Lee Boyd weighed all of 90 pounds soaking wet when he was a student at Lincolnton High School in the 1950s.
As he said Saturday night, Boyd was “not big enough for football, not tall enough for basketball, and not good enough for baseball.”
That left boxing, and Boyd became so good at the sweet science that sports writers referred to him as a “classy flyweight.”
Boyd`s boxing career twice took him to New York`s Madison Square Garden, and earned him a tryout for the 1960 Olympic Games. He did not make the U.S. team, but he did win 150 of 163 bouts as an amateur and professional.
Along with nine other men, all with Lincoln County connections, Boyd was honored Saturday night as part of the 2004 class of inductees into the Lincoln County Sports Hall of Fame.
The acceptance speech in front of a crowd of three hundred at the Citizens Center was the second in the last four years for Boyd, whose heart-felt and at times humorous remarks were one of the highlights of the evenings. In 2001, Boyd was named to the Carolinas Boxing Hall of Fame in Charlotte.
Sharing the spotlight with the former boxer were Bill Barkley, a standout pitcher at Rock Springs High School, Gardner-Webb University and the University of North Carolina; Bob Beal, Jr., a salesman who coached in local softball and youth sports leagues for decades; Darrell Bost, a minister who earned all-state honors in basketball at Lincolnton in the 1950s; Shirley Gabriel, a member of an Lincolnton athletic family who starred in football at Appalachian State University; Lee Kanipe, a local insurance agent who has officiated high school sports for more than 40 years; Bobby Lineberger,a stellar softball player for Howard`s Furniture in the 1960s and 1970s; Don Powers, a Lincolnton alumnus who earned MVP honors in football at Western Carolina and has coached at several universities; Hugh “Chunk” Rudisill, a standout football and baseball player who ran a popular Lincolnton restaurant; and Richard K. Smith, a retired coach at Lincolnton High who led the Wolves to a state championship in football.
Gabriel, who was inducted into the ASU Hall of Fame in 1975, echoed a theme embraced by several of the honorees–that of coming back to a place that was a nuturing environment for young athletes.
“It`s good to be home,” said Gabriel. “I am thankful that I grew up in Lincoln County with coaches, teachers and friends who encouraged me in athletics as well as academics.”
Recognizing his sister, Betty Gabriel Ross, in the audience, Gabriel drew a chorus of laughter when he said, “As an athlete, I followed in the footsteps of my sister Betty, something I have been doing for the past 73 years.”
Ross, who built the county and city`s recreation program from scratch, was a member of the hall of fame`s first class of inductees in 2000.
Kanipe, a running back for Lenoir-Rhyne College`s national championship football team in 1960, earned his place in the hall of fame as a high school official.
“I would like to be remembered as a good official,” said Kanipe, who officiated high school games involving such standout N.C. athletes as Tommy Burleson, David Thompson, Sleepy Floyd and James Worthy.
“I think I was an official who was consistent in his calls. And I always tried to treat the coaches and players with dignity,” Kanipe said.
Lineberger, a resident of Oak Island on the N.C. coast, was unable to attend the ceremony due to illness. His niece, Tracy Lineberger Pauley, accepted the award in his place.
Rudisill, who was inducted posthumously, was remembered by his son, Kim, who spoke of his father`s military experience in World War II when he gave up a contract with the New York Yankees to serve his country. Kim Rudisill said his father`s desire for excellence in sports and in business was a major influence on his children.
Smith, the last inductee of the night, said he was “lucky and thankful” for his career as an athlete and as a coach. He spoke fondly of his family, wife Patsy and daughter Kelly, and his “extended family,” his long-time colleagues on the Lincolnton High School coaching staff and the man who mentored him, Von Ray Harris.
Of his 1993 team that rolled to the school`s only state championship in football, Smith said, “I didn`t take them, they took me. We had a lot of fun.”
Beal, co-chairman of the hall of fame`s board of directors, is the fourth board member to be enshrined.
Steve Bracket, a Hickory attorney and member of the board of directors, served as master of cermonies for the event.
This year`s banquet program was dedicated to the 1952 Lincolnton Cardinals baseball team which won the Western Carolina League pennant.
by Mike Powell