The Georgia Athletic Coaches Association has announced its six new inductees to its Hall of Fame for 2004. This year's class consists of John Barrett Hawkins, Lester Williams, Lawrence Graves, Jimmy Hightower, William Henderson, and Johnny Stallings. GACA Executive Secretary Ray Broadaway, a highly-regarded former teacher and coach in Georgia in his own right, is extremely pleased to be able to have these six outstanding individuals as part of the prestigious fraternity of Georgia coaches. "Every year we wonder if there will be anyone in the state left to recognize for their work, but every year a few great people seem to stand out," he said. This year is certainly no exception as the GACA has selected some truly exceptional people for the 2004 Hall of Fame class.
To be selected for the GACA Hall of Fame, coaches must meet certain criteria. First, the coach must currently be retired. Second, the individual must have coached for at least 25 years. Third, at least 20 of those 25 years in coaching must have been done in the state of Georgia. The one exception to this is that if any coach doesn't meet one of the three criteria points, but has made an outstanding contribution to Georgia high school athletics or his or her respective school, that individual may be considered for selection.
Here are the 2004 inductees:
J. B. Hawkins coached basketball for 32 years at Crawford County High School, and now resides in Roberta, Georgia. Hawkins served as head coach for both the boys and girls basketball programs, and won 1,072 of his 1,656 games for a winning percentage of 65%. Coach Hawkins also won a state championship in basketball, along with 15 region championships and was state runner up twice.
The late Lester Williams coached 32 years at four different high schools, including Cedartown, Marietta, Elbert County, and Douglas County. Coach Williams is best remembered for being one of the most influential golf coaches in Georgia high school athletics, in that he is responsible for the current system of playing six players and counting four, rather than playing five and counting four. The National Coach of the Year nominee won three state golf titles, fifteen region championships, and coached over 20 professional players in his career, including PGA Tour standout Doug Sanders. Along with golf, Williams is also remembered for his outstanding work as a football coach throughout his career.
Lawrence Graves was one of the best track coaches in the country during his 30 year career at three Atlanta high schools. At Sylvan, Bass, and Southside high schools, Graves' track teams were 512 of 590, a winning percentage of 87 %. To go along with that, Graves won three state championships, sixteen region championships, and finished runner-up four times. Also a football coach, he was responsible for four football region champion squads and was also a very successful cross country coach. Now retired and residing in Englewood, Florida, Coach Graves is probably best known for his ideas on making a track with no money. After school, Graves asked that all cars be removed from the main parking lot, which he lined to make a practice track for his athletes to use since there wasn't enough funding for an actual track.
Jimmy Hightower coached four sports at Americus, Cedartown, LaGrange, and Bainbridge high schools, and had tremendous success with each one. Hightower won sixteen region championships along with a combined seven state championships; one in baseball, one in basketball, two in football, and three in golf. The football program at Georgia Southwestern University owes much of its success to Coach Hightower, who is partly responsible for starting the Americus program in 1982. Coach Hightower is also the only individual in Georgia to have served as head coach for both the high school football and basketball North-South games.
Billy Henderson is one of the most recognized names in Georgia high school football. As the head coach at Clarke Central, and Willingham high schools, Henderson coached four sports: football, swimming, cross country, and baseball. Along with his success at the high school level, Henderson spent three years as a college assistant coach, one at Furman University and two at the University of South Carolina. In his 42 years as a football coach, his teams were 286 and 107, winning three state titles in seven trips. He also won three state titles in baseball and one in swimming. The football stadium at Clarke Central is named for Coach Henderson, who is one of the most highly regarded coaches in the state's history.
Johnny Stallings is recognized not only in Georgia for his success as a wrestling coach, but at the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Oklahoma as well. Stallings coached for 40 years, serving as head coach for wrestling, football, and golf at Willingham High School and Woodward Academy. He won a combined six state titles, three in wrestling and three in golf, and also a combined 25 region championships. Coach Stallings in now retired and resides in Jackson, Georgia.
On June 5th, 2004, the GACA will hold a luncheon to officially induct the new Hall of Fame members. The luncheon will be held in Dalton at the Northwest Georgia Trade and Convention Center at 11:30 am. For more information contact the GACA at 800-282-0839 or visit GACAcoach.com
Columnists note: Matthew Lund would like to thank Ray Broadaway for his contributions to this article.