In recognition of his outstanding football career at East Fannin High School from 1968-1972, Keith Dockery has been elected to the Fannin County Sports Hall of Fame.
A native of Morganton, Keith and his family moved to the Tampa, Florida area after he finished the 4th grade. They moved back to Fannin County just in time for Keith to graduate from Morganton Elementary School. He had not participated in any type of competitive athletics until he entered East Fannin High School in the fall of 1968. Keith had developed physically into a strong, fast and generally athletic young man who decided to add football and basketball competition to his resume of activities. He made the starting football team as a lineman as a sophomore and also was a member of the JV basketball team that year. With a wink and a grin, Keith remembers that, following his sophomore season, his coaches “decided it would be better if I concentrated my efforts of football”.
Organized, competitive high school football had been introduced to the athletic programs of Fannin County schools after the county-wide school consolidation program of 1955. Prior to that time, the high schools in the county, Fannin County High in Morganton, Epworth High School, Blue Ridge High School and McCaysville High School, were deemed too small to compete in sanctioned football, plus the expenses associated with football programs were considered excessive. In the fall of 1955, these four high schools were consolidated into two new schools called East Fannin and West Fannin High Schools. A funny thing happened on the way to consolidation, however, when local decision makers decided to send the students who formerly attended Epworth, Blue Ridge and McCaysville High Schools to the new West Fannin High School. The new East Fannin High School simply provided a more modern building and physical plant to serve students who had formerly attended Fannin County High in Morganton. From the start, the enrollment figures at East Fannin hovered in the range of 200-275 students. In athletics, the obvious offshoot is that there were not a lot of able-bodied young men available to field a competitive football team.
When Keith Dockery took the field to begin football contests during the 1969, 1970 and 1971 seasons, he knew that it was highly unlikely that he would leave the field of battle before the final whistle. The East Fannin teams of those years generally had anywhere from 13 to possibly 19 players at any one time. Despite the numbers, however, Keith Dockery and a few teammates, including Randall and Ronnie Beavers, soon established a reputation for their gridiron skills. Keith generally played in the offensive line when the Wildcats were in possession of the football and linebacker when the opposing team had the ball. During his senior season, he had grown into an athletic body at 6’1”, 210 pounds. He excelled as both and blocker and as a defender.
For his performance during the 1970 season, his junior season, Keith Dockery was recognized by the Atlanta Journal/Constitution when the sportswriters named him to the Class C All-State Honorable Mention team. The next season, 1971, he was named as a first team selection on the All-State team. This accomplishment placed Keith in some rarefied company since only 4 football players during the entire existence of East and West Fannin High Schools, 1955 through 1976, were so honored. Keith Dockery joined Aldon Farmer and David Turner of East Fannin and Carlton Guthrie of West Fannin as first team selections during that period.
Keith also earned several team honors during his football career at East Fannin. He was a team co-captain as a junior in 1970 and was named as the team’s Most Valuable Lineman. As a senior in 1971, he was elected as team captain and as the Best Defensive Player on the team. His classmates recognized his abilities by named him as the Most Athletic Senior Boy in the 1971-72 class. He was also a student leader and was a member of the Key Club and Big E Club at East Fannin.
In June, 1972, shortly after his graduation from East Fannin High School, Keith Dockery signed on with the United States Army. He was as proficient at soldiering as he had been at pancaking a defensive end and he remained in the Army for sixteen years. He was a honor graduate from his Advanced Individual Training at Ft. Knox in November, 1972 and received a promotion from Private (E-2 rank) to Private First Class (E-3 rank) in recognition of that achievement. In 1978 he was named as the Soldier of the Year at Ft. Polk, Louisiana.
In June of 1979, Dockery applied to and was accepted to Rotary Wing Flight School at Ft. Rucker, Alabama. It was a decision that would shape his career for the remainder of his working life. He received his Aviator Wings in May, 1980, the day after completing the flight school program. He would devote the remainder of his time in the military to flying helicopters and teaching others as an Instructor Pilot.
After leaving the military in 1988, Keith spent some time travelling and reconnected with his high school sweetheart at East Fannin, Louise Gibbs. Louise, Homecoming Queen at East Fannin in 1971, and Keith were married in March, 1989.
The love of flying proved a strong lure for Keith Dockery and he accepted a position with Air Logistics in January of 1989. He remained with them as a Helicopter Pilot, Lead Pilot and finally as a Base Manager before retiring in 2013. He was named as the firm’s overall Employee of the Year in 1999.
Keith and Louise currently make their home in Stone Mountain, Georgia. Keith Dockery has led a life filled with accomplishments in athletics and in service to his country. The Fannin County Sports Hall of Fame is proud to welcome him as a member.