Monthly Archives: November 2016

Winston Beaver

The 1972-73 West Fannin boys’ basketball team finished with a record of 22 wins and 2 losses, the best record posted by any team during Coach Tom Foster’s 14-year career at the school. 2017 Fannin County Sports Hall of Fame inductee Winston Beaver was the co-captain of that team, along with fellow senior Charles Zachary. It was a very balanced team with each starting player averaging more than 10 points per game. Winston Beaver was selected as the Most Valuable Player on that formidable squad.

Winston grew up in the community of Epworth, about equidistant between McCaysville and Blue Ridge. He played Dixie Youth Baseball as a youngster and made the Epworth Elementary School basketball team during his 6th grade year. He played with future West Fannin teammates Glenn and Garry Patterson while at Epworth as the Epworth boys won three consecutive Fannin County championships.  His coach at Epworth was the legendary Jack Myers.

Winston played on the West Fannin Junior Varsity team in 1969-70, his freshman season. A couple of things happened that helped shape Winston’s basketball future during and shortly after that year. First, he watched an injured and hobbled Willis Reed of the New York Knicks lead his team to an NBA championship over the Los Angeles Lakers. Reed’s inspirational performance in the 7th game of that series spurred Winston to a greater dedication and excitement about the game of basketball. Second, Winston grew 3 or 4 inches in height during that summer so that when he reported for pre-season drills as a sophomore he sported a lanky frame that stood about 6’ 5” tall. His growth spurt earned him the nickname ‘Weed’ from his teammates.

He earned a starting role as a post player as a junior in 1971-72, a season full of excitement and surprises for the Yellow Jacket team and their supporters. Winston averaged more than 13 points per game as West Fannin finished the regular season with a very good, but not great, 14-7 record. The high point of the season for Winston and his teammates was a 72-42 victory at Dalton. At the time West Fannin was a class A school and the Catamounts were in the AAA division.

The Yellow Jacket boys were given only an outside chance to run the gauntlet of the Region 6A tournament unscathed, but that is exactly what they did. Victories over Gilmer County and Murray County in the subregion tournament, followed by a close 43-40 win over Jefferson High and another win over Murray County earned West Fannin the Region 6A Championship and an invitation to the State Class A tournament in Macon. Winston Beaver enjoyed some of his finest basketball moments in the Region tournament and was named as the Tourney MVP. He scored 22 points in the championship game vs Murray County in a game played at Chatsworth. The Jackets defeated arch-rival Murray County four times during the 1971-72 season.

West Fannin’s first round opponent in the state tournament was Coosa High School, led by future New York Knicks standout Mike Glenn. In undoubtedly the finest moment in West Fannin basketball history, the Yellow Jacket boys held Glenn reasonably in check and won going away, 77-62. One of Winston’s biggest thrills in athletics was reading the sports page of the next day’s Atlanta Constitution and seeing the bold headline ‘WEST FANNIN SLAPS COOSA’. The magic ended the next day with a narrow loss to Stone Mountain, but the 1971-72 West Fannin Yellow Jackets would up their season with a gaudy record of 19-8.

Winston’s hardcourt performances were not lost on area college coaches and Winston was awarded a basketball scholarhip to attend Gainesville Junior College. He joined West Fannin teammate Gary Mealer and East Fannin star Bill Stephens at Gainesville for the 1973-74 season. Winston enjoyed a productive career at Gainesville, averaging 13 points and 12 rebounds per game during his senior season of 1974-75.

After completing two years at Gainesville, Winston continued his basketball career at North Georgia College. He earned two letters at North Georgia for his play during the 1975-76 and 1976-77 seasons. He also found his life’s career calling during the summer between his two seasons at North Georgia.

In the summer of 1976 Winston Beaver worked at Lake Lanier Islands in Hall County. He worked in various departments there and began a full time career with Lake Lanier in 1979. He worked there for 30 years rising to the position of Captain of Boats before his retirement in 2009. He continues to work as a boat captain at the resort and for other clients around the lake.

Winston and his wife Lori make their home in Spring Hill, Georgia. They have two grown children, Chris (32) and Tori (28). Winston is a quiet, unassuming man who prefers to lead by action rather than words. He is a welcome addition to the Fannin County Sports Hall of Fame.


Bill Stephens

stephensbillbskbl74On the afternoon of November 3, 2007, Morganton favorite son and 2017 Fannin County Sports Hall of Fame electee, Bill Stephens settled into his seat at historic Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana. Bill was there to watch his son Jordan, a strapping 270 defensive lineman for the Navy Midshipmen do battle in a gridiron war with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. At the beginning of the game, Bill probably had no inkling that he would see history made that day.

The Navy vs Notre Dame rivalry is the longest uninterrupted intersection rivalry in Division I college football. The teams began playing in 1927. Entering the 2007 game, Notre Dame had defeated Navy in 43 consecutive games, the longest win streak, or losing streak from the Navy perspective, in college football. On November 3, 2007 that streak game to a screeching halt as Navy defeated the Irish 46-44 in triple overtime, truly an historic event in the history of college football.

Despite his many personal and team accomplishments that have earned Bill Stephens a membership ticket to the Fannin County Sports Hall of fame, he is quick to cite his son’s role in the 2007 Navy victory over Notre Dame as one of his biggest thrills in athletics. He also lists watching his oldest son Josh run out onto the court as a member of the 2006-07 Georgia Bulldogs basketball team and the baseball exploits of his younger sons, Connor, William and Cole, as some of his biggest thrills.

Don’t get the idea that Bill Stephens was elected to the FCSHOF on the strength of the many athletic accomplishments of his sons. Bill experienced more than his share of thrills during his basketball and baseball career at East Fannin High School from 1970-74 and then as a starting point guard for the Gainesville Junior College hoopsters. It is just that his pride in the success of his family is more important to him than his personal achievements.

During his four years at East Fannin High School, Bill Stephens was a four-year starter in basketball and a three-year starter in baseball. In baseball, he played shortstop and, as a senior, was the team captain and was selected as his team’s Most Valuable Player.

In basketball, he was selected as the team Most Improved Player as a freshman, Best Defensive Player as a junior and as the Most Valuable Player as a senior. He was selected as team captain for his senior season. As a senior in 1973-74, Bill averaged more than 20 points per game leading the Wildcats to a 16-11 record and to the semi-finals of the Region 8B Tournament. In the West Fannin Christmas Tournament in 1973, he scored 40, 32 and 26 points on successive nights in games vs Union County, Gilmer County and West Fannin.

Bill was awarded a basketball scholarship to Gainesville Junior College and earned two letters there. He lists Coach James ‘Bubba’ Ball at Gainesville, along with childhood baseball coach Windell Davis and high school basketball coach Sam Williams as major influences in his athletic success.

After graduating from Gainesville, Bill went on to earn a BBA in business from the University of Georgia and then an MBA from Georgia State University. Armed with these credentials and a healthy portion of native intelligence, Bill became a successful businessman before accepting a position as the Director of Communications for Georgia Governor Zell Miller. He later entered the political arena on his own and served 8 years in the Georgia State Senate representing a large portion of North Georgia.

Bill Stephens is currently the Chief Executive Officer of the Stone Mountain Memorial Association, the authority that oversees all operations of Georgia’s Stone Mountain Park, the number one tourist attraction in the state. The park has more than 3 million visitors annually, revenues of approximately 60 million and more than 300 employees. Bill and his wife Shannon Walshe Stephens, a former news anchor with WSB TV in Atlanta, and their three youngest sons, make their home in Stone Mountain.

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