Macon Sports Hall of Fame stands out

sports@macon.comMay 6, 2013 

Just about any city of any size in the state of Georgia has a sports hall of fame. To mention a few, there is one in Columbus, the Chattahoochee Valley Sports Hall, that includes Columbus, Fort Benning and Phenix City, Ala., along with Savannah, the Greater Savannah Athletic Hall of Fame, as well as shrines in Albany, Rome-Floyd County, Athens, Atlanta, Thomaston, Moultrie and, of course, Macon. Warner Robins also has a hall of fame, which includes sports but is not limited to athletes.

I know I am partial, but none of those mentioned can match Macon when it comes to the list of honorees. When the 2013 class is inducted May 16 at the Monument Room of the Coliseum, the Macon Hall of Fame will have inducted 178 individuals since its beginning in 1976. Included among the group are 35 who also are enshrined in the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame.

To take it a step further Jim Parker, a member of both the Georgia and Macon Halls is also in Pro Football Hall of Fame and the College Football Hall of Fame. Parker, who grew up in Macon before moving on to Ohio where he became an All-American at Ohio State, is considered one of the top linemen to ever play in the NFL as a member of the Baltimore Colts with whom he was a 10 time All-Pro selection. In addition, he was named to the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-Time Team.

The Macon Sports Hall of Fame started out as the Macon Athletic Hall of Fame in 1976 as a Bicentennial project of the Bibb County Jaycees and was chaired by member Billy Hester. The Jaycees conducted three induction ceremonies before the hall’s operation was suspended after 1978 and was dormant until 2000 when it was revitalized by a group headed by legendary former Willingham and Athens head coach Billy Henderson.

The inaugural Macon Hall of Fame Class in 1976 had six inductees. In addition to Parker, there was professional golfer Gardner Dickinson, who starred at Lanier and later at LSU, long time Georgia football head coach and former Mercer standout Wally Butts, boxing legend W.L. “Young” Stribling, who won more than 200 bouts in his career, Lanier football star Vernon “Catfish” Smith, who scored all 15 points in the Bulldogs’ win over Yale in the dedication game for Sanford Stadium, and longtime Lanier head coach Selby Buck, who won 11 basketball state championships during his career. All six of those men are in the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame.

That first hall consisted of an array of activities. There was a Golden Gloves boxing tournament as well as a Southern League baseball game at Luther Williams field between Columbus and Orlando because Macon did not have a minor league team at the time.

In addition to the inductions, awards went to Pittsburgh Steelers defensive back J.T. Thomas as Macon’s Pro Athlete of the Year, world skeet shooting champion T.J. Maddox was named Amateur Athlete of the Year, and Central quarterback Michael Jolly and Southwest basketball star Walter Daniels were named co-winners as High School Athletes of the Year. Service to Sports Awards were presented to longtime YMCA head P.A. McArthur, author Jimmy Jones and broadcaster Bob Savage.

Tickets for this year’s Hall of Fame Ceremonies are $25 and can be purchased by calling Bobby Cramer at 474-3700.

Bobby Pope is the executive director of the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame. Contact him at bobbypope428@gmail.com

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