The May 27, 1971 issue of the McCaysville Citizen, a local weekly newspaper at that time, featured a picture of West Fannin High School sophomore Gary Mealer on the front page. Mealer, a stellar all-around athlete at West Fannin was not alone in the picture. He stood behind his haul of five, yes FIVE, trophies that he won at the West Fannin Athletic Banquet held the previous Saturday. If the number of trophies is not impressive enough, it should be noted that the trophies were awarded for his performance in three sports, football, baseball and basketball. Gary Mealer was one of the most outstanding all-around athletes in the history of Fannin County. His versatility, at a very high level of excellence, has earned him admission tothe Fannin County Sports Hall of Fame class of 2015
Gary grew up in McCaysville surrounded by a bunch of young boys who shared his passion for sports. He also had two brothers, one older and one younger, and one sister. As the seasons changed during his childhood, the only change in his life was the shape, size and texture of the ball necessary for Gary and his chums to play the sport currently in season.
By the time Gary Mealer was in the 7th grade, it was apparent that his athletic skills were a cut above those of most of the other boys. He was confident of those skills and promised his mother that he would use his athletic prowess as a vehicle to take him to his ultimate destination of a college degree. No one in his family had ever attained so lofty an academic achievement.
Gary’s high school athletic career at West Fannin was filled with one honor after another. He was at the center of the action in three sports. He was a quarterback for the football team, point guard for the basketball team and shortstop and leadoff hitter for the baseball team. He earned four varsity letters in baseball, three in football and three in basketball. He was elected Co-Captain of the football team as a senior in the fall of 1972.
Gary Mealer’s school awards included the following:
-Football – Sportsmanship Award two years and Most Valuable Back as a senior;
-Baseball – Best Hustler Award, Coaches Award and Most Valuable Player Award;
-Basketball – Scholastic Award and Sportsmanship Award two years
In addition to the school awards, he was named to the 1972 Region 6A Basketball All-Tournament Team, 1972 Sub-Region Basketball Most Valuable Player and All-Tournament Team and the 1971 Chattanooga Times and Free Press All Tri-State Honorable Mention Team. On a team level, Gary’s 1971-72 basketball team advanced to the State Tournament in Macon where they defeated a highly regarded Coosa team in the first round. His 1972-73 team finished with a 22-2 record, the best record in the history of the school.
Former West Fannin coach T.J. Thompson is lavish in his praise of Gary Mealer and what meant to the West Fannin sports programs. Thompson says that Mealer was one of the smartest players that he ever played with or coached. Mealer had a sense of what needed to be done in all situations and had the ability to do it. He was at his best in clutch situations and never lost his composure.
Thompson tells a story of a baseball game between West Fannin and Gilmer County. He told his squad that Gilmer had a lot of outstanding players but seemed to lose concentration when they were down. He told his players that if they could strike quickly, that their chances of winning would receive a substantial boost. Gary Mealer was the shortstop and leadoff hitter. To begin the contest, he stepped to the plate and proceeded to plant the second pitch of the game over the leftfield fence for a home run. As he rounded third, where Thompson was coaching, he winked at TJ and said “is that quick enough for you coach”.
Mealer’s high school performance allowed him to fulfill his promise to his mother to parlay his athletic skills into a college education. He was awarded a basketball grant to attend Gainesville Junior College where he played both basketball and baseball for two years. Following his graduation from Gainesville, he earned a baseball scholarship to Berry College in Rome, Georgia. Two different college scholarships in two different sports is quite a feat.
Armed with a B.S. degree in Business Administration from Berry College, Gary Mealer entered the world of coaching and education at Murray County High School in 1977. For the next ten years, he coached at Murray County High, Gordon Lee High and Armuchee High School. His assignments included four years as the head coach of the Murray County girls’ basketball team, several different football coaching jobs and even a four year stint as golf coach at Murray County.
While coaching, Gary was able to improve his resume by earning Masters and Specialist Degrees in Business Education from West Georgia College. He also earned a Specialist Degree in Educational Administration from West Georgia.
Gary’s career path brought him back to Fannin County for five years between 1988 and 1993. During that time his duties included positions as Principal at Morganton Elementary School, Assistant Principal at Fannin County High and a period as assistant varsity basketball coach at Fannin County High. He left Fannin County again in 1993 and has devoted the last 21 years to the administrative side of education in several parts of North Georgia, including five years as Principal of Murray County High School.
Gary and his wife Jodi continue to make their home in Chatsworth just across Fort Mountain from Ellijay. They have three children, Zach, Jenny and Luke. Gary is currently employed by the Georgia Department of Education as an Education Career Partnership Coordinator.
As he concludes his 6th decade on the planet, Gary Mealer is still going strong. If his epitaph were written today, however, it should read: ‘Gary Mealer – a life of accomplishment and service’.