John Wayne Black entered the world on March 5, 1915 in the village of Mineral Bluff, Georgia. His father, a blue collar worker for the Tennessee Copper Company, moved the family down Mineral Bluff Highway to McCaysville, Georgia when Wayne was very young. During Wayne’s childhood and adolescent years, therefore, he experienced the Roaring 20s and the early years of the Great Depression, two vastly different eras in our country’s history.
Wayne had five older brothers and three older sisters. All of the Black boys played baseball and played the game very well. Wayne and two of his brothers, Paul and Claude, were generally considered to be three of the finest baseball players in the history of the Fannin County/Copper Basin area. Wayne was a slick fielding shortstop who along with second baseman Harley Fowler, formed a formidable Keystone Combo for early Copperhill amateur teams turning double plays like Tinker, Evers and Chance. In a 1931 article, the Copper City Advance referred to Wayne as ‘the fast little infielder and lead off man—-is used at numerous positions and always handles himself well’.
When Wayne was ready to enter high school in the autumn of 1929, the Black family faced a financial crisis. There was no high school in McCaysville and tuition for out-of-state students at nearby Copperhill High was $8.50 per month per pupil. Wayne’s brothers Paul and Claude were beginning their junior years at the same time, so Black’s father was faced with a monthly tuition outlay of $25.50. The Black boys, however, were financially savvy and persuaded school officials to hire them to handle the janitorial duties at the elementary school building just down the hill from Copperhill High School. This arrangement took the economic burden from their father and guaranteed that all three boys would be able to earn high school diplomas.
In addition to his summer exploits on the local diamond, Wayne developed into a high school basketball star at a time when Copperhill High School was one of the most feared teams in east Tennessee. Wayne was a starting forward on the 1932-33 Copperhill team that finished the season as the runner-up in the District 11 Tournament, losing to Chattanooga City High School by a narrow margin of 25-27 in the finals. The team earned victories over Tyner, Etowah and Chattanooga Central on the way to the championship game. Wayne averaged 8 points per game in the four tournament games played by Copperhill, in addition to turning in stellar defensive performances.
Although he always considered baseball to be his first love athletically, Wayne Black was recruited by Tennessee Wesleyan College as a basketball prospect. He was a starter for the 1933-34 Tennessee Wesleyan team that opened the season against a strong Independent team from Copperhill. In his return to his hometown, Wayne was the leading scorer with 16 points for the Wesleyan team in a 35-32 triumph over Copperhill. After helping this team to a 14-11 record as a starting forward, Wayne returned home for the summer of 1934.
Wayne played baseball for the Copperhill team early in the summer of 1934 and, at some point, decided that he possessed the talent to pursue a professional baseball career. He moved to Atco, Georgia to join a Northwest Georgia Textile League team. This was a very strong semi-pro league that provided young, aspiring players with a stage to showcase their diamond talents for professional scouts. Wayne’s talents were duly noted and he signed to play professionally in the Atlanta Crackers organization during the 1935 season. He played in the Atlanta organization with Moultrie and Portsmouth in 1935.
In 1936, the Knoxville Journal ran a story with the headline “Giants Purchase Copperhill Star’. At the ripe young age of 20 Wayne Black signed a contract with the powerful New York Giants of the National League and according to the article ‘Copperhill baseball fans were sticking out their chests’. Black was in the Giants organization for 5 years at such outposts as Pensacola, Florida, Fort Smith, Arkansas and Clinton, Iowa. It was at Fort Smith in 1938 that Wayne enjoyed his greatest professional success hitting a lusty .291 with 27 doubles. On several occasions, he was among the last ten players cut from the major league roster at the end of spring training.
As was the case with many up and coming young baseball professionals, Wayne’s career was interrupted by the outbreak of World War II when he was in his prime as an athlete. Black joined the Navy and by the end of the war, he had achieved the rank of Chief Pharmacist Mate. After his discharge from the Navy, Wayne married Marion Durham of Dallas, Georgia in 1946. Wayne was now 30 years old and probably felt that his best baseball years were behind him. He made the financially sound decision to give up his sports career at that point and entered the Southern College of Pharmacy in Atlanta.
Wayne Black graduated from Pharmacy school in 1950 and settled in his wife’s hometown of Dallas, Georgia. He eventually purchased the Peoples’ Drug Company in Dallas and settled down to an idyllic life in small town southern America. He and Marion had two children, Judy and John Jr. He remained keenly interested and involved in sports during his years in Dallas. He was a sponsor of a Little League team and, at his own expense, fenced and grassed a baseball diamond for his team.
Wayne died unexpectedly of a heart attack at the tender age of 48 in 1964. His obituary in the Dallas newspaper noted that “he was a liberal contributor to all worthwhile projects in our town and county. His generosity to those in need was one of his outstanding qualities”. On June 19, 1970, Wayne was honored by the Youth Club, Inc. of Paulding County with the erection and dedication of a granite memorial in his honor in the Paulding County Recreation Center. The marker is located at Sarah Babb Park.
The Fannin County Sports Hall of Fame is honored to welcome Wayne Black as an inductee and member of the class of 2014. His life epitomizes everything good about athletics and humanity. He was dedicated enough to work for his early education. He was good enough at basketball to earn a college scholarship. He was good enough at baseball to play six years of professional baseball. He was patriotic enough to serve his country during a world war. He was smart enough to earn a degree in pharmacy. And most importantly, he was philanthropic enough to serve and give generously to his fellow man until he could give no more.
Wayne Black Obituary
J. Wayne Black Local Druggist, Dies Unexpectedly Monday
The sudden death of Mr. John Wayne Black, prominent business man of Dallas, on Monday, January 6, 1964 brought profound sadness to the citizens of our community and throughout the state. He died unexpectedly of a heart attack at his home.
Mr. Black was 48 years of age. He was a native of Mineral Bluff, GA, and was born on March 5, 1915, a son of the late John B Black and Ellen Mull Black. He had been married to the former miss Marion Durham for 18 years. He had lived in Dallas for 14 years during which time he had owned and operated People’s Drug Store.
He was a Navy veteran of WWll and a former professional baseball player. He was a Royal Arch Mason, a member of Dallas Lodge no.182, F. & A. M., a member of the Yaarab Temple in Atlanta, and a member of the Constantine Commandary in Marietta.
Mr. Black was a member of the First Baptist Church and for several years served as a leader of an R. A. group in the church.
He was keenly interested in sports and was sponsor of a Little League baseball team. At his own expense he fenced and grassed a diamond for the boys.
He was a liberal contributor to all worthwhile projects in our town and county. His generosity to those in need was one of his outstanding qualities.
Survivors include his wife, a daughter Judy Black, a son John Wayne Black Jr., all of Dallas, three brothers, Claude Black of Pensacola Fla., Paul Black of Kennesaw, and Jack Black of McCaysville, and two sisters, misses Ruth and Marie Black of McCaysville.
Funeral services were held from the First Baptist Church Wednesday afternoon, January 8, at three o’clock. With the Rev. B. L. Peacock, a former pastor, the Rev. Marvin L. Cochran, pastor, and the Rev. Leo Burgess officiating. Interment was in Dallas Memory Gardens with the Martin Funeral Home in charge of arrangements. Deacons of the church, Fred Stokes, E. H. Bulloch, Jr., J. H. Henderson, W. A. Foster, Jr., Edward Parker, and J. W. Butler, served as pallbearers. The remaining deacons were honorary pallbearers.