Seven new names will be added to the list of inductees into the Lincoln County Sports Hall of Fame later this fall.
One of the members of the class of 2005 was once referred to in a newspaper headline as “one of the best athletes in N.C. history.”
Another spent his entire career at one high school, coaching football and baseball, teaching classes, and administering the athletics program.
Yet another made his name as an amateur boxer in the 1950s and later taught what he learned about the “sweet science” to generations of youth in Lincoln County.
One was a coaching legend who made such an impact on his school that a gym on campus was named in his honor.
Another starred on the only team in East Lincoln High School history to win a state championship.
Two of the inductees made their mark at high schools which have long since closed their doors: Rock Springs in eastern Lincoln County and Union in the west.
The seven-member class of 2005 will be inducted at the annual banquet Nov. 12 at the James W. Warren Citizens Center.
Their names are: Bruce Bolick, Walter “Pooch” Cornwell, Ted Goins, Brenda Johnson Hamilton, Kenneth “Chick” McCurry, John “Cotton” Little, and Charles D. “Block” Smith.
Banquet tickets, priced at $25, are available from members of the board of directors of the Lincoln County Sports Hall of Fame.
The latest class of inductees was chosen from applications submitted to the board of directors. Candidates for the award are nominated by private citizens through a formal application process; the board is not involved in the nomination process.
Several members of this year`s class achieved success both as athletes and as coaches.
Bruce Bolick, for example, played on a state championship high school football team in Mount Holly, played college baseball at North Carolina, and played professional baseball in the Washington Senators organization.
Yet Bolick achieved even more acclaim as a coach, teacher and athletics administrator for 33 years at East Lincoln High School. He began his career at East in 1970 and stayed until his retirement in 2003.
He was baseball coach at East for his entire career, during which his teams won more than 400 games, captured nine conference titles and made 19 state playoff appearances.
Bolick also served as football coach from the early 1970s until the mid 1980s, and he was the school`s athletics director for 25 years.
In addition, Bolick started the Denver Post 455 American Legion baseball team in 1990 and has been the program`s only coach. He has continued to coach baseball since his retirement from the educational system.
McCurry is another standout athlete turned coach. He was an outstanding bantamweight and flyweight boxer in the early 1950s and trained under Angelo Dundee after he turned pro.
After a 13-fight pro career, McCurry became a businessman in Lincoln County and started a youth boxing program that developed into one of the best in the country.
McCurry`s Lincolnton VFW boxing program, later known as the Lincolnton Boxing Association, produced five national amateur champions and two professional fighters.
McCurry coached youth boxing in Lincolnton for about 30 years and was a positive role model for hundreds of young people. He also established the Kid`s Dome, a center for youth activities west of Lincolnton.
In 1990, McCurry was named to the Carolinas Boxing Hall of Fame at Lowe`s Motor Speedway.
The brilliant high school and college sports career of Walter Cornwell compelled a sportswriter to write this tribute in the mid-1950s: “The North State Conference and Lenoir Rhyne College saw the end of one of the greatest, if not the greatest, athletic careers in the state`s history when Walter Cornwell bowed out with the basketball season.”
Cornwell was a three-sport standout at Lincolnton High School from 1949-53. While in high school, he was a pitcher and outfielder on the 1953 Cherryville Post 100 American Legion baseball team that played in the Little World Series in Miami,Fla.
At Lenoir-Rhyne from 1953-57, Cornwell became the first L-R athelte to earn all-conference and all-district honors in all three major sports (football, basketball and baseball). That record remains intact nearly 50 years after Cornwell graduated.
Another inductee, Brenda Johnson Hamilton, led the 1973 East Lincoln High School women`s basketball team to a state 2A championship, the only state team title the school has produced. After leaving East, Johnson went on to star in basketball at Western Carolina University.
John “Cotton” Little was one of the best athletes ever produced by the old Rock Springs High School in Denver. He averaged 27 points per game in his senior year of basketball and set a single-game scoring record of 72 points in a contest.
In baseball, Little led Rock Springs to a two-year record of 17-0. He also played American Legion baseball for Post 30 in Lincolnton, fashioning a 9-1 pitching record in his last year.
Little signed a pro contract with the Cleveland Indians but elected to stay close to home rather than move to North Dakota for a minor league assignment.
In the military, Little played baseball for the U.S. Army and competed in the Army World Series in Korea.
After military service, Little returned to Lincolnton and helped to organize and to coach in a number of sports organizations, including recreation basketball, the Boger City Boosters, the Boger City Methodist Church softball league and a Catawba-Lincoln semi-pro baseball league.
Ted Goins grew up in western Lincoln County and attended Union High School in Reepsville. Even though Union did not have a football team in the late 1940s, Goins “walked on” in football at Lenoir-Rhyne under legendary coach Clarence Stasavich.
From 1949-53, Goins played and starred on a highly successful L-R team that piled up impressive won-lost records and earned postseason bowl bids. Goins earned all-conference honors as an offensive lineman in his senior year.
Charles D. “Block” Smith was a high school coach at Lincolnton from 1925-1937, and is given credit for putting Lincolnton High School on the map in athletics. Smith coached every male sport that the school offered and compiled 12-year records of 62-40-11 in football, 126-74 in basketball, and 140-43 in baseball.
It was said of Smith that he coached his teams based on the sportsmanship code of the legendary Knute Rockne at Notre Dame: “It matters not whether you won or lost, but how you played the game.”
Smith left Lincolnton in 1937 to coach at Guilford College in Greensboro. He died unexpectedly in 1944 while serving with the military in Key West, Fla.
In 1954, Lincolnton High School named a new gynasium in Smith`s honor. The gym still stands on the old campus site across from the Lincolnton campus of Gaston College.
by Mike Powell