The ninth edition of the Johnston County Athletic Hall of Fame induction ceremony brought the same great memories, inspiration and sense of pride in the county’s rich athletic history that previous editions have always featured.
The 2015 class included pioneers from the youth athletic ranks to groundbreakers in college athletics. Enshrined on Saturday night at South Johnston High School was Cleveland School basketball and baseball legend E.O. Adams Jr., who helped the Cleveland Athletic Association grow into one of the region’s biggest youth recreational athletic groups.
Former South Johnston football and softball coach Mickey Bridgers, one of those who helped push for the creation of the Johnston Hall of Fame a decade ago, was also honored, as was Clayton High track legend and seven-time prep state champion Anissa Gainey.
Al Heartley, who became the first black scholarship player in the N.C. State basketball program, after a standout playing career at Johnston Central High School, joined the class after a stirring introductory speech by Carolyn Ennis.
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And the late John Chris “Sonny” Johnson Jr. was added to the Hall of Fame. Johnson scored over 1,000 points in his basketball career at Cleveland School, then played at N.C. State before returning to his Johnston County roots to help play a key role in the expansion of the Cleveland Athletic Association playing fields as the organization grew by leaps and bounds.
Things I learned during the course of the night:
• Heartley and Johnson were teammates on the N.C. State men’s freshman basketball team in 1967-68. That was a time when freshmen were ineligible to play varsity sports in Division I athletics.
• Bridgers played one of the most important roles there was for the Wilson Fike High School football powerhouses of the late 1960s. Bridgers was a member of the Cyclones’ 1969 team, but some would joke that his biggest asset to the program was his set of wheels. Bridgers gave Carlester Crumpler a ride to and from practice often. Crumpler was one of the greatest high school football players in the history of the state and his play helped Fike to become the first team to ever win three consecutive 4A state football championships.
• One of Gainey’s seven NCHSAA track and field state championships came in the high jump, a discipline she had never practiced before she was talked into trying by her coaches just a few weeks before the state championship meet. And her favorite events — she was a sprint and hurdle standout indidually — were relay races where she could help some of her teammates feel the same excitement she got from winning races.
• Ross Renfrow, the Deputy Superindent of Johnston County Schools, was a football coach before he moved into the school administration ranks. His first job was a Wilson Beddingfield High where he coached Bennett Jones, who is following a similar path as Renfrow’s. Jones is a former football coach who is now an assistant principal at South Johnston High.
The Johnston County Athletic Hall of Fame
Class of 2007: Bruce Coats, Reginald Ennis, Barry Foote, Doug Parnell, Robert Poole, Ray Tanner, William Wellons
Class of 2008: Fred Bartholomew Jr., Bob Etheridge, Harvey Heartley, Dwight Hinant, Glenn Nixon, Wanda Watkins, Mike Wooten
Class of 2009: Jeff Adams, Mike Atkinson, Genia Beasley, Roy Brown Jr., Waverly Jones Jr., Shelly Marsh, Dr. Anthony Parker
Class of 2010: Ron Avery, Harvey Brooks, Alfred Coats, Norvell Lee, Andy Pleasant, Frank Skinner, Ben Strifert
Class of 2011: Evelyn Andrews, Clyde Boyette, George Drawhorn, Amby Foote, John Kernodle, Sam Narron, Donald Sinclair, Wayne Stephenson
Class of 2012: Rickie Boyette, Steve Coats, Art Medlin, Elbert Moye, Phil Pittman, Reginald Poole, Paul Sanderford, Raymond Sugg
Class of 2013: David Bagwell, Joey Barbour, Gary Fowler, Marion Frazier, Charles Hooks, Raymond Massengill, Jim Montague
Class of 2014: Tol Avery, Thomas Jackson, Dr. Donnie Jones, Mike Vinson