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Living Legends recognized

The scope of Bruce Bolick’s achievement in high school athletics did not hit him until he walked into the James W. Warren Citizens Center Saturday night.
“I must I admit I am overwhelmed,” Bolick said after his induction into the Lincoln County Sports Hall of Fame. “You look around and see the people who have been inducted, the Von Ray Harrises and the Roby Jettons. It makes it seem real special.”
Bolick, who retired in 2003 after 33 years as a coach and teacher at East Lincoln, was one of seven new members enshrined at the annual induction banquet.
The other members of the hall’s class of 2005 were Kenneth “Chick” McCurry, Walter “Pooch” Cornwell, Brenda Johnson Hamilton, John “Cotton” Little, Ted Goins and Charles D. “Block” Smith.
Six of the seven hall of famers were present to receive their accolades. Smith, whose coaching stint at Lincolnton from 1925-37 has achieved legendary status, was honored 60 years after his death in 1944.
No living relatives could be located to accept Smith’s award, so hall of fame member Betty Ross spoke on behalf of the coach who had a gym at Lincolnton named in his honor in 1954.
The first inductee to address the audience of some 300 people, Bolick thanked the coaches, players and colleagues who touched his life as an athlete and as a coach.
Two of Bolick’s former players, Mike Harrill and Bo Harrill, and one of his coaching colleagues, Mark Lackey, sat at the inductee’s table. Another who attended on Bolick’s behalf was Guy McIntosh, a key figure, along with Bolick, in the formation of the Denver Post 455 American Legion baseball team in 1990.
“I really appreciate these guys being here. They have shown a lot of loyalty and support over the years,” Bolick said.
Speaking of his 25-year stint as East Lincoln’s athletics director, Bolick said his greatest accomplishment was to keep the program financially solvent.
“The best thing I did was to keep us out of debt. Of course, I had a lot of help from other people, including the East Lincoln Sports Boosters,” he said.
On a humorous note, Bolick recalled the time early in his coaching career when he was thrown out of a baseball game at Bandys by a female umpire.
“I was known to get on the umpires, but I really didn’t think I said anything to get thrown out. Anyway, I got an award for that at the school sports banquet that year,” he said.
In his 33 years at East Lincoln, Bolick’s baseball teams won more than 400 games, captured nine conference titles and made 19 state playoff appearances.
Like Bolick, McCurry began his career as an athlete and eventually got into coaching. A top amateur boxer in the 1950s, McCurry organized a youth boxing program in Lincolnton and developed it into one of the nation’s best. The program produced several national amateur champions and spawned the careers of at least three pro fighters.
“We turned out some good boys. They made their mark,” McCurry said of his boxing students, who included such notables as Billy Bridges, Randy Mitchem and Patrick Phelps.
Bridges, who won 11 international fights and fought professionally, traveled from his home in Tennessee to witness the ceremony.
In an interview after the banquet, McCurry pointed to the establishment of the Kid’s Dome, a center for youth activities, as one of his greatest legacies.
“The Kid’s Dome will be left for the kids. It will never be sold. Whatever happens, it will serve kids into the future,” said McCurry.
Two of the inductees, Cornwell and Goins, had strong ties to Lenoir-Rhyne College. At L-R from 1953-57, Cornwell became the first athlete in school history to earn all-conference and all-district honors in three major sports (baseball, football and basketball). Goins, who graduated from the old Union High School in Reepsville, was an all-conference lineman at L-R under legendary football coach Clarence Stasavich.
Like Bolick, Brenda Johnson Hamilton made her mark at East Lincoln. She led the 1973 Lady Mustang basketball team to the only team state championship in school history. At that time, the state was not divided into classifications, so East Lincoln reigned supreme over the entire state that year.
Hamilton’s high school coach in 1973, Henry Barkley Jr., attended the ceremony.
Another hall of famer with eastern Lincoln County connections was Little, who entertained the audience with anecdotes from his days as an athlete at Rock Springs High School, his sports experiences in the military, and his work with sports organizations at the church and recreational level.
In her tribute to Smith, Ross noted that the iconic football, basketball and baseball coach is given credit for putting Lincolnton on the map in sports in the 1920s.
Smith compiled a 62-40-11 record in football and fostered a winning tradition that has continued to this day. All of Lincolnton’s football coaches since Smith have compiled winning records at the school, Ross said.
Steve Brackett, co-chairman of the Lincoln County Sports Hall of Fame, served as master of ceremonies. Judy Rose, athletics director at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, was the guest speaker.
by Mike Powell

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