in Atlanta during the summer of 1960.
During his high school days, Guthrie was a busy man even when football was not in season. He was a starting guard for the Jacket basketball team averaging 10 points or so per game as a junior and senior and was elected team captain for his senior season. On the basketball court, he also had a flair for the dramatic. The Copper City Advance describes his heroics in the January 8, 1960 game at East Fannin thusly: “in the final seconds of the game as the buzzer sounded, Carlton Guthrie was in the air with a beautiful jump shot” to give the Jackets a 62-60 victory.
Guthrie was also a standout baseball player and track and field performer. He was captain of the baseball team as a senior earning him the distinction of serving as captain of the football, basketball and baseball teams. He finished 3rd in the 100-yard dash in the 1960 Class AA Track and Field State Championship Meet. He and Buster Adams of Rossville finished in a photo finish with Adams having a slightly longer nose. His most significant accomplishment at West Fannin, however, was winning the heart of classmate Loretta Craig. The two high-school sweethearts eventually married and are still together 48 years later.
After completing his high school career, Guthrie was awarded a full scholarship to play big-time SEC football for the Georgia Bulldogs. He played for the Bullpup freshman team in 1960 and was a varsity letterman in 1961, 1962 and 1963. It was a transition period for Georgia football sandwiched between the coaching careers of two legendary coaches, Wally Butts and Vince Dooley. Butts retired following the 1960 season and Dooley did not take over the coaching duties until the 1964 season. Guthrie played under the tutelage of Coach Johnny Griffith during each of his varsity seasons.
Guthrie proved to be a very valuable asset to the Bulldogs, playing both halfback on offense and defensive back during his three varsity seasons. He scored three touchdowns including a 13-yard pass for a score against National Champion Alabama in 1961. His other scores came in games against Georgia Tech and Clemson.
Carlton graduated from Georgia in 1964 and embarked upon a coaching career at Cartersville High School just north of Atlanta. He stayed at Cartersville for two seasons and also played semi-professional football with the Chattanooga Cherokees of the Southern Professional Football League for two years. He gave up playing football after suffering a knee injury while with the Cherokees.
After Cartersville, he moved on to coach at Jordan High School in Columbus for two seasons and then joined the coaching staff at perennial state powerhouse, Dalton High School in north Georgia. He was a member of the Dalton coaching staff from 1968 until his retirement in 1992.
Carlton and Loretta Guthrie continue to make their home in Dalton at this writing. When asked about her life with Carlton, Loretta replied “After 48 years, both of us must have done something right—enjoying our retirement, 2 daughters and 6 grandchildren”.
Carlton Guthrie Bio Video at FCHS HOF Game
Carlton Guthrie Banquet Video