Johnston County lost one of its most successful and groundbreaking athletes and coaches last week. Clayton native Harvey Heartley Sr. died Monday, after a career that saw growth and advancement in both the school and CIAA sports.
The 6-foot-4 Heartley was a star at Johnston County Training School in Smithfield in the late 1940s. “Bones, “ as he was known, was a tremendous shooter. He dreamed of playing at State College (N.C. State).
“Most people don’t remember, but back when the Dixie Classic was played at State, we (blacks) were allowed to sit in one section,” Heartley recalled in a 2010 interview. “Section 48. Right behind the South goal.”
“It was wrong, and it was racist to put us in that one section, but it was wonderful. We’d sit in our little section, and we’d see coaches and players from everywhere. And we got to see all those great players. I wanted to get down on the court with them.”
Heartley would play at N.C. Central in the early 1950s, earning all-CIAA honors. He was a third-team All-American selection for the 1954-55 season and was drafted by the Minneapolis Lakers in 1955.
A highly successful career in high school coaching followed. After beginning his coaching career at Buckland High School in Gates County, going on to win two county championships, he returned to his hometown of Clayton.
There, at Cooper High School,e his 1963 team won the N.C. High School Athletic Committee 2-A state boys championship and the Wake-Johnston championship, earning coach of the year honors again. He then moved to Ligon High School in Raleigh where he won his second state championship (the NCHSAC 4-A title) in 1967. He also coached the Ligon boys and girls tennis teams to state championships in 1967-68.
During his tenure as men’s basketball coach at St. Augustine’s he compiled 371 wins, including a runner-up finish in the 1984 Division II tournament. Under his coaching, the St. Augustine’s men’s team won the 1973 NAIA men’s basketball championship and the 1983 CIAA Southern Division title. He earned CIAA coach and athletic director of the year honors in 1984. His team was also an NCAA Division II runner-up.
Heartley began his career as an administrator in athletics at St. Augustine’s in 1971. In addition to serving as the athletic director and head men’s basketball coach, Heartley coached several other sports and taught classes. He was the school’s athletic director until 1996.
Heartley is a member four different Halls of Fame: the CIAA, St. Augustine’s, N.C. Central and the Johnston County Athletic Hall of Fame.
During his induction into the Johnston County Athletic Hall of Fame in 2008, Heartley recalled some of the best basketball games he ever played in: impromtu games between white and black high school players in the 1950s who weren’s allowed to play in the same high school league because of segration.
“We weren’t able to play in games together in the 1950s but we still played against (fellow Johnston County Athletic Hall of Fame member) Robert Poole and those great Clayton and Smithfield teams,” Heartley said. “We’d just find an open gym and slip in one by one. We couldn’t go in together; that would have caused problems. But those were some of the craziest, best games I’ve ever seen.”
Heartley was laid to rest on Friday.
He would remain an N.C. State fan even though he wasn’t able to play there, especially after his brother, Al (another Johnston County Training School graduate), became the first black scholarship recipient in 1968.
|But it were his ties to St. Aug’s that remained strongest and helped cement his legacy of leadership in athletics.|
“My deepest sympathies go out to the Heartley family,” said Saint Augustine’s AD George Williams. “We lost a great Falcon. … He will be remembered as one of the greatest Falcons’ coaches who ever lived.”