Category Archives: Inductee

Alan Collis

Alan Collis 1

By any definition, Alan Collis is a big man. He weighs in at 280 pounds well-proportioned on a 6’ 5” frame, the same measurements that he carried when he was a Division II All-American offensive lineman at Carson Newman College in 1998.

Alan will tell you, however, that he was a late bloomer. When he began his football career as a freshman at Fannin County High School in the fall of 1990, he tipped the scales at 150 pounds. During his 9 year gridiron career he just got bigger and better at every stop along the way. His myriad accomplishment during those years have earned Alan a well-deserved membership card in the Fannin County Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2016.

Alan played in both the offensive and defensive lines during his first three years at Fannin County High. When he began his senior season in 1993, new Rebel Coach Joby Scroggs gave Alan a new number and some new assignments. He was assigned jersey # 89 and moved to tight end on offense and linebacker on defense. Scroggs had this to say about Alan; “He has been blessed with size and ability. Alan is very quiet, but he is also an intense player. He loves to hit. When Alan goes full speed all the time, he will be what colleges are looking for”.

The Scroggs assessment of Alan proved prophetic. Alan was named as the Most Valuable Defensive Player at Fannin County High as a senior, and was credited with over 100 tackles during the 1993 campaign.

After the 1993 football season was in the books, assistant football and head wrestling Coach Jerry Barnes encouraged Alan to become a member of the school wrestling team. Alan had no wrestling experience but he had the size, agility and quickness necessary to achieve success in the sport. He made the team and learned enough technique to finish the season with an individual record of 24-6 and an invitation to participate in the state wrestling meet.

Initially, Alan intended to marry Heather Harper, his high school sweetheart whom he had known since their elementary school days at Epworth, go to work and start raising a family after high school graduation. Coach Scroggs again intervened, however, and his advice and assistance to Alan proved to be life-changing. Scroggs felt that Alan was good enough to play collegiate football and used his contacts to arrange for a tryout with the Middle Georgia Junior College Warriors in Cochran, Georgia. Alan was a standout defensive lineman at Middle Georgia and capped off his two year career there with a victory over Hutchinson Kansas Junior College in the Mineral Water Bowl Game in Excelsior Springs, Arkansas in 1995.

Scouts at several colleges including Division II powerhouse Carson-Newman had kept Alan on their radar and came calling when he finished his eligibility at Middle Georgia. With three years of elibigility remaining, Alan was signed to a full football scholarship to Carson-Newman, located in Jefferson City, Tennessee. Alan and Heather, soon to be Mrs. Alan Collis, set out for Jefferson City and the most productive period of Alan’s athletic career.

During his three years at Carson-Newman, Alan Collis accomplished the following:

-Was a three-year starter, one as a defensive lineman and two as an offensive guard.

-Was named to the South Atlantic Conference all-star first team as an offensive lineman in 1997 and 1998.

-Was named to the NCAA Division II all-star Southeast Regional first team in 1998.

-Was elected to the Division II All-American first team in 1998

-Was awarded the prestigious Jacobs Blocking Trophy as the best blocker in the South Atlantic Conference in 1998.

During Alan’s career at the school, Carson-Newman advanced to the semi-finals of the Division II playoffs all three years, including two appearances in the Championship game. In recognition of his magnificent career, Carson-Newman has inducted Alan in to the Carson-Newman College All American Hall of Fame. Longtime Eagles head coach Ken Sparks says that Alan Collis was “an outstanding player. He had very solid character, had strong values and was true to those values. He was extremely dedicated and his dedication paid off”.

After graduation, Alan Collis, the only first team ALL-AMERICAN in any sport in Fannin County history, his wife Heather and their young daughter Alexis returned to the mountains of North Georgia. Twelve years ago, the family grew by two, when twin sons Taylor and Carson came along.

Alan has been involved in some type of coaching every year since he returned to Fannin County. He currently is an assistant coach for the Fannin County High School girls softball team. At various times, he has coached football, wrestling and even cheerleading. He is currently a high school teacher at the Crossroads Alternative School in the Mountain Innovation Program. Heather has an M.A. in English and has taught various English courses at Fannin County High School and is currently the Academic Coach at the school.

It would appear that Alan’s athletic genes have been passed along in abundance to the Collis children. Both boys are up-and-coming wrestlers and daughter Alexis is an outstanding softball player at the University of North Georgia. Alexis was a valuable contributor as a junior as the Nighthawks won the Division II National Championship in 2015, the first national title in school history. She is now a senior at North Georgia and hopes that her team can duplicate their success this season.

Mandy Dixon

Mandy Lents Dixon 1

Mandy Lents Dixon has a very simple mantra when it comes to her participation in athletics: ‘Actions speak louder than words’. Mandy describes herself as being shy by nature and her athletic coaches along the way will tell you that she was not much of talker during her years of basketball and softball competition. Mandy’s performances in her 13-year sports career speak very loudly, however, loudly enough to gain her a place in the 2016 class of the Fannin County Sports Hall of Fame.

Mandy grew up in Epworth and continues to reside there today. She is the daughter of Joann and Ray Lents, who gave her very strong support from her first day of athletic competition. Her mother, the former Joann Galloway, was a basketball player of some note at West Fannin High School in the late 50s and early 60s, so she was able to give Mandy plenty of constructive support including some tips that helped Mandy’s basketball game. In high school at Fannin County Mandy grew to about 5’ 8” which made her the tallest girl on the team. When she faced much taller opponents Mandy often used a hook shot taught to her by her mom to help her score over those taller opponents.

When she played for the West Fannin Middle School Yellow Jackets, Mandy was coached by a couple of local legends, Eddie Massengale and Jack Myers. When she arrived at Fannin County High School in 1986, she found herself under the tutelage of an even bigger legend in local and state circles, Johnny Farmer. Farmer was a huge influence on Matty, serving as her high school coach in both basketball and softball. She has this to say about Coach Farmer: “I realize how much he taught me and how much I respect him for being tough on us and urging us to always do our best. Thank you Coach Farmer for being the coach you were”.

During her high school career, Mandy Dixon won four varsity letters in basketball and three in softball. She scored more than 1,000 points in her basketball career with Fannin County High.

In basketball, Mandy was selected as the Most Improved Player as a sophomore and as the team Most Valuable Player and Best Offensive Player as a junior and senior. In 1989, she led the Lady Rebels to the final 8 in the Georgia Class AA state tournament for the first time in school history. The accomplishments of her 1988-89 team set a high bar of success for later Fannin County teams who enjoyed great success, including two state titles, in the 1990s.

For her efforts on the basketball court, Mandy was selected as the Northwest Georgia Tip-Off Club as girls basketball Player of the Year in 1990. That same year she was selected to the Atlanta Journal/Constitution Class AA Honorable Mention All-State Team.

Mandy Dixon’s softball efforts were not too shabby either. She was the starting left fielder for the Lady Rebels from 1987-1990, a period during which her teams compiled a record of 83 wins and 23 losses. Her teams won the sub-region title during her junior and senior years, and the 1990 team made it to the final 8 in the state tournament. Her classmates voted her as the Most Athletic senior girl in 1990.

Following her graduation from Fannin County High School, Mandy signed a scholarship to compete in basketball and softball for the Piedmont College Lady Lions. Since Piedmont is located in the not-too-distant from Blue Ridge town of Cornelia, Mandy’s parents were able to attend many of her games just as they had done during the Fannin County days.

Mandy lost one of her biggest supporters when her father died in late 1993. Although her sports career was flourishing at Piedmont, Mandy’s grief threatened to end that career prematurely. Her mother convinced her to continue to compete because her dad loved to watch her play and would want her to finish her education and athletic career.

Mandy Lents Dixon scored a staggering 1,500 points during her basketball career at Piedmont College. She continued to pile up the trophies and received the Most Improved Player as a sophomore, and  Best Offensive Player and Most Valuable Awards as a junior and senior. She also was a starter for the softball team for three seasons. Her coach had this to say about her basketball prowess: “Mandy Lents is extremely quick from the forward position. She’ll jump up and get a rebound and really surprise you. She is one of our better players but she is a quiet player so people don’t really notice Mandy for the type of player she is. She is one of those quiet heroes that you hear people talk about all the time”.

After graduating from Piedmont, Mandy returned to Fannin County to teach in the local school system. She currently teaches Language Arts at Fannin County Middle School. She met her husband, Brad at Piedmont, and they have now been married 20 years. The Dixons have two children. River Dixon is a junior at Fannin County High School and a college prospect as an offensive lineman. River also plays basketball and baseball. Daughter Jade is a 6th grader at the Middle School and plays softball and basketball. Mandy says that she and Brad “are so proud of the things River and Jade have accomplished in their time of playing sports. We supported our kids by coaching their Rec teams when they were younger and now by being members of booster clubs, fund raising, working concession stands or just being their biggest fans”.

When she graduated from Piedmont, Mandy thought that she wanted to return to Fannin County and enter the coaching profession. She was assigned to coach the 9th grade boys and assisted Coach Mike Paul in coaching the boys varsity. After a while, however, she decided that coaching was probably not for a young woman who wanted to raise and family and lead a normal family life. She says that she “is so competitive that she could not sleep after a loss and that coaching was consuming her time”. At this point in her life, it would appear that Mandy Lents Dixon is living the American Dream and is exactly where she wants to be.

Gregg Farmer

farmergreggchildGregg Farmer entered the world on May 3, 1949 in McCaysville, Georgia. Very early in his life he successfully waged a battle against scarlet fever. Although he won the battle, however, it is possible that the disease hung around to cause complications that led to Gregg’s untimely death some 35 years later.

Gregg was an outstanding all-around athlete growing up in McCaysville. He excelled at basketball and fortunately grew to a height of 6’ 3” or so which allowed him to mix it up with the bigger athletes of his era.

Gregg played basketball and football as a freshman at West Fannin High School. When he began his second year of competition, however, he decided to concentrate all of his considerable skills to the game of basketball. He made the varsity squad as a sophomore and was a valuable reserve for the Yellow Jackets in that season of 1964-65. In a game with rival Murray County that season, Gregg was given the opportunity to start, replacing the starting center who was injured. Gregg responded with an 18-point effort helping West Fannin upset the favored Indians, 71-64. Farmer earned a varsity letter as a sophomore.

The 1965-66 and 1966-67 seasons were two of the most successful basketball campaigns in West Fannin sports history. Those two teams won a total of 42 games and appeared in the Georgia Class AA State Tournament both seasons. Gregg Farmer was a starting player for both of those teams, averaging more than 15 points per game as a junior and as a senior. Early in his career he was primarily an inside player but developed a deadly mid-range jump shot by the time his junior season rolled around.

The honors rolled in for Gregg during his last two seasons at West Fannin. He was named as the team’s Most Improved Player as a junior and then as the team Most Valuable Player for his efforts during his senior year. He was elected as the team captain in 1966-67. He was named to the Region 7AA All-Tournament team as a senior and scored more than 1,000 points during his basketball career at West Fannin. His teammates as West Fannin use such words as ‘unselfish’ and ‘unflappable’ when asked about Gregg Farmer the basketball player.

Area college recruiters took note of Gregg Farmer’s hardcourt exploits at West Fannin and he found himself the recipient of a full basketball scholarship to attend Truett-McConnell Junior College in Cleveland, Georgia. Gregg flourished as an all-around student, campus leader and athlete at Truett-McConnell. As a freshman in 1967-68, he scored 325 points in 24 games for a scoring average of 13.5 points per game. He was successful on 136 of 231 field goal attempts for an average of 58.9%. That percentage set a school record. He also grabbed 169 rebounds for an average of 7 per game. He was awarded the team Sportsmanship Award for his efforts.

In addition to his basketball accomplishments at Truett-McConnell, Gregg, who was something of an introvert naturally, became an integral part of campus life. He was elected as the vice-president of the freshman class, was named as the Outstanding Sophomore Student and even made frequent appearances on the Dean’s List.

Gregg’s numbers fell slightly in his sophomore year to averages of 9.7 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. Coaches at four-year colleges in north and central Georgia, however, were impressed with Gregg’s all-around game and, again, he found himself the recipient of another full basketball scholarship. This time the grantor was West Georgia College in Carrollton, Georgia. Gregg won two varsity letters as a competitor at West Georgia.

It was at West Georgia that Gregg met Shirley Lippincott, a coed from Rome, Georgia. After graduation, the couple married and settled in McCaysville, Georgia. The union produced three daughters, Cassandra, Jessica and Monica.

Gregg opened his own insurance agency in McCaysville, Southland Insurance. With his business savvy and local contacts, he was able to establish a successful business and later opened a second office in Blue Ridge. Shirley taught school at Epworth and McCaysville Elementary Schools.

Shortly before his 36th birthday in April of 1985, Gregg sought medical care for what he believed to be a hernia. While in the hospital, Gregg died on April 12, 1985. He actually suffered an aneurysm and his obituary reports the cause of death as a heart attack. Who knows whether the scarlet fever that Gregg had fought as a young child played a part.

In any event, Gregg Farmer left his family, friends, community and business associates far too soon. The Fannin County Sports Hall of Fame intends to do its part in keeping an important part of his legacy alive.

Bill Franklin

Bill Franklin 1Bill Franklin was born to run. He grew up near Epworth, Georgia and spent countless hours running camping and simply enjoying the outdoors in the mountains and wilderness near his home. Sometimes he would run the several miles home from Epworth Elementary School. It wasn’t that he was in any urgent hurry to get home, he just loved to run.

Bill entered West Fannin with the new school’s first batch of students in the fall of 1955. He was not very big so he did not participate in any of the sports offered at the school during its first year of 1955-56 nor in the second year of 1956-57. During the spring of his junior year, however, the powers that be at West Fannin decided that the school needed a track and field team. Bill Franklin then had a stage to showcase his running skills. During his junior year, he ran several events but did not concentrate on any specific discipline. He did find himself as a member of the 4-man mile relay team that year. Along with Carlton Guthrie, Leon Guthrie and Rene Godfrey (all members of the Fannin County Sports Hall of Fame) Bill became one of the first 4 athletes to compete at the state level thanks to their second place finish at the Region 3AA track and field meet.

When he began the track season toward the end of his senior season, Bill decided that his running skills were more suited for the distance races rather than sprints. He concentrated on the mile run and was rewarded by winning that event at the Region 3AA track and field meet and proceeding to finish 2nd in the state Class AA meet. His accomplishment was the first time any athlete or team from West Fannin ever earned a medal in athletics at the state level.

Following his graduation from West Fannin, Bill had the idea that he would like to pursue an outdoors-related career, perhaps as a warden or ranger. To that end, he decided to travel to Tifton, Georgia at the south end of the state to begin his pursuit of a degree in Forestry. The college that he chose was Abraham Baldwin Agricultural Junior College, commonly referred to as ABAC. It did not hurt that ABAC had up and coming programs in cross country and track and field. Scholarship aid to track and field athletes was virtually non-existent in the world of 1960-61 so Bill was attending college on his own dime at this point.

Bill had an outstanding career in athletics at ABAC. He was elected captain of both the cross country and track and field teams both years that he was there. He led the cross country team to the first state title in school history in 1961-62, by finishing 2nd overall in the event. His track and field teams won two state titles with Bill as their captain in 1960-61 and 1961-62. He was the winner of the 880-yard run in the 1960-61 state meet and followed up with a victory in the 2 mile run in 1961-62 meet. Distance runners at ABAC were only allowed to participate in one event per meet, so Bill’s versatility in the longer running events made him a valuable team member.

Bill Franklin was also an honor student at ABAC and active in a number of community-related activities. His work was recognized by the Tifton Rotary Club in 1962 when the club awarded Bill its annual sportsmanship award to him.

After receiving an associate’s degree from ABAC, Bill was briefly unsure what he should do next in his academic career. He did, however, know two things. He would continue to run no matter where his next stop might be. Second, he had decided to pursue a degree in education instead of forestry. He had come to feel that he would like to work with youngsters as either a coach or an educator.

Fate intervened shortly after Bill participated in a distance race held on the University of Georgia campus in Athens. Bill won the race and the attention of legendary Georgia track and field coach Spec Towns. Coach Towns offered Bill a partial scholarship for his junior year and the promise of a full scholarship for his senior year. Towns kept his promise and Bill Franklin was a UGA track and field distance runner for two seasons. Although slowed by injuries during his career as a Bulldog, Bill did win two varsity letters from the SEC school. He earned a degree in Education from the University in the spring of 1964.

America was at war in the mid-1960s and all able-bodied young men were expected to serve in the military for a time. Billy enlisted in the Army and proceeded to serve 2 ½ tours of duty in Vietnam. He rose to the rank of captain with the 82nd Airborne Division.

Having served his country in the military, Bill returned to Fannin County where he became a Special Education teacher for 20 years. Throughout his teaching career, Bill continued to pursue his passion for running, entering distances races throughout central and north Georgia. He won a roomful of trophies but is particularly proud of his first place finish in the 5K race at the Georgia Marble Festival in Jasper, Georgia in 1985. He was 43 years old at the time and won the event against a field of talented runners much younger than himself.

Bill Franklin loved to run but he was unable to outrun a number of physical ailments that dominated the final years of his life. He was elected to the Fannin County Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2016 and attended a ceremony introducing the class to the public on Monday, August 10. Bill was confined to a wheelchair but made the supreme effort to attend and be honored for his many accomplishments. A scant nine days later, on Wednesday, August 19 Bill passed away.

Bill Franklin epitomized all that is positive in athletics and in life. The Fannin County Sports Hall of Fame is honored to call him a member in good standing.


Leon Guthrie

For those of you keeLeon Guthrie 1ping score, get a red pen or pencil and draw a star next to the date Saturday, September 10, 1955. On that muggy night a group of boys from West Fannin High School became the first team in the history of Fannin County to participate in a real, organized, official football game. These local pioneers in their sport did themselves proud that night by fighting the Bradley County Tennessee High School junior varsity team to a 7-7 tie. Quite an accomplishment when you consider that the powerful Bradley Bears had the best team in the entire state of Tennessee, and the boys sent up the river to face West Fannin were only a step away from being members of that elite group.

One of the stalwarts of that 1955 West Fannin team was sophomore fullback Leon Guthrie. Leon scored the first touchdown in West Fannin history on a 3-yard run in the fourth quarter and then added the all-important PAT on another run of similar length. The West Fannin squad, running the single wing attack of Coach Buddy Padgett would win 5 games, lose 2 games and have one tie during that first season. The offensive attack was led by Leon Guthrie at fullback and Charles Woodall at tailback, a formidable one-two punch unleashed on opponents. Leon contributed 35 points to the effort on the strength of 5 touchdowns and 6 points after touchdown. He also threw a touchdown pass to Jim Fry that was a critical contribution to the 13-6 victory over North Whitfield.His performance during the 1955 football season was the first chapter in an athletic body of work that has landed Leon Guthrie membership in the Fannin County Sports Hall of Fame.

Leon is the oldest of the four sons of Travis and Lucy Guthrie. Travis was the Fannin County School Superintendent from 1945 until his retirement in 1969. The Guthrie family is one of the prominent families of Fannin County and has a rich tradition of athletic excellence, scholarship and citizenship. Leon has certainly done his part in upholding these traditions.

Leon grew up in the Epworth community and attended school at Epworth through his freshman year in high school. He participated in any athletic activity available, but basketball was the only organized, school-sponsored sport in Fannin County schools until the county-wide consolidation in 1955. Leon was a member of the final basketball team at the old Epworth High School during the 1954-55 school year.

Moving on to the new West Fannin High School as a sophomore in the fall of 1955, Leon found the mother lode of athletics available and became a valuable member of the football, basketball, baseball and track and field teams at the new school. He was a valuable contributor in all four sports during his three years at West Fannin.

The 1957-58 school and sports year was a big one for Leon. Injury-free for the first time since the 1955 season, Leon and his teammates posted a 6-3-1 football record in 1957. It was the best record in the history of West Fannin football, matched on three occasions in subsequent years. At the beginning of the season, the West Fannin players elected Leon Guthrie and his long-time pal Ron Hartness to serve as co-captains of the football team. These two young men would prove to be strong leaders and role models as the season developed.

Early in the 1957 campaign, the Purple Hurricane of Cartersville High visited Fannin County to do battle with the Yellow Jackets. Cartersville had an established program having played organized football since 1909, plus the Purple Hurricane had routed the Yellow Jackets 42-14 in 1956. Leon Guthrie scored a touchdown on a 40-yard run in this game leading his team to a 14-6 upset in the first signature victory in West Fannin history. Defeating Cartersville established West Fannin as a force to be reckoned with in North Georgia football circles. The Jackets closed the season with another upset, this time a 13-8 win over Cherokee County High School from Canton. In this game played at Ducktown due to weather related road problems in Fannin County, Leon led the effort by scoring the winning touchdown.

Leon Guthrie scored 8 touchdowns during the 1957 season. He was named to the Atlanta Constitution Prep Honor Roll for his performance against North Whitfield. He scored two touchdowns on runs of 10 and 12 yards in that game. At the end of the season Leon was named to both the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Associated Press Class AA Honorable Mention All-State teams.

During the latter part of the 1957-58 year, Leon accomplished another first in West Fannin sports history. He was a member of the Mile Relay Track team in the spring of 1958, along with his brother Carlton, Bill Franklin and freshman Rene Godfrey. These boys finished second at the Region 3AA track and field meet, entitling them to participate in the State meet. These four boys were the first athletes in the history of West Fannin athletics to compete at the state level.

Leon was selected as the Most Athletic Boy by his classmates in 1958. He also served as Vice-President of the senior class and the Key Club. He was the epitome of the Big Man of Campus in all areas of endeavor.

After graduation from West Fannin, Leon attended the University of Georgia and earned his degree in 1963. He joined the Army Reserves in 1965 and retired in 1997 as a full Colonel. Running has been one of Leon’s passions throughout his adult life. He has run several marathons with his best time of 3:36:46 coming in the 1980 Huntsville, Alabama ‘Joe Steele Rocket City Marathon’.

Leon is retired now and lives in Chattanooga with his wife Jane. They are avid scuba divers having participated in that pastime in many places around the world.

The Fannin County Sports Hall of Fame is proud to welcome Leon Guthrie to its ranks that already includes two of his brothers, Carlton and Robert.

 

Matt Henson

Matt Henson 1At the ripe old age of 30, Matt Henson is the baby of the 2016 class of the Fannin County Sports Hall of Fame. As a matter of fact, when Matt is formally inducted at the FCSHOF banquet next April, he will be the youngest member of the esteemed group of 48 athletes, coaches and contributors. Since Matt is still going strong in the baseball coaching profession, it is not far fetched to anticipate that an addition to his plaque may be necessary one day.

Matt Henson is the only child of Danny and Brenda Henson of Morganton. To say that they are proud of their son would be a gross understatement. They have been intimately involved in his athletic career since the beginning and continue to be their son’s biggest fans. The Henson household is full of box after box of news clippings, pictures and other memorabilia serving as a complete chronicle of Matt’s athletic feats.

Brenda remembers buying all types of toys for Matt as a toddler. He would open presents at Christmas and find all sorts of the newest and fanciest toys of the day. After a few minutes of vrooming a new toy car across the floor, Matt would lose interest and begin playing with the closest ball, big balls, small balls, round balls, spheroid balls, any ball that he could bounce, throw against the wall or just toss up and down. Matt just loved to play ball.

Matt began playing organized baseball and football around the age of 5. The Fannin County Recreation Department had, and continues to have, excellent competitive sports programs for kids of all ages. Matt’s dad Danny, an ex-athlete himself, was active in coaching youth teams at the Rec Department and Matt would tag along and participate in whatever sport was in season.

Although his room at home is full of trophies, certificates and medals of all types, arguably the crowning achievement of Matt’s early sports life was playing for the Fannin County 15-16 year old Dizzy Dean baseball team that won the State Championship. This elite team advanced to the Dizzy Dean World Series in Southaven, Mississippi and finished 5th nationally in competition with the finest teams of that age group in the country.

In high school at Fannin County, Matt participated in baseball and basketball from the get-go. He is relatively slight of build at about 5’ 8” and 150 pounds, but packs athletic energy and skill into every inch and ounce of his body. On the baseball diamond, Matt can play anywhere. At Fannin High, he was primarily a shortstop, but also could play wherever needed, even on the pitching mound. He threw two no-hitters during his high school career, one vs Murphy North Carolina and one against Forsyth Central. He was the team captain as a senior and a consistent .300+ hitter throughout high school.

As a basketball player, Matt was a point guard who could also score points. He was quick and could penetrate opposition defenses with seeming ease. In terms of individual accomplishments, he made more headlines on the hardwood than on the baseball diamond. Matt was the captain of the JV team during his freshman season of 1999-2000. He was promoted to the varsity during that year and was a starter for the following three years. He was the basketball team captain as a junior and as a senior and was named as the team Most Valuable Player in 2002-2003. He was selected as the North Georgia Tip-Off Club player of the year for two seasons. He averaged more than 14 points and 2.8 assists per game in 2002-2003.

After his graduation from Fannin County High School in the spring of 2003, Matt signed a baseball scholarship to play at Young Harris College. During his two years at Young Harris, Matt started both seasons, playing 3rd base, shortstop and 2nd base at various times. He had a .361 batting average for the two years. He was named to the all-conference 2nd team in 2004-2005 and to the all-tournament team as a 2nd baseman that same year. He was awarded the Arnold Keys Scholarship from Baseball Instructional Showcase, Inc. at Young Harris in 2004.

For his final two years of collegiate baseball competition, Matt received another scholarship to play at the University of North Carolina-Asheville. He continued his steady play at UNCA for two season, playing in 116 games and earning 112 starts for the Bulldogs. He finished with a career average of .285 with 15 doubles and 64 RBI. His defensive play at shortstop saved many games for UNCA.

Matt added an exclamation point to his playing career at UNCA leading his team to the championship of the Big South Tournament in 2006. He was named to the All-Tournament team as the Bulldogs advanced to play in the NCAA Regional at Clemson, South Carolina. Matt and his teammates were eliminated from the tournament in a thrilling 5-4 loss to Mississippi State. Matt drove in two runs with a single in that contest.

Matt Henson’s love for baseball seems to be as strong now as it was for that 5-year old tossing that round ball up and down. He has been a collegiate coach since his graduation from college and currently is an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator for Mars Hill University in North Carolina. He has no plans to do anything but coach baseball as long as there is a spot for him somewhere. With his knowledge, skills and drive, Matt will undoubtedly find himself as the head coach at the college level sooner rather than later.

Charles ‘Babe’ Howell

Charles Babe HowellPix 1A brief glance at the coaching resume of Charles ‘Babe’ Howell will tell the most casual observer that his was an exceptional career. A Hall of Fame worthy career. In fact, prior to this year Babe was inducted into eleven different athletic and education Halls of Fame in Georgia and North Carolina. His selection to the Fannin County Sports Hall of Fame makes twelve.

Babe had a 44-year career in athletics, 39 of those in coaching. As a baseball coach, he and his teams won 628 games. As a football coach, his victory total is 301 games. That means that on 929 occasions Babe Howell and his athletic teams left the field of battle bathed in the sweet sense of victory. Not many athletes or coaches have experienced that level of success.

Along the way, his teams at Sylva-Webster High School, now Smoky Mountain High School, won seven North Carolina state championships, five in football and two in baseball. In 1973-74 both his football and baseball teams won state titles. He retired in 1997 as the winningest high school football and baseball coach in North Carolina history.

It was at East Fannin High School, however, that Babe Howell began his coaching odyssey. He came to the school in the autumn of 1956 and stayed on to guide the Wildcats football squads for four seasons. He also coached the boys basketball team for one season.

Four seasons does not sound like a lot, but it was during the four-year tenure of Babe Howell that East Fannin High School football reached its zenith of success. The school fielded 20 football teams between 1956 and 1976 when East and West Fannin were consolidated into the new Fannin County High School. Throughout those years, East Fannin was only able to win a total of 33 football games. 16, or roughly half, of those victories came when Babe Howell was leading the teams. His 1958 and 1959 teams posted an aggregate record of 13-4-2 and won two class 4C sub-region titles. The 1958 team finished at 8-2, which was the best season record for any football team in Fannin County until 1991.

Babe Howell was born in Monroe, North Carolina in 1928. He left home at the age of 17 to join the war effort. He served in the United States Navy from 1945-1949. It was in the Navy that Babe was first introduced to organized football. After his discharge, he returned home and played on a high school championship team. He was also a standout baseball pitcher. His athletic prowess gained him a scholarship to Western Carolina College where he competed for four seasons. His high school coach, Jim Gudger, also moved from Monroe to Western Carolina at the same time and Babe considered Gudger as his greatest mentor in life.

Babe’s goal was a career in coaching and he signed on as an assistant at Sylva-Webster after graduation from Western Carolina. Shortly thereafter he moved on to Morganton and the challenge of coaching a small group of boys who had never played the game of football before. He faced a daunting task. He was met by 20 or so young men who wanted to try their luck at the game of football. Most of the boys weighed in at 120 pounds or less. Also, the school initially did not even have a football field upon which to practice and play games.

Ben Smith, one of Coach Howell’s first team members recalls that “the first time we met him was in August, 1956 at the hay field near Ralston’s Sawmill on Highway 76 near the Union County line”. It was on this hay field that Howell began his efforts at putting together a football team. An acceptable field was not ready that first season of 1956 so the Wildcats played all of their games on the road. The closest thing to a home game came in the season finale against Sprayberry High School in a game played at the West Fannin field across the county. The only victory that season was over White County, another school that had recently started a football program.

By 1958, Coach Howell had put together the finest team that would ever don East Fannin uniforms. He did have some talent with which to work. One of his players, junior end Aldon Farmer made the Georgia Class C All-State team that season. Farmer, along with running back David Turner, also a junior in 1958, would make the All-State team again in 1959. Those were the halcyon days of football at East Fannin.

In talking with men who played for Coach Howell the two words that seem to recur are ‘teacher’ and ‘respect’. Babe was not a ‘rah’ ‘rah’ type coach and he was not prone to fits of screaming at players who made mistakes. He was a very effective teacher who treated his players with respect and who, in turn earned the respect of his players. He believed in conditioning and preparation. He seemed to be able to get the very best that his players had to offer. Again, to quote Ben Smith, “Coach Howell knew what he was doing”.

Perhaps the best example of Babe Howell’s character came during the last two months of his life. The fledgling Fannin County Sports Hall of Fame selected its inaugural class of inductees in 2012 and honored those inductees at a banquet in April, 2013. Two of the inductees, Aldon Farmer and David Turner, played for Coach Howell at East Fannin some 55 years previously. Babe Howell, and several members of his family, wanted to show his respect and affection for his two ‘boys’ so he made the trek to Blue Ridge to be there when they were honored by their home county. Babe was obviously proud that evening and was beaming as a number of his former players gathered around his table.

Less than a month after that banquet, Babe Howell passed away in Asheville, North Carolina at the age of 84. He was quite a man who was devoted to his players, friends and family. He made a deeply positive impact on many lives and the Fannin County Sports Hall of Fame is fortunate to have such a man as a member.

 

Don Queen

Don Queen pic 1Don Queen

If you are looking for a story with a happy ending, you might want to skip this short biography and go on to another section of the newspaper. The fact that Don Queen has been elected to the Fannin County Sports Hall of Fame speaks highly of his exploits as an athlete. Despite his accomplishments, however, Don was not blessed with a great deal of good luck to complement the positive aspects of his sports career and life in general. Fate was not kind to Don Queen.

Don was a tough-as-nails center/guard and linebacker for West Fannin High School from 1958-1962. He was a native of the community of Epworth where he and his two sisters grew up on a 100+ acre spread. His father worked for the Tennessee Copper Company and supplemented the family income by periodically selling timber and hay harvested from the property. Don enjoyed a normal, happy childhood typical of a boy growing up in the rural South in the 1950s. He was a strong young man who enjoyed physical activities and most anything that involved being outdoors. He was popular with the other kids at Epworth Elementary School and then at West Fannin High.

Don played organized football beginning in his 6th grade year at Epworth Elementary. He always played in the line and was always in the middle of the action. At West Fannin, he made the varsity squad as a sophomore and was a starter as a junior and as a senior. He earned three varsity letters.

The 1960 West Fannin football squad was one of the best teams in school history. That team finished with a 6-3-1 record. The 1960 team was very experienced, led by 14 senior players, each one a seasoned veteran. Don started for that team and was one of the defensive standouts. He was singled out by the Copper City Advance and Lineman of the Week for his play in a hard-fought 13-7 victory over Gilmer County.

As he began his senior season of 1961, Don had grown to around 6’ 1” in height and tipped the scales at 185 pounds. He had good size for a linebacker from that era. He was quick, physical and delivered a considerable wallop when he made contact with the opposition. He was well respected by his teammates and was elected as a co-captain of the 1961 team, along with quarterback Mike Hartness.

The 1961 team finished with a record of 3-5-2, but was one of the finest defensive football teams in West Fannin history. The team gave up a total of 86 points in the 10 games played, an average of slightly more than one touchdown per game. The only two teams who scored more than one touchdown against the 1961 team were Murphy NC, who put 22 points on the scoreboard and Rossville, who managed to score 19 points. North Whitfield, Ringgold, East Rome, Murray County, Dalton and Copper Basin each scored one touchdown in their games with West Fannin and Stephens County was not able to score at all.

Don Queen certainly played a key role in the success of the 1961 defensive effort. He was named as the Copper City Advance Lineman of the Week four times, for his performances in the Stephens County, East Rome, Dalton and Copper Basin games. It should be noted that the newspaper only named a Lineman and Back of the week five times during the 1961 season. Don was rewarded for his fine play on a state-level when the Atlanta Journal-Constitution named him to the Class AA Honorable Mention team at the end of the season.

Fannin County has produced many hard-nosed football players but none more rugged that Don Queen. His play was epitomized in the 1961 game against perennial power Rossville when Rossville running back Doug Flury broke though the Yellow Jacket line only to come face-to-face with Don Queen. Flury lowered his head, probably thinking that he would run over Don and proceed on to the end zone. The sound of the helmet to helmet, shoulder pad to shoulder pad collision could be clearly heard throughout the stadium as Flury’s ‘forward motion’ came to an abrupt halt when he encountered Don Queen.

Don was also a very popular student at West Fannin. He was elected as a senior class officer and was honored by his classmates as the Most Popular senior boy student. Life was pretty rosy for Don until the night of April 6, 1962 rolled around.

The University of Chattanooga had sent Don and inquiry about his football-related plans for college. On April 6, Don travelled down to Chattanooga with two classmates, Mike Hartness and Sam Ballew. Chattanooga was evaluating Hartness as a basketball prospect and Sam was along for the ride. Don had a couple of interviews and completed several questionnaires. On the return trip, the three West Fannin boys were injured severely in an automobile collision just east of Cleveland, Tennessee. Don was the most seriously injured, suffering multiple broken bones in the face and jaw and several broken ribs. His sister Martha recalls that Don’s face was “demolished’ requiring several plastic surgery procedures to return his appearance to a degree of normalcy.

The injuries suffered in the automobile accident ended any hopes that Don may have entertained about playing college football. He graduated from West Fannin, worked in Atlanta for a couple of years and returned to Fannin County where he secured employment with the Tennessee Copper Company. He also married his high school sweetheart, Jo Ann Galloway.

In September of 1966, as the Vietnam War was raging in Southeast Asia, Don Queen began his military service in the US Army. During the next one and one half years he rose to the rank of Specialist Fourth Class with the 50th Infantry, 1st Battalion (Mechanized), B Company stationed in the Binh Dinh Province in Vietnam. On April 2, 1968, Don Queen was killed in action when the armored vehicle in which he was travelling hit a land mine. Don’s body was buried in the Lebanon Baptist Cemetary on the day that would have been Don’s 24th birthday, April 16, 1968.

Garry Patterson

Garry Patterson 1Garry Patterson

Garry Patterson has been elected to the Fannin County Sports Hall of Fame class of 2016.

Garry began his sports career with a couple of advantages over the other boys in Fannin

County. First, he experienced the inevitable growth spurt in youngsters very early in life. As a result, when he entered Epworth Elementary School in the fall of 1962, he was a head or more taller than all of the other kids. Second and more importantly, his athletic skills were considerably more proficient than those of his contemporaries. Garry was not big and clumsy, Garry was big, strong, agile and fast.

Garry was a dominant force in local athletics during his grade school years. He was a perennial winner in the local punt, pass and kick contests and the best player around in the Dixie League baseball competition. He gained local and area notoriety as an 11 year old in 1967 when he pitched a perfect game for his American League all-star team against the Copper Basin National League all-star team in a tournament in Cleveland, Tennessee.

Lots of other boys caught up with Garry in size by the time high school rolled around. Garry stabilized at about 6’ 2”, 185 pounds making him a shade above average in the size department. His athletic skills, however, continued to outpace most of the other kids against whom he competed at West Fannin High School. He capped his first year of high school athletics with an outstanding performance in the Region 6A West basketball tournament held at Murray County High School in Chatsworth in February, 1971. Garry was named to the all-tournament team and as the Most Valuable Player in the tourney, leading the Yellow Jackets to a 54-51 victory over homestanding Murray County in the championship game.

Injuries plagued Garry during the remainder of his career at West Fannin. He suffered a broken ankle in a football game vs Pickens County in 1971 and also suffered a rotator cuff tear. Undaunted, he persevered and continued to shine in athletics. His basketball teams at West Fannin posted a 75-24 record during his four years, including a sterling mark of 22-2 in his junior season of 1972-73. Garry was the leading scorer for that team with an average of 15.75 points per game. His classmates recognized his abilities and voted Garry as the Most Athletic senior boy in 1974.

As high school graduation approached, Garry knew that he wanted to continue to compete in athletics. Several possibilities were available to him. He attended an Atlanta Braves tryout camp in Gainesville. His rotator cuff injury had taken its toll, however, and Garry had lost an estimated 10 mph from his once dominating fast ball. He was not offered a contract by the Braves so then Garry’s search began for a college to attend. T.J. Thompson, one of Garry’s high school coaches, felt that he was good enough to play basketball at the college level, so he arranged for Garry to try out for the Lagrange College team. Garry was offered a full basketball scholarship and the most productive chapter of his athletic career began at Lagrange.

Garry Patterson was a 4-year basketball starting guard at Lagrange College. He played in 122 games and scored 1,095 points during his career, ranking him 7th on the school’s all-time scoring list when he graduated. He ranked 12th nationally in free throw shooting during his senior year, hitting 85% from the foul line. He led the team in scoring as a senior averaging 12.9 points per game and was named to both the GIAC All-Conference and to the NAIA All-District teams. He received the Delma Fowler Alumni Award as the team’s Most Valuable Player as a senior.

Garry also won four letters in tennis while at Lagrange. He had taken lessons and played as much as possible growing up in Epworth at the Sugar Creek Tennis Courts. He was active in campus affairs and was named as one of the school’s Outstanding Seniors in his final year there. His athletic accomplishments resulted in Garry Patterson’s election to the Lagrange College Athletic Hall of Fame in 2008.

Local sports observers, coaches and players, are quick to say that Garry Patterson was one of the most talented natural athletes in the history of Fannin County and the Copper Basin area. His natural talent was so dominant in athletics that was able to succeed without always bringing his ‘A’ game to the table. Garry himself admits that from his earliest recollections, he had a ‘knack’ for athletics. Achieving excellence at the college level was another matter entirely. The competition was tough and mental and physical preparation was necessary to excel. Garry was pushed to succeed at that level and he responded with a Hall of Fame worthy career.

Garry graduated from Lagrange College in 1978 with a degree in Health and Physical Education and a minor in Business. Initially his goal was a career in coaching. He began that career at West Point, Georgia High School serving as head baseball coach, assistant football coach and as a mathematics teacher. After a year at West Point, he returned home to coach and teach at Fannin County High School. It was at Fannin County High that Garry met his wife, Pam. They tied the knot in 1982 and remain happily married 33 years later.

After coaching for 10 years or so, Garry and Pam recognized that the demands of the coaching profession made achieving a normal family life difficult at best. Garry went back to school and earned his Master’s degree from the University of Georgia in 1994. He graduated with a degree in Instructional Technology and soon began his career as a Library Media Specialist. He and Pam settled in the community of Ball Ground, in Cherokee County and began raising their two children, Timothy and Laura.

Both of the Patterson offspring are grown now and Garry retired a couple of years ago. He and Pam stay busy traveling, walking and enjoying the outdoors. Garry was a formidable amateur tennis player for years, but gave up the game a while back. He now stays fit and trim with hiking and lifting weights three times per week. Garry Patterson looks as though he could lead a fast break as he nears the landmark age of 60.

Glenn Patterson

Glenn Patterson 1

Glenn Patterson

“Patterson, you’re in right field”. These were among the first words that 2016 Fannin County Sports Hall of Fame inductee Glenn Patterson heard when he reported for his first baseball practice with his first team as a 10-year old in the summer of 1964. His first team was the Epworth Yankees of the newly formed Dixie Youth baseball league. His first coach who uttered those memorable words was Charles Woodall.

For those unfamiliar with youth baseball, right field is generally where a coach assigns one of the less talented players on the team. A 10 year old right fielder is often the kid who devotes more time to searching for four-leaf clovers than paying attention to the game at hand.

It did not take long for Coach Woodall to recognize that Glenn Patterson was a talented young athlete and that he should in the middle of the action on the baseball diamond. Glenn was soon promoted from the hinterlands of right field and to the vital position of shortstop squarely in the middle of the fray. Glenn was one of the best, if not the best, players on the young Epworth Yankees.

Glenn Patterson grew up in the pastoral village of Epworth. He was the 5th of 6 children of Maudie and Claude Patterson. Don, one of his older brothers was a starting end on the West Fannin football teams of 1959 and 1960. Garry, his younger brother by two years, was also an outstanding all-around athlete and will be inducted into the FCSHOF with Glenn with the class of 2016. It will mark the first time that two siblings have been inducted in the same year.

Beginning with his days with the Epworth Yankees, Glenn played baseball, football and basketball throughout his younger years. He excelled in all three sports making all-star teams several times in each sport. He was named to the county all-star team as an 8th grader in football and played a vital role as his Epworth team won the Fannin County Elementary School championship in both his 7th and 8th grade years.

When Glenn’s high school days at West Fannin rolled around, Glenn and his family decided that he should concentrate on only two sports, football and basketball, so that his academic work would not suffer. His accomplishments in both sports were many and impressive.

In football, Glenn saw limited varsity playing time as a freshman but started as a halfback and defensive back for three seasons at West Fannin. He won the Most Valuable Back award as a junior and as a senior. At the end of his senior season of 1971, he was selected to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Class A All-State Honorable Mention squad. The Atlanta Constitution named Glenn to its weekly Prep Honor Roll for his performances vs East Hall in 1971 and vs Union County in 1970.

On the basketball court, Glenn was the leading scorer on the freshman team and was named to the North Whitfield Holiday B-Team All-Tournament team as a sophomore. He was a starter for the Yellow Jacket varsity squad as a junior and senior. He was elected as the team captain and received the Most Valuable Player award as a senior. Glenn played a vital role in the success of the 1971-72 team that won the 6A Tournament championship and advanced to the State Tournament in Macon.

The 1971-72 West Fannin basketball team finished with a season record of 19-8. They defeated arch-rival Murray County four times, including two victories on Murray’s home court in Chatsworth. The fourth and last of those victories came in the Region 6A Tournament Championship game played at Murray County. Glenn scored 14 points in that championship game and was named to the All-Tournament team for his performances. The team then advanced to the State Tournament where they upset a heavily favored Coosa team, 77-62. Glenn again scored 14 points to play a pivotal role in this huge victory. Glenn considers this victory to be his biggest team thrill in any sport during his high school career.

At the end of his senior year at West Fannin, Glenn Patterson’s classmates selected him as the Most Athletic senior boy. In addition to his athletic exploits, Glenn was also elected to the National Honor Society as a student at West Fannin.

Armed with a high school diploma, a transcript full of good grades, youthful exuberance and athleticism and a lot of ambition, Glenn Patterson headed out for the real world after graduating from West Fannin High School in the spring of 1972. None of his family had ever attended college and Glenn was determined to do so. He worked for a while to raise some money and headed for Lees-McRae College in Banner Elk, North Carolina. He was a football walk-on there and became a starting free safety for the varsity team in the fall of 1974. His athletic career as a participant ended midway through his sophomore season when he broke his hand and developed a pinched nerve in his right shoulder.

After completing the two-year program and earning an Associated Degree at Lees-McRae, Glenn enrolled at Georgia State University. His goal was to become a coach and educator. He began his career in coaching at North Springs High School where he coached track, football and basketball. He moved on to Milton High School as an assistant football coach before moving back to Fannin County in 1990. He served as a coach, teacher and administrator in his native Fannin County before retiring in 2013.

During his coaching career, Glenn had the opportunity to coach each of his four children, Sarah, Bethany, Josh and Rebekah, in basketball with the Fannin County Recreation Department. At the age of 12, his daughter Bethany was a member of the Recreation and Parks Association, Class C State Championship team in 2000.

Always looking for a new challenge, Glenn began running in 2007. Beginning with a 5K race at Riverbend in Chattanooga, Glenn began a running odyssey that culminated when he competed in and completed the Chickamauga Battlefield marathon (26.2 miles) in 2010.

Glenn and his wife Beverly currently divide their time between Chattanooga and Fannin County, having residences in both locations. Glenn Patterson has been the President of the Fannin County Sports Hall of Fame for the past two years. The Hall of Fame is very fortunate to have him in a leadership role and very proud to welcome him as an inductee in the Class of 2016.


 

Casey Willis

Casey Willis 1Casey Willis

Casey Willis has loved the game of basketball for as long as he can remember. When he was a youth, his idol was Pistol Pete Maravich. He tried to pattern his game after that of the flamboyant Maravich, which gives you some idea of the kind of player Casey became. He loved the no look passes, behind the back dribbles and overall arsenal of basketball wizardry that defined the game of Pistol Pete.

When he was a 5th grader, Casey attended a basketball camp at the University of Tennessee. He had this to say about his time at the camp: “Instead of shooting, I spent all my time practicing my dribbling”. Fred Jenkins, an ex-Vol guard and coach at the camp had this to say about Casey: “My favorite camper. Very good and advanced player for his age. Excellent in all phases of the game”.

As his ball handling skills developed, Casey also found that he had exceptional leaping ability. Although his height topped out at around 6 feet, Casey became known around the area for his ability to dunk the basketball with relative ease and lots of style. The final piece of the hardcourt puzzle, the ability to shoot the basketball, came with hard work and Casey finished his high school career with a shooting percentage of 46%, not bad considering that many of his shots were from 3-point range.

Casey Willis got a late start in his basketball career at Fannin County High School. Two injuries, first a broken arm and then a broken ankle sidelined him during his freshman and sophomore seasons. He made up for lost time during his last two seasons, 1993-94 and 1994-95. As a junior, Casey was selected as the team Playmaker of the Year and then as a senior he was elected the FCHS boys basketball team Most Valuable Player.

Casey averaged 21 points, five assists and four steals in 1994-95. For his two-year high school career, he scored 675 points for an average of more than 15 points per game. He was selected to the Northwest Georgia Tip-Off Club Team of the Year in 1994-95 and was also selected as the club’s Player of the Year for that season.

Media praise for Casey’s performances at Fannin County could fill a large book. A typical description of his skills came in the News Observer after the Rebels defeated Hiwassee Dam, a team that entered the contest with a perfect 19-0 record. The Eagles returned to North Carolina with a 19-1 mark as Casey Willis and his teammates recorded an 84-64 victory in their regular season finale. The News Observer described the happenings thusly: “FCHS senior Casey Willis bounced off walls, the floor, and anything else near the basketball court as he slammed his way to a whopping 27 points. Willis’ two dunks were the most electrifying, energetic and powerful of his career. There was no doubt that Willis ruled the floor Friday night”.

While at Fannin County High, Casey also found time to win varsity letters in cross country and tennis.

Following his high school graduation, Casey accepted a full scholarship to continue his basketball career with the University of North Alabama Lions in Florence, Alabama. Casey played at North Alabama from 1995-2000 and earned four varsity letters. He was the team captain in 1998-99 and 1999-2000. He was selected as the team Playmaker of the Year in 1999-2000.

Casey’s dazzling Maravich-like play continued throughout his career at North Alabama. Another newspaper quote, this time from the Huntsville Times probably describes the play of Casey Willis in college best. The January 23, 1998 Times had this to say about Casey’s performance in a game played in a hostile environment at Alabama A&M: “Alabama A&M won the basketball game but Casey Willis won the fans. He beat the press with dazzling spin-move dribbles. He threw look-off passes, blind passes, behind-the-back passes. He nailed 3s. He skied for rebounds. He drove recklessly to the basket. He sprawled face-first on the floor for loose balls. Once he even flashed the ‘raise the roof’ signal, pushing his uplifted palms toward the ceiling. The crowd loved it. The raucous fans in the ‘Dawg Pound’, the A&M student section in the end zone behind the goal on the south end of the gym, were cheering and high-fiving his every move. Casey was The Man”.

Toward the end of his college career, Casey made a non-basketball move that continues to drive his life today. He describes himself as being ‘off the chain’ until his conversion to Christianity in 1999. He devoted the first 10 years or so of his life after college to his work with Campus Outreach first at Georgetown, Kentucky College and then at the University of Kentucky. In that endeavor he shared his faith with others through evangelism and discipleship in a higher education environment.

Casey also found time to get married and raise a family. He has been married for 11 years now. His wife is Erica and the Willis family now includes four children, one boy, Reed, and three girls, Emory Claire, Mary Etta and Maggie.

Casey Willis and his family make their home in Lexington, Kentucky where Casey is currently employed by UTG Timberland Acquisition, a faith-based company that buys and sells large tracts of timber land around the country. Casey points out that his company donates 10% of its earnings to a variety of worthy causes. Casey spends most of his work time travelling around the country looking for tracts to purchase.

Casey Willis is another outstanding Fannin County athlete who is also the personification of the term ‘solid citizen’. The Fannin County Sports Hall of Fame is pleased to call him a member.

1998-99 FANNIN COUNTY HIGH SCHOOL GIRLS BASKETBALL TEAM

1998-99 FANNIN COUNTY HIGH SCHOOL GIRLS BASKETBALL TEAM

Amy Bundy Hightower, Melissa Flowers, Tina Grice Bath, Jessica Holloway, Crystal Jeffers Greer, Christy Kay, Leah Nelson, Amanda Newton, Rachael Nicholson Collis, Stacy Parris, Roxie Reed Trovato, Leslie Taylor Riddoch, Jamie Thomas, Cindy Williams, Melissa  Weeks (Mgr.)  and Betty Jean Raper Jones  (Mgr.).

-Won the Region 7AA Championship.

-Won the Georgia State girls basketball class AA Championship with a record of 29 wins and 1 loss.

-Had a regular season record of 24-1 and defeated Monroe Area, St. Pius X, Westminster, Dodge County and Putnam County (81-64) in State Tournament play to win the title. Smallest margin of victory in the State Tournament was 15 points.
When they won the 1998-99 Georgia Class AA girls state basketball championship, it was a fitting way for Fannin County High School’s Lady Rebels to conclude a spectacular four-year run of success. It is also fitting that 15 years later, the team will be inducted into the Fannin County Sports Hall of Fame’s class of 2015.

That team was Fannin’s second state champion of the decade, following the 1992-93 team that was inducted into the hall of fame last year. Those remain the only two team state championships in the history of Fannin sports. While the 1998-99 team had to wait until after their predecessor to join the hall in this year’s class, their credentials take a back seat to no one.

Both teams were coached by Fannin County Sports Hall of Fame member Johnny Farmer, who was in his19th season with the Lady Rebels when they won his second title in 1999. Long-time Fannin teacher and athletic director Eddie Payne was the assistant coach on the 1998-99 team.

If the first title hadn’t already achieved Farmer’s goal of “putting Fannin County on the map,” the ‘98-99 team left no doubt about where the capital of Georgia basketball was located.

The ‘98-99 team posted a school record for victories with their 29-1 mark. The only blemish on the season was a 64-60 loss to Pickens in the seventh game of the year. Even then, the state’s second-ranked Dragonettes barely escaped with the win despite holding a 19-point lead with four minutes left in the game. Fannin rallied to get within eight points at the 1:33 mark, and they missed on two chances to tie the game in the final seconds.

The Lady Rebels went on to win their next 23 games in a row, culminating with an 81-64 victory over Putnam County in the state championship game at the Macon Convention Center. Along the way, the Lady Rebels avenged their lone defeat to rival Pickens twice, once in a regular season overtime rematch and then with a 70-61 decision in the Region 7-AA championship game.

The region title was the third one in four years earned by the seniors on that squad. The five seniors on that team, Stacy Parris, Melissa Flowers, Leah Nelson, Roxie Reed and Tina Grice, were part of an incredible four-year run that saw them post an overall record of 103 wins and nine losses, a winning clip of 92 percent.

Parris led the 98-99 Lady Rebels in scoring with 18.5 points per game, and she had a career-high 40 points in the championship game against Putnam County.  Parris will also be one of the 12 individual inductees at the Hall of Fame’s 2015 banquet in April.

Flowers averaged 12 points per game and her deadly outside shooting was a key part of the Lady Rebels’ balanced attack. She had six 3-pointers and 24 points in the team’s 68-52 win over Monroe Area in the first round of the state playoffs.

Reed was the team’s starting point guard, and she finished her career as the school’s all-time leader in assists after averaging 12 per game in the ‘98-99 season.

Nelson returned from a knee injury for her senior season, and the defensive specialist was an essential component of the Lady Rebels’ success.

Grice was the team’s most physical player, and the power forward led the team with 10 rebounds per game and was second in scoring with 15 points per game.

Junior Cindy Williams was the “sixth man” and filled in ably for inside players Nelson and Grice. She made especially critical contributions in the state title game when early foul trouble hampered the two senior starters.

Junior Amanda Newton was a key reserve at guard for the Lady Rebels, giving quality minutes while running the offense in relief of Reed or Flowers.

Other key components for the championship squad were Christy Kay, Crystal Jeffers, Jessica Holloway, Amy Bundy, Jamie Thomas, Leslie Taylor and Rachael Nicholson.

The team and the rest of the 2015 class will be officially inducted at the Fannin County Sports Hall of Fame’s banquet in April.

98-99 Girls Basketball Team Bio

Video at FCHS HOF Game

98-99 Girls Basketball Team Banquet Video

 

Robert Guthrie

Robert Guthrie

Robert Guthrie and all the Guthrie boys of Fannin County inherited a gene pool of athletic excellence that was rich and deep. Family patriarch Travis Guthrie was a standout basketball player at Fannin County High School in Morganton and then at Young Harris College. His four sons, Leon, Carlton, Robert and Jerry more than carried on the family tradition.

Robert Guthrie has been elected to the Fannin County Sports Hall of Fame in recognition of his outstanding athletic career. His brother, Carlton, was elected to the FCSHOF as a member of the inaugural class of 2013, so Robert will become the second member of the family to be so honored.

Robert played football and basketball at West Fannin High School from 1961-1965. His talent for athletics was never in question, but his body put up a formidable roadblock to be overcome before his talents could be displayed. As a youngster, he was afflicted with a condition of the bone called osteomyelitis. He had several surgeries on his right foot in the ankle area culminating in a procedure around end of his elementary school years that put him in a cast from hip to ankle for some time.

The surgeries, the extensive rounds of physical therapy and, most importantly, the indomitable courage of Robert Guthrie, made it possible for him to compete in basketball and football when he arrived at West Fannin High School in the autumn of 1961. He was not very big, standing around 5’ 9” or 5’ 10” and weighing in the neighborhood of 150 pounds during his playing days, but he earned spots on both the football and basketball varsity squads during his sophomore year of 1962-63.

Robert Guthrie became the starting quarterback at West Fannin High School in the fall of 1963, his junior year at the school. The football program had struggled through the two previous seasons with records of 3-7 in 1962 and 3-5-2 in 1961. With Robert at the helm, however, the 1963 football squad would rebound by winning 6 games, losing three and playing the Murphy Bulldogs to a thrilling 20-20 tie.

The 1963 football season was certainly a high point in Robert Guthrie’s athletic career. From the quarterback position, he finished 4th in Region 3AA in rushing with 717 yards. He was second in the Region in scoring with 78 points, including 12 touchdowns. He also passed for 8 touchdowns and two PATs during that season, meaning, of course, that he had a hand, or more appropriately feet or arm, in 20 of the team’s scores.

He was selected as the team’s most valuable back in 1963 and was named to the Class AA Honorable Mention All-State team by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution at the end of the season. He was also selected to the Atlanta Constitution Prep Stars of the Week for his performances vs Murray County, Murphy and Dalton in 1963.

Perhaps Robert’s most memorable individual performance during his high school career occurred in the game with Polk County on the night of October 4, 1963. In that game, he rushed for three touchdowns on runs of one, 45 and 78 yards. He also threw a 45-yard pass to Phillip Hackney and a 16-yarder to Tom Turner for two more touchdowns as West Fannin defeated Polk 45-7 in what was expected to be a close game.

As a senior in 1964-65, Robert was selected as a co-captain of both the football and basketball teams. Although the Jacket teams of that year were a bit sub-par, Robert continued to play at a very high level. He had another leg operation during the offseason, the after effects of which slowed him most of the football season and caused him to miss entirely the season opener against Lakeview. The high point of the football season for Robert, and West Fannin, came in the final game of the season. In that game against arch-rival Copper Basin, Robert rushed for 126 yards, scored a touchdown and, most importantly, kicked the PAT after the second Jacket touchdown leading West Fannin to a 13-12 upset victory.

He was again selected as the Most Valuable Back of the football team and was awarded the basketball Sportsmanship Award for the 1964-65 season. He was also selected as the team Most Valuable Player by the Copper Basin Jaycees.

Robert’s size and injury history precluded him from continuing his athletic career at the college level. He continued to compete, however, and was elected the most outstanding athlete in the boys’ intramural program as a sophomore at Reinhardt College in Waleska, Georgia. After Reinhardt, he continued his education at North Georgia Technical College where he studied electronics.

After college, Robert Guthrie embarked on a career with Delta Airlines in Atlanta. He remained with Delta during his entire career that spanned just over 30 years. He enjoyed hiking, hunting and fishing in his spare time.

Robert Guthrie passed away at the age of 65 on February 27, 2013. He is survived by his wife of more than 20 years, Becky Lanning Guthrie, and two adult children, Jason Guthrie and Lisa Mimbs.

Robert Guthrie Bio

Video at FCHS HOF Game

Robert Guthrie Banquet Video

Clarence William Franklin

Clarence Franklin

Between 1955 and 1970 West Fannin High School met North Whitfield High School 31 times in the sport of basketball. Many of the games were close but the game played at the tiny, matchbox-sized gym at North Whitfield on December 15, 1967 may have been the most exciting. North Whitfield took a 2-0 lead and never relinquished that lead until three seconds remained in the game. With his team behind 56-55, silky-smooth Yellow Jacket guard/forward Clarence Franklin glided across the foul line, took a pass from a teammate, leaped high into the air and launched a jump shot that nestled into the net as though drawn by a magnet to give West Fannin a thrilling and crucial 57-56 Region 7AA victory.

A lengthy resume of highlights such as the game-winning shot vs North Whitfield has earned Clarence Franklin a well-deserved place in the Fannin County Sports Hall of Fame, Class of 2015.

Clarence grew up in the tiny Fannin County outpost known as the Pack Creek Community. Pack Creek kids attended Caldwell Elementary School, which is where Clarence began his competitive basketball career. His graduating class at Caldwell in 1964 consisted of 15 students. Remarkably, school Principal and Coach A.J. Heaton was able to put together a 15-member boys’ basketball team from the 6th, 7th and 8th grades that year. Fortunately for Coach Heaton, one of those players was Clarence Franklin.

Against all odds, the Caldwell boys’ basketball team won the Fannin County Elementary School championship in 1964 by defeating McCaysville, Mineral Bluff and Epworth, in that order. Clarence led the team with scoring average of 22.6 points per game.

Clarence moved on from Caldwell to West Fannin where, as a sophomore, he earned a spot on Coach Tom Foster’s 1965-66 squad. He became a starter on the 1966-67 and 1967-68 teams. West Fannin played in the class AA Georgia state tournament in each of his seasons as a member of the varsity.

At West Fannin, Clarence earned three varsity letters in basketball. He was named as the team’s Most Improved Player after his junior season and was elected the Most Valuable Player on the team as a senior in 1967-68. He was named to the Region 7AA all-tournament teams as a junior and senior.

Clarence was selected co-captain of the 1967-68 team. On a very balanced team, he averaged 14.7 points per game and was named to the Chattanooga Times all Tri-State first team as a senior, after being named to the honorable mention squad as a junior. This elite all-star squad is selected from Chattanooga-area high schools in Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama. He scored more than 800 points during his high school career. He worked very hard on his jumping ability and became an outstanding rebounder.

Clarence also competed in track and field at West Fannin as a junior and senior. His events were the half mile, mile and two mile runs. He finished second in the two mile run in 1968 and narrowly missed advancing to the overall region meet.

After graduating from West Fannin, Clarence was awarded a scholarship to play college basketball at North Georgia Technical School. He was a starter at North Georgia for two seasons and averaged more than 10 points per game. He studied electronics at North Georgia and moved on to Albany Junior College for one more season of collegiate basketball. Again, he was a starter and scored in double figures during his time at Albany.

Uncle Sam called and Clarence served four years in the army, completing his military obligations in 1975. He gained valuable experience in the computer science field during his military service. He also admits that he was very fortunate that he was assigned to vital US and NATO service in Europe at a time when many of his contemporaries were booking passage to the jungles of Southeast Asia.

Surviving his military obligations, Clarence used what he had learned to launch a career in the Information Technology field. He worked in the Atlanta area with Associated Grocers for seven years and for Yancey Caterpillar for 30 years before retiring in 2012.

Clarence and his wife of 40+ years, Carla, make their home in McDonough, Georgia. They have two grown children.

Clarence and Carla own 10 acres of land in Fannin County where they plan to build a home and retire in a couple of years. For now, they both stay active by walking and traveling throughout Georgia and the South. Clarence is a devoted Georgia Bulldog football fan and closely follows the hoop fortunes of the Mercer Bears.

Clarence Franklin Bio

Video at FCHS HOF Game

Clarence Franklin Banquet Video

 

Mike Ballew

Mike Ballew

Mike Ballew grew up in the bucolic Fannin County community of Epworth. He had two siblings, both sisters. Most of the other boys in the community were older than Mike so he had to develop his athletic skills and toughness early in life to be competitive on the playing fields. He attended Epworth Elementary School and credits the teachers there for providing him with direction as well as many lifelong friendships.

The basketball seasons of 1965-66, 1966-67 and 1967-68 at West Fannin High School represent an historical period in local athletics, for two reasons. First, the Yellow Jacket boys basketball teams advanced to the state tournament in each of those years. Never before had this hat trick been accomplished by a sports program in the county. And only Johnny Farmer’s Fannin County High School girls basketball teams of the 1990s and 2000s have matched the feat.

The second historical fact about those three West Fannin teams is that one player started for each of the teams. Fannin County Sports Hall of Fame inductee Mike Ballew was the starting point guard, and ‘coach on the floor’, for three consecutive years as Coach Tom Foster’s boys made trips to the big Georgia Class AA tourney in Atlanta.

Mike made the West Fannin High School varsity squad as a sophomore in 1965-66 and soon took over a starting guard position. He was the only sophomore starter on a veteran team that included three seniors and one junior on the starting squad. This team finished with a 19-9 record and were the runners-up to East Rome in the Region 3AA tournament held that season at the West Fannin gym. West Fannin advanced to the state tournament and lost by one point in the first round. Mike Ballew led the team in assists and grew into a leadership role as he directed the team from his guard position.

The West Fannin teams of 1966-67 and 1967-68, Mike Ballew’s junior and senior years won 23 and 19 games, respectively. Both teams finished as runners up in the Region and went on to compete in the state tournaments each year. Again, Mike led the team in assists both season and was elected as team co-captain as a junior. He was the captain of the team as a senior.

Mike Ballew was named to the region all-tournament teams as a junior and as a senior. He excelled defensively and chipped in with 12.7 points per game during the 1967-68 season. Tom Foster, Mike’s coach during his basketball career at West Fannin maintains that Mike was “one of the best ball handlers, if not the best, to play at West Fannin”.

Mike exhibited his all-around athletic skills during his senior year of 1967-68. He did not play football during his first three years in high school but decided to give the sport a try as a senior. He made the team and was a substantial contributor to the Yellow Jacket offensive arsenal as a halfback that season. He made a number of nice runs and scored a touchdown against Calhoun. He made two critical plays, one a 26-yard pass reception and the other a 21-yard run, to set up touchdowns in the victory over Union County.

West Fannin fielded a baseball team in the spring of 1968 for the first time in almost a decade. Mike Ballew was the starting shortstop for that team, playing a solid defensive game and hitting around .350.

Mike’s basketball skills did not go unnoticed and he was awarded a basketball scholarship by Truett-McConnell College upon his graduation from high school. He started both seasons at Truett-McConnell and was selected as the team’s best defensive player both years. He graduated from Truett-McConnell in 1970 with a grade point average of 3.4. He was on the Dean’s List four of his six quarters there. He was active in student activities and was elected as an outstanding sophomore by the faculty and his fellow students.

After graduating from Truett-McConnell, Mike continued his studies at the University of Georgia, where he earned a BBA degree in 1972. He entered the business world in sales with Cheesbrough Ponds for two years before deciding that he wanted to pursue a career in education. He returned to school at North Georgia College and earned his Masters degree in education in 1978.

Mike began his career in education at Blue Ridge Elementary School in 1978 and for the next 35 plus years he worked in a field where he “enjoyed going to work each day”. His professional accomplishments are many and include the following: he was a principal for nine years, assistant superintendent for four years, county school superintendent for five and one-half years, a coach (two sports) in Fannin County for ten years and was the recipient of the Harold Hammontree Leadership Award in Pickens County. This prestigious award is given to an individual who goes above and beyond in making the Pickens School System better. He was also the first Recreation Director (a part time position in the beginning) in Fannin County.

Mike Ballew married Sherri Queen in 1979. Sherri is also a Fannin County native. They have two adult children and one granddaughter. Mike and Sherri continue to make their home in Epworth.

Mike Ballew gives the following testimonial about the importance of sports in his life: “Being involved in athletics teaches you that you have to work hard and work with your teammates to have success. Even though you don’t always win, you learn that you have to get back up every time you get knocked down. This helps you prepare for real life because you will get knocked down. It is how you deal with getting knocked down that makes you or breaks you. My family taught me many valuable lessons and playing ball for good coaches reinforced those lessons. I truly appreciate what playing sports has meant to me”.

Mike Ballew Bio

Video at FCHS HOF Game

Mike Ballew Banquet Video

Don Carter

Don Carter

Don Carter015Shortly after school opened at Copperhill in 1954, diminutive principal Buck Arp was patrolling the halls of the school. During his rounds, he encountered Don Carter, all 6 feet, 180 pounds of the young man. Buck looked up at Don and said “son, what grade are you in?” Don replied that he was in the eighth grade. Buck said “well, I want you to report to football practice this afternoon.” Don obeyed, easily made the team and started on a journey that has landed him a spot in the 2015 class of the Fannin County Sports Hall of Fame.

Don and his two brothers grew up in the Newtown section of Copperhill. It was a tough, working class neighborhood in the 1950s so Don learned to take care of himself early on in life. His size and natural strength did not hurt in that endeavor. Don also had good quickness and speed so the game of football provided a logical stage for him to display his talents.

Don Carter played a lot for the Copperhill Copperheads during his 8th grade season. He won a starting position as an offensive and defensive tackle as a freshman in the autumn of 1955. As usual, the 1955 Copperhill team was short on numbers, usually dressing out 20 or so players each game. Don was one of only three tackles on the team and was generally expected to play the entire game, offense and defense. Undaunted, however, Don was dominant on both sides of the line of scrimmage.

The 1955 Copperhill High School team finished with a regular season record of 7-2-1 and appeared in the only bowl game in the school’s history in that era of pre-playoff competition. Don Carter was a big part of the team’s success and was cited for his stellar play in the annual ‘above the mountains’ Polk County gridiron war with Ducktown that year. That game, the last game in the history of the two schools before consolidation, ended in a 7-7 tie.

George Cobb Jones, the star running back on the 1955 Copperhill team heaps praise upon Don Carter for his contribution to the 1954 and 1955 teams. In discussing the 1955 team, Jones says “Don was a key factor in Copperhill’s very successful offense that year. Specifically, his aggressive line blocks were mandatory for Copperhill’s ‘bread and butter’ plays to succeed. He was outstanding”.

Meanwhile, Don’s family had moved from Newtown to a home between the Mineral Bluff Highway and Toccoa River in Georgia. When the Polk County School Board decreed that Georgia residents would no longer be allowed to attend school at Copperhill, Don found himself shipped off to West Fannin High School for his sophomore year in 1956. Don was required to sit out the first four games in 1956 while he cleared up some academic problems and joined the team for the fifth game of the season against Murray County.

Don made his presence known to Yellow Jacket opponents immediately. The Copper City Advance newspaper had this to say about his debut in the Murray County game: “Don Carter, a newcomer to the squad, turned in a stellar performance at left end for the Jackets”. By this time, Don had grown to about six feet, two inches and a no-fat weight of 200+ pounds.

Don continued to dominate the line play in West Fannin games throughout the remainder of the 1956 season and the entire 1957 year. The 1957 West Fannin team finished with an all-time school best record of 6-3-1, thanks in no small part to the outstanding play of Don Carter. His performance was recognized by the Associated Press which named him to their Georgia Class AA All-State Honorable Mention team as a junior following the 1957 season.

Gene Crawford, one of Don’s younger teammates at West Fannin and a Fannin County Sports Hall of Fame member, pays tribute to Don Carter thusly: “I never lined up against a better lineman than Don Carter. There was no fat on him. He had good speed, strength and quickness. He had good instincts for the ball and he was an intense athlete, which made him such a great defensive player. He was unstoppable. When Don Carter lined up on your nose you had to be ready to battle because he was coming through you, around you or over you. He played with a highly revved up engine on every down; this was the only way Don knew how to play football”.

Don Carter’s goal in life since early childhood was to be a United States Navy man. He was particularly drawn to the role of Navy deep sea divers. The lure of the Navy was on his mind as he reported for preseason football practice prior to the 1958 season. He went through the first two weeks of practice before celebrating his 18th birthday. In what appeared to most as a rash decision, but actually something Don had mulled over for years, he left the football team and joined the Navy.

Don approached his Navy career with the same gusto and aggressiveness that had served him so well on the football field. He was able to realize his dream of becoming a deep sea diver, one of the most dangerous and complex areas of military service. The training for deep sea divers is arduous and only the most physically and mentally fit young men make the grade.

Don remained in the Navy for 12 years, rising to the rank of First Class Petty Officer and First Class Deep Sea Diver. He performed numerous dangerous and vital missions during his military service.

Don worked in Atlanta for a while after leaving the Navy. He and his first wife produced two sons, both of whom are now adults. After his first wife passed away, Don returned to the Copper Basin area and, in 1975, he secured employment with the Tennessee Copper Company where he stayed until his retirement in 1987.

In 1983 Don and Gilita Chapman, a local girl who was an outstanding basketball player at West Fannin, met and were married. They have now been married for 31 years and make their home in McCaysville, with their small menagerie of two dogs and a cat.

The 2000 film ‘Men of Honor’ starring Robert De Niro, Cuba Gooding Jr., is considered by most as an accurate presentation of the character required to become a Navy deep sea diver. There is no question that Don Carter is certainly a ‘Man of Honor’ and the Fannin County Sports Hall of Fame is proud to add him to the membership roster.

Don passed away December 25, 2014.

Don Carter Bio

Video at FCHS HOF Game

Don Carter Banquet Video

Tony Farmer

Tony Farmer

In the world of golf, Tony Farmer has done everything. To honor his myriad accomplishments on and around the links, Tony has been elected to the Fannin County Sports Hall of Fame class of 2015.

At West Fannin High School he played basketball for three seasons, baseball for four seasons and golf during his junior and senior years, the only two years that the school had a golf team during his time there. He graduated from West Fannin in the spring of 1971.

Tony began playing golf around the age of 15. He had a natural talent for the game and improved rapidly. While at West Fannin, he won the Region 6A individual championship in 1971 at Chattahoochee Golf Club near Gainesville and went on to finish third in the state tournament held in Hinesville, Georgia.

After high school, Tony entered West Georgia College in Carrollton, Georgia. As a freshman there, he finished in the top 5 at the NAIA, District 25 tournament played at Callaway Gardens. That performance earned him a full golf scholarship at West Georgia. He was a member of the varsity golf team for the next three seasons and was named MVP of the team each year. He was the low medalist in the GIAC Conference in 1972 and was named to the NAIA All-District team.

Soon after earning his college degree in accounting, Tony turned pro and began his professional golf career like many others, as an apprentice professional at a recognized PGA golf course, namely the Rolling Hills Golf Club near Cleveland, Tennessee. He won the Rolling Hills Tournament Championship in 1972 and 1973. Thus began Tony’s 42-year (so far) career as a professional golfer.

Tony’s golf odyssey has taken him from Fannin County to Cleveland, Tennessee to Memphis to Arizona to Texas, back to Arizona and finally back to Cleveland and Naples, Florida. Although he narrowly missed earning his PGA Tour Player’s Card, his accomplishments have been many and varied.

He won more than 20 mini-tour events during his playing career. He also won three tournaments in Mexico. Tony won the West Tennessee PGA Championship at Colonial Country Club in Memphis in 1978. He won the New Hampshire State Open in 1984. He finished third in the Tennessee State Open in 1976.

Tony holds 10 course records including a score of 58 at the Copper Basin Golf Club. He qualified for and competed in the U.S. Open at Oakmont, Pennsylvania in 1983. He recently recorded the 15th hole in one of his career.

On the non-playing side of golf, Tony has worn a number of hats including those of head pro, teaching pro, general manager and he even owned a golf course for a time in Arizona. He achieved the PGA membership classification of A-1 when he held the position of Head Professional at the Casa Grande Golf Club in Arizona.

In 2000, the rigors of playing golf almost constantly for 40 years caught up with Tony and he was required to undergo hip replacement surgery. Although an unpleasant physical experience, the surgery did open up an entire new golf opportunity for Tony. His lofty reputation for his knowledge of all aspects of the game, gave him the opportunity to become a teacher and caddy for many luminaries such as Peyton Manning, George W. Bush and John Schuerholtz.

Today Tony Farmer splits his time between the Honors Course in Ooltewah, Tennessee and the Olde Florida Golf Club in Naples, Florida. He spends spring and summer in Tennessee and fall and winter in Florida. His client base includes several corporations and individuals who depend upon his expertise in pursuing their golfing passions. His strength when playing was his putting and Tony’s fortes as a caddy are reading greens and club selection. He has earned the reputation as one of the best in the business.

Golf has been good to Tony Farmer, and Tony Farmer has been good for golf. He has played at least one round of golf in all 50 of the United States and on five different continents. When asked about his favorite course, he thinks a while and finally decides that Cypress Point on the California Monterey Peninsula is pretty hard to beat for the combination of golf challenge and natural beauty of the surroundings. He singles out Ben Hogan as his favorite professional golfer of all-time.

Tony grew up in McCaysville, the son of John and Edna Earle Burger Farmer. His older brother, the late Gregg Farmer, was a standout basketball player at West Fannin and West Georgia College. His younger brother, Johnny Farmer, was also an outstanding player and legendary coach of the Fannin County High School girls basketball teams for many years. Tony joins brother Johnny as a member of the Fannin County Sports Hall of Fame.

Tony has one son, Matthew, who is a fire fighter/paramedic in Arizona. He met his wife Evelyn in 2000 and the two have been married for seven years.

Tony Farmer Bio

Video at FCHS HOF Game

Tony Farmer Banquet Video

Chad Galloway

CHAD GALLOWAY

Chad Galloway011Chad Galloway retains the look of an athlete. He stands six feet, two inches tall and weighs just a tad more than the 190 pounds that he carried when he was one of the outstanding track and field athletes in the country. His athletic exploits have earned Chad a spot in the Fannin County Sports Hall of Fame, Class of 2015.

Chad began competing in running events in the track and field programs sponsored by the Fannin County Recreation Department in 1984 when he was seven years old. It was soon apparent that he could run faster than most kids his age and he soon expanded his repertoire of skills to other track and field events.

He competed in a local version of the pentathlon around the age of eight. The pentathlon consisted of five events requiring skills in running, jumping and strength. Chad quickly became a force to be reckoned with in all aspects of track and field and piled up medal after medal in a wide variety of events. At the age of 11, he set a boys 12 and under record in the long jump with a leap of 19’ 4 ¼”.

At some point in his athletic career, Chad became enamored of the decathlon event. The decathlon is considered one of the most challenging athletic competitions in the world and attracts only athletes who are proficient in all of the traditional physical skills. In 1912 King Gustav V of Sweden called Jim Thorpe, who had just won the Olympic decathlon competition at the Stockholm Olympics, the ‘greatest athlete in the world’. That moniker continues to be used to describe the decathlon champion at the Olympic Games.

As Chad entered his high school years, he realized that he could not pursue his decathlon dreams in a school setting because the state of Georgia high school track and field competitions do not include that event. His track and field activities for the next four years, therefore, were pursued on two fronts. At Fannin County High School, Chad competed in track and field, as well as cross country and basketball. He earned a total of 11 letters in those three sports during his four years in high school.

The USATF Junior Olympics, however, does include the decathlon event. It was as a decathlete at the Junior Olympics that Chad was able to demonstrate the strong overall track and field skills that he had worked so hard to acquire while competing against the very best athletes in the country. The Junior Olympics are contested during the summer months, so Chad’s athletic activities consisted of his high school competitions from September through May, followed by the Junior Olympics after the high school year was completed.

The highlights of Chad Galloway’s high school career occurred in the spring of his junior season of 1993-94. At the state class AA track and field meet that season, he captured state championships in both the pole vault and the 110 meter high hurdles, two of the most difficult track disciplines to master. Chad is quick to admit that becoming a proficient pole vaulter was the most difficult technical challenge that he faced during his career. That he was able to win a state championship in that event is testimony to his strong work ethic and commitment.

Winning two state titles is enough to establish the Chad Galloway legacy of excellence. It was his record in the decathlon competition at the Junior Olympics, however, that elevated his status to the very top on a national scale.

In 1991, Chad competed in the National Junior Olympics in Raleigh, North Carolina and placed 6th in the pentathlon, ninth in the long jump and 12th in the high hurdles. In the summer of 1992, at the tender age of 14 following his freshman year in high school, Chad won the Southeastern United States decathlon competition for boys 16 and under to earn the right to represent the region at the national competition in Los Angeles, California. He finished 13th in a field of the top decathletes in the country.

In 1993, Chad again advanced to the National USATF Junior Olympics by winning the Southeastern championship at Georgia Tech in Atlanta. At the National competition held at LSU in Baton Rouge, he finished third in another very strong field.

It was his performance in his final decathlon competition in 1995, however, that undoubtedly provided the most memorable experience of his eleven year track and field career. In the Southeastern Junior Olympics meet held in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Chad was in second place after the first seven events of the decathlon. In the eighth event, the pole vault, Chad hit the bar coming down and was knocked unconscious. He suffered a stitch-requiring cut on his chin and still bears the scar as a souvenir of that unfortunate event. He was urged to drop out of the competition but insisted on continuing. During the 9th event, the javelin throw, Chad’s cut began to bleed again and he was once again treated. As he competed in the final event, the grueling 1500 meter run, Chad staggered and almost fell several times as his chin began to bleed profusely. He finished, however, and received a resounding standing ovation from the fans in recognition of his incredible courage and heart in finishing the decathlon.

Due to the injury, Chad fell into third place in the meet and, consequently, did not advance to the National Junior Olympics. Only the top two finishers in each region receive spots in the National event.

Chad was recruited by a number of colleges and accepted a track and field scholarship to attend the University of Tennessee. Personal events intervened, however, and Chad did not continue his decathlon career at the college level.

Chad Galloway and his wife Amanda, continue to call Morganton their home. They have two young children, Adia and Airianna and Chad has an 18 year old daughter, Brittany. Chad is employed by the Gilmer County Department of Education.

Chad is a very soft spoken man, proud but humble about his many athletic accomplishments. He is quick to point out that his parents, Debbie and Vaughn, were there supporting him at the beginning of his career and at every step along his amazing journey. He is an exemplary role model for young athletes and the Fannin County Sports Hall of Fame is proud to count Chad Galloway as a member.

Chad Galloway Bio

Video at FCHS HOF Game

Chad Galloway Banquet Video

Dot Tipton Hardeman

Dot Tipton Hardeman

The marital union of Fannin County native Burt Tipton and his wife Nola Leatherwood Tipton produced seven children. The first five were boys, and all turned out to be outstanding athletes. Two of the boys, Earl the oldest and Joe the youngest, were so proficient at the sport of baseball that they signed professional contracts. Earl’s career was cut short due to injury but Joe advanced to the Major Leagues and played seven seasons in the American League.

Many observers of local athletic activities of the period, however, will tell you that the best athlete in the Tipton clan was the baby of the family, Dorothy. Dot was a fiery competitor from the time she could walk, partly out of self-defense because she was constantly competing with her brothers, but primarily from her natural desire to compete and excel at sports.

Dot’s first taste of organized athletic competition came during her childhood at Epworth Elementary and then at Epworth High School. Opportunities for young girls were limited in the America of the late 1930s and early 1940s, but basketball was a sport open to youngsters of both sexes. In fact, support for the girls teams at schools in Georgia was as strong as, as possibly stronger, than that for the boys squads.

In March of 1940, Dot led Epworth Elementary School to the championship of the Gold Medal Tournament for grade schools and junior high schools in the Fannin County/Copper Basin area. She had an individual game high of 23 points and was selected to the all-tournament team. She was also selected as one of the three outstanding girl competitors. No single most valuable player was selected but tournament reports suggest that Dot was by far the outstanding player in the event.

Playing for a very average Epworth High School team in 1940-41, she was selected to the All-County team and again named as one of the three outstanding players in the county.

After just over a month of her sophomore year of 1941-42, Dot decided to transfer to nearby McCaysville High School. That school had opened in the fall of 1940 and was closer to Dot’s home in the Vellenorthtown section of Fannin County. When she arrived at McCaysville, she was greeted by teacher, and soon to be principal, Fred German who asked for Dot’s help in organizing a girls basketball team. She eagerly accepted the challenge and recruited the best female athletes in the school to participate. She also led a fund raising drive to collect enough money from local businesses to buy uniforms for the team. The first girls basketball team in the history of McCaysville High School took the floor in the winter of 1941.

Things were a little different when Dot and her McCaysville teammates began the 1942-43 season. Although that was only the second team for the school, most of the girls had gained some experience, plus Dot was on hand to lead them. Dorothy Tipton was technically a junior as she reported for school in September, 1942, but she had made a momentous decision. She wanted to finish school as soon as possible, so she asked school officials if she could complete requirements for both her junior and senior year, during one school year. She was given the green light, so Dot found herself with a much heavier academic burden than normal as the embarked upon what was to be her final year in high school.

The 1942-43 basketball season, and the school year in general, was a remarkable journey for Dot Tipton. Her individual performance that year was the stuff of legend, highlighted by her 41 point outburst in a game against Blue Ridge High School in February, 1943. It was a single game scoring record in Fannin County that would endure until 1965.

On a team level, Dot led the McCaysville girls to the Georgia 9th District Championship for the 1942-43 season at the tournament held in Winder. The McCaysville girls advanced to the championship game with victories over Bethesda and Epworth and found themselves player a heavily-favored Clayton team for the big prize. In a low-scoring affair, McCaysville hung on to win, 18-15 and were crowned champions of the 9th District. Georgia did not hold a state tournament for girls at that time, so the McCaysville girls, in only their second year of competition, accomplished as much as was possible for them. No Fannin County tournament was held in 1943 due to wartime travel restrictions.

There were two more items of business, one athletic and one academic, for Dot to complete before she bade her high school career goodbye. First, a Bi-State basketball tournament was held in those days, featuring teams from Fannin County, Copperhill, Ducktown and Ellijay. With Dot performing at her usual all-tournament level, the McCaysville girls also won this tournament by defeating the Ellijay girls in the championship game played at the Copperhill YMCA. Second, Dot graduated from McCaysville High School in May, 1943 as class Salutatorian. It was quite a year for young Dorothy Tipton.

After graduation, Dot was approached by several of the amateur women’s basketball teams of the era, including the Lorelei Ladies and Sports Arena Blues of Atlanta, about continuing her basketball career on a professional level. Dot, however, had met and fallen in love with Alvin Hardeman at McCaysville High School. They both graduated as members of the class of 1943. Her desire was to marry Alvin and settle down to a peaceful family life in Fannin County.

World War II was raging in Europe and in the Pacific in 1943 when Dot Tipton and Alvin Hardeman were married facing a very uncertain future. Alvin was called to military service soon after their marriage and, after completing his basic training, was sent to Germany where he served as a medic. Alvin suffered from unstable blood pressure, a condition that guaranteed that he would serve in a non-combat role during the war. He did, however, witness all of the inhumanity of war and was always reluctant to talk about what he had seen in Europe.

While Alvin was away for the first thirty months of their marriage, Dot fought off worry by staying busy working for a while in Atlanta and then serving as the girls basketball coach at McCaysville High School during the 1944-45 season. Her brother Dwight, also an athlete of note during his day, coached the boys team that season.

Alvin did return safely from World War II and he and Dot settled down in the Vellenorthtown. They built their own house on a small lot that had been a gift from Dot’s father. They lived in that house for the remainder of their married life. Dot and Alvin had two children, Deanne and Susan. Alvin was a carpenter at the Tennessee Copper Company and Dot handled the chores at home. Her love for sports never waned and she continued to play softball in the spring and summer and bowled in the winter. Dot was a perennial member of the softball all-star teams of the area throughout the 1950s and 1960s.

Alvin passed on in 1990 and Dot Tipton Hardeman has continued to live in the house they built throughout the 24 years since the loss of her husband. She has great grandchildren now and stays involved as much as time and distance will allow in the lives of her family. She loves the Atlanta Braves and Falcons and tries to never miss a big sporting event on television.

The Fannin County Sports Hall of Fame is very proud to call Dot Tipton Hardeman a member. As Wallace Pittman, one of her classmates at McCaysville High School expresses it: “It wouldn’t be much of a Hall of Fame without Dot”.

Dot Tipton Hardeman Bio

Video at FCHS HOF Game

Dot Tipton Hardeman Banquet Video

Ron Jabaley

Ron Jabaley

Ron Jabaley was always in the smack-dab middle of the action during his entire football career. When his teams had possession of the ball, he anchored the line from the center position. When trying to stop the opponents from moving the pigskin, he was at the heart of the struggle at a guard or tackle spot. His domination of play on both sides of the ball has not gone unnoticed and Ron Jabaley has been elected as a member of the Fannin County Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2015.

Everything about Ron Jabaley was big. In his playing days, he draped a 225-pound, sculpted, Adonis-like physique around a frame that stood roughly 6 feet, 3 inches tall. His voice was deep, rich and resonant. No one who ever shook his hand forgot his strong, vise-like grip. Even the nicknames bestowed upon him suggested size and strength. In his early years he was affectionately called ‘Punjab’, the name of the no-nonsense bodyguard of Daddy Warbucks in the comic strip Annie. Later, at Baylor Prep in Chattanooga, he picked up the moniker of ‘Chief’, again suggestive of his size and strength.

Perhaps the biggest part of Ron Jabaley, however, was his heart. He was a gentle giant. He had a smile that immediately made its recipients feel comfortable. It seems that everyone who met Ron — in childhood, in high school at Copperhill and West Fannin, at Baylor Prep School, in college at the University of Tennessee and Tennessee Wesleyan, at the Southern School of Optometry in Memphis, in the military, in his 40+ years caring for patients at Jabaley Eye Care in Blue Ridge and in his personal life — loved and respected Ron Jabaley.

Ron began his athletic career in Copperhill, Tennessee. His dad, Richard Jabaley Sr. owned and operated a clothing store that stood almost exactly on the border of Tennessee and Georgia. Ron made the Copperhill High School varsity team and garnered considerable playing time as a freshman during the 1954 season. He took over the starting center position as a sophomore in 1955. He played defensive tackle both seasons at Copperhill.

In August, 1956, the Polk County School Board decreed that Georgia residents would no longer be allowed to attend schools, including Copperhill, located in Tennessee. By this time, Ron’s family had moved across the state line to Georgia, so Ron began his education at West Fannin High School as a junior in the autumn of 1956.

At West Fannin, Ron Jabaley was a standout football lineman for two seasons and was named to the Class AA All-State Honorable Mention squad following the 1957 season. He also performed the kicking off and extra point kicking duties for the Jackets. Ron was also a top-notch baseball player at West Fannin.

By the time high school graduation day rolled around in May, 1958, Ron Jabaley had pretty much decided that he wanted to pursue a career in the medical field. He was not certain exactly which aspect of health care was for him, but Ron, and his family, were of the mind that he needed to hone his academic skills a bit before entering college. Ron and his family felt that a year at Baylor Preparatory School in Chattanooga was the answer.

Ron flourished at Baylor. He earned letters in football, baseball and wrestling, and was named to the Chattanooga Times All-City Honorable Mention football team. He was also a campus leader and made many lifelong friends. The Baylor school yearbook, the ‘Klif Klan’ summarizes his legacy thusly: ‘Beneath his brawny bulk there lies one of the finest and friendliest boys that Baylor has had the good fortune of possessing. There is one word for his personality — terrific!’

Ron joined one of his Baylor roommates, Rich Thompson, at the University of Tennessee in the fall of 1959. He was a football walk-on candidate briefly, but nagging injuries and the certainty that his future lay in the medical and business fields, and not on the football field, brought him to the decision to end his athletic career.

He continued his education at the University of Tennessee and at Tennessee Wesleyan before entering the Southern College of Optometry in Memphis. He graduated in 1966. It was during his time in Memphis that Ron met his wife Kay, a native of the Bluff City.

Ron served in the military from 1966 to 1968 and rose to the rank of Captain. Shortly after his discharge, he and Kay were married and returned to Fannin County to start his business and to start raising a family. He founded Jabaley Eye Care in August, 1968 and remained in practice until his death in November, 2013. Ron Jabaley was lived a total of 73 years.

Ron Jabaley’s passions in life were golf, animals (especially his boxers), Georgia Tech football and most of all, his family. He and Kay produced three fine children, all of whom make their homes in Fannin County — two sons, Dr. Timothy Jabaley, Dr. Christopher Jabaley and daughter Leslie Jabaley Johnson.

Ron Jabaley was quite a man and the Fannin County Sports Hall of Fame is honored to recognize one part of his considerable legacy. A legacy as big as the man.

Ron Jabaley Bio

Video at FCHS HOF Game

Ron Jabaley Banquet Video