Michael Hartness Biography – 2013 FCSHOF Inductee
The 1960-61 West Fannin basketball team had a 21-9 record, finished as runners-up in the Region 3AA tournament and advanced to the State Tournament in Atlanta. It was the first West Fannin team to qualify for the State Tournament. The team was very experienced and had four seniors in the starting lineup, so only one starter from the team would be back to compete during the 1961-62 season. When the 1961-62 team opened the season with a 60-30 loss at Ringgold, the other opponents on the Jacket schedule must have been licking their chops for their chance to tear into the inexperienced West Fannin 5.
What the West Fannin opponents did not realize, however, was that the 61-62 model had a not so secret weapon named Mike Hartness, the lone returning starter from the State Tournament team. Hartness was not exactly an unknown commodity, for he had been the team’s second leading scorer by averaging 16.7 points per game as a junior and had also been a starter and significant contributor throughout his sophomore year. He was big at 6” 2”, 180 lbs., fast and one of the finest all-around athletes ever produced in the area. He was a co-captain of the 1961-62 team and immediately after the embarrassing loss at Ringgold; he hefted the team to his broad shoulders and led them to successes never before achieved.
The 1961-62 West Fannin basketball team finished with a 24-6 record. They advanced to the championship game of the Region 3AA tournament at Rossville by defeating Calhoun 57-50 and then West Rome in the semi-finals by a score of 49-46. Hartness scored a total of 33 points in the first two games, but he saved his most memorable game in high school for the Championship game against North Whitfield. Hartness went head-to-head with North Whitfield’s star guard, Ed Harrison in the finals. Hartness put on a clinic in the game outscoring Harrison 26-11, leading the Yellow Jackets to a 58-47 victory and the Region 3AA Championship. Hartness was named to the all-tournament team and was named the MVP of the tourney.
The victory in the region tourney propelled West Fannin into the state AA tournament for the second straight year. This time, the Jackets won a game at the State meet over Elbert County, another first in school history. They bowed to Campbell of Fairburn by 3 points in the second round with Hartness accounting for 20 points in the 50-47 loss.
Mike Hartness was the unquestioned leader of the 1961-62 basketball team. He averaged 20 points per game during the regular season and, in addition to his MVP award in the region tournament, was named to the state tournament all-star team. He was recognized as a member of the Class AA All-State team and was selected to compete in the annual GHSA and Atlanta Constitution-sponsored North-South All-Star game played in Atlanta in the summer of 1962. He was also named to the Georgia Coliseum Club overall all-state team, a team selected without respect to school classification.
Although it was on the hard court that Hartness gained the most notoriety, it would be remiss not to speak of his football exploits. He was the starting quarterback of the West Fannin football team in 1960 and 1961, serving as co-captain of the 1961 team. He led the 1960 team to a 6-3-1 record, the best in school history. The 1961 team was not as strong, record-wise, but did field a formidable defensive unit, led by Hartness and fellow captain Don Queen. The 1961 team only allowed an average of 8 points per game. Hartness provided most of the big plays that season including a 35-yard return of an intercepted pass for a TD vs. Murphy, a 70-yard run from scrimmage for a touchdown against North Whitfield and a 75-yard punt return for a score against East Rome. Perhaps his most important offensive play of the year did not result in a touchdown immediately but did put the ball in position for a score. In the rain, at Copper Basin in the final game of the year, Hartness and Sam Ballew engaged in a bit of trickeration for a 22-yard halfback to quarterback pass from Sam to Mike that put the ball on the Basin 3-yard line. The game-tying touchdown came on the next play.
In addition to his considerable athletic skills, Hartness is remembered by teammates and fans for his all-out effort and hustle on every play. Basketball teammate T.J. Thompson remembers an incident in a game against Dalton that started when Hartness grabbed a defensive rebound. He made a quick outlet pass to Thompson who motored down the right side of the court until he was cut off by two retreating Dalton defenders. T.J. says that he had no place to go and had his back to the basket. He knew, however, that Hartness would have sprinted down the court immediately after making the pass and that he should be getting close to the basket. T.J. flipped the ball back over his shoulder, between the two defenders toward the goal. Just as he anticipated, Hartness had hustled down the court and was in position to catch the ball for an easy two points. T.J. remembers looking over at the Dalton bench as their coach threw his hands in the air and tossed a white towel onto the court.
After his career at West Fannin, Mike Hartness was awarded a full scholarship to play basketball for David Lipscomb College Bisons (now Lipscomb University) in Nashville, Tennessee. At that time, Lipscomb was a NAIA school who competed against the likes of Carson-Newman, Tusculum,, Belmont, Union University, LMU, Bethel and others in the Volunteer State Athletic Conference (VSAC). Hartness broke into the starting lineup as a sophomore and led the team as Captain during both his junior and senior years.
The honors continued to pile up for Hartness during his college years. He was named to the honorable mention all-VSAC team as a sophomore and to the all-VSAC first team in 1964-65. Lipscomb left the VSAC and competed as an independent in 1965-66. He led his 1965-66 team to 20-4 record before losing to Carson-Newman in the NAIA playoffs. Hartness was named to the honorable mention All-American NAIA team in 1965-66.
During his time at Lipscomb, Hartness was also honored at Athlete of the Year at the school and was named to Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities. He graduated with a degree in Business Administration in June, 1966.
Mike met his wife, Jan Beeler, at Lipscomb and the two settled in Chattanooga, Tennessee where they continue to reside. They have two sons.
Michael Hartness Bio Video at FCHS HOF Game
Michael Hartness Banquet Video