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Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame: Walker, Byrd, Bartow to be inducted

December 11th, 2011 10:18 am by Staff Report

Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame: Walker, Byrd, Bartow to be inducted

Dave Walker, whose coaching career at East Tennessee State has spanned five decades, is among 10 new inductees to be enshrined into the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame, it was announced Saturday in Nashville.

The class also includes Jeff Byrd, the late president and general manager of Bristol Motor Speedway, and legendary basketball coach Gene Bartow. The other inductees are Bill Dance, Gibby Gilbert, Zan Guerry, Rick Insell, Tim Jackson, James Marsalius and Austin Conner Shofner.

“This year we have one of the most diverse classes of all time,” said Bill Emendorfer, president of the TSHF. “It is not a typical class dominated by football players and basketball players, but we have professionals from NASCAR, fishing, tennis and golf. Plus, we have a true American war hero who has a Tennessee football background.

“This is a truly unique class.”
Induction ceremonies will be held May 19, 2012 at the Renaissance Hotel in Nashville. Below are bios on the inductees:

• Dave Walker

Not every school can claim a living legend on its campus, but the students and faculty of ETSU can. Walker, who most often answers to “Coach,” has been a fixture at the university for 45 years.

During his tenure, eight different men have served as president of the United States, while ETSU has seen six presidents and nine athletic directors. Walker’s program has produced 30 All-Americans and countless other track and cross country stars in the Atlantic Sun, Southern and Ohio Valley conferences.

The coach has developed a number of world-class runners, including Kevin Johnson, a ninetime All-American; Seamus Power, a five-time All-American; and Robert Rovere a four-time All-American. Walker also coached Ray Flynn, who became one of the five top milers in the world, and Neil Cusack, the 1972 NCAA cross country national champion and the winner of the Boston Marathon in 1974.

Since 1969, Walker’s men’s teams have won 22 conference championships, finished second seven times and third once. His women won three Southern Conference championships and produced All-American distance runners Kim Bird, Michelle Gregg and Catherine Berry.

Walker has won 20-plus coachof-the-year honors and been named district coach of the year 10 times.

• Jeff Byrd (posthumous)

Byrd grew up on the flatlands of central North Carolina, moved to the mountains of Tennessee in mid-career and turned himself into a NASCAR superstar of sorts.

He arrived at Bristol Motor Speedway to take the helm of the race track in 1996, and in 2003 was named its president. He was part of the Winston mafia, that core group of bright young people who worked for the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. from the 1970s to 1990s and helped transform NASCAR racing.

Several — Byrd among them — would advance from public relations and management careers in Reynolds’ sports marketing division to leadership roles at NASCAR speedways. He was the face and heart of the track.

• Gene Bartow

In 1977, Bartow was at the top of the college basketball world. He was one of only three coaches to take two different programs to the Final Four of the NCAA tournament, and as the successor to legendary coach John Wooden at UCLA, he had posted the best winning percentage in the history of the program with a 52-9 record after his first two years.

But his next move stunned basketball fans everywhere. Bartow left Los Angeles for Birmingham and the chance to build a new program from scratch as the athletic director and head basketball coach at UAB. Success came quickly. Bartow’s first team posted a 15-11 record; his second advanced to the postseason with a trip to the National Invitational Tournament (NIT); and his third won 23 games en route to the NCAA Tournament, which started a string of seven straight tournament appearances, including a trip to the Elite Eight in 1981.

In the first eight years of the program, UAB produced three All-Americans. By the time Bartow retired from coaching in 1996, he had led UAB to nine NCAA Tournament appearances, five NIT appearances, and six conference championships. He was succeeded as head coach by his son, Murry, a former UAB player and assistant coach who is now in his ninth season at ETSU.

In 1997, the on-campus arena at UAB was renamed Bartow Arena in honor of the man who did so much for the program. He remained as athletic director until 2000. With 647 career wins and 12 NCAA tournament appearances, Bartow ranks in the top 20 on the list of winningest NCAA Division I coaches. He was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in 1989 and the Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in November 2009.

• Gibby Gilbert

C.L. “Gibby” Gilbert II (born January 14, 1941 in Chattanooga) is an American professional golfer who has won tournaments on both the PGA Tour and Champions Tour.

His father started him in golf at the age of 13. He attended the University of Chattanooga before turning pro in 1965 and joining the PGA Tour in 1967. Gilbert had three victories and dozens of top 10 finishes on the Tour. His best finish at a major was a tie for second at the 1980 Masters.

Gilbert has had a lifelong interest in helping young people develop their golf skills. Since 1973, he has made annual appearances for the Tennessee PGA’s Junior Golf Academy at Fall Creek Falls.

• Bill Dance

Raised in Lynchburg, Dance planned to become a doctor, like his father and grandfather before him. But he changed his mind after happening upon a grisly motorcycle accident in the early 1960s. He then turned his focus to competing in bass tournaments.

A fishing lure manufacturer that sponsored him suggested he should start a TV show to promote the product. The program originally began on an ABC affiliate in Memphis in 1968, and Dance went on to become a legendary figure on the lakes.

• Zan Guerry

The 62-year-old Guerry’s stellar tennis career includes more than 25 national championships in singles and doubles and three All-American seasons at Rice University (1969-71). He was inducted into the Collegiate Tennis Hall of Fame in Athens, Ga.

Guerry’s resume includes winning national titles in five decades, starting with Boys 11s singles in 1960 and most recently a national Senior Father-Son crown with Jeff Guerry. One would be hard pressed to match Guerry’s run of national gold balls (emblematic of a national championship) for singles titles won in the 11s, 14s, 16s 18s, 35s, 40, and 45s, along with numerous doubles titles.

Other highlights including winning a singles match at the French Open (1969) as well as at Wimbledon (1973) and posting two wins at the 1977 U.S. Open before losing to Jimmy Connors.

• Rick Insell

The 1977 graduate of Middle Tennessee State built a basketball dynasty as coach at Shelbyville High School. He guided the Golden Eaglettes to a record 10 TSSAA Class AAA state championships and two USA Today national championships (1989, 1991) as he compiled a sparkling 775-148 worksheet during his 28-year tenure. Insell was named USA Today national high school coach of the year in 1989 and 1991.

He is currently the women’s head coach at MTSU, where his team has won three consecutive conference tournament titles.

Insell’s Shelbyville teams hold the Tennessee state records for consecutive wins, with 110, consecutive state titles, with four (1989-1992), and most state championships for a coach, with 10.

• Tim Jackson

Jackson did not begin playing competitive golf until age 17, but has since been immersed in the game.

Currently the president-elect of the Tennessee Golf Association, he’s a member of the Memphis Sports Hall of Fame and the Southern Golf Association Hall of Fame. Jackson will be inducted into the Tennessee Golf Hall of Fame in November.

Jackson defeated Tommy Brennan, 1 up, to win the 1994 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship and reached the quarterfinals of the 1994 U.S. Amateur championship. In the 2001 U.S. Mid-Amateur, he beat George Zahringer, 1 up, with a birdie on the 36th hole. He has played in more than 35 USGA championships and reached at least the quarterfinals at six Mid-Amateurs.

• James ‘Jim’ Marsalius

Marsalis was born Oct. 10, 1945 in Pascagoula, Miss., and was a college football standout at Tennessee State University, where he earned many honors, including senior of the year in 1968. He was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs and played nine professional seasons (1969-1977) as a cornerback. He was awarded rookie of the year and went to the Pro Bowl in 1970 and ‘71. He played for the New Orleans Saints in 1977 and 1978. Marsalius started in Super Bowl IV for the Chiefs, defeating the Minnesota Vikings in the last World Championship game played between the AFL champions and those of the NFL.

• Brig. General Austin Conner Shofner (posthumous)

Shofner was born in Chattanooga and raised at an ancestral home in Bedford County. He graduated in 1937 from the University of Tennessee, where he lettered in wrestling and football.

As a Marine, Shofner got word to the outside world of the infamous Bataan Death March of 1942 after he engineered the first and only successful American team escape from a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp. The desperate plight of the prisoners, as reported by General Shofner’s 10-man group, led to changes in Allied strategy and tactics in the Pacific that were credited with saving the lives of thousands of servicemen.

For his exploits then and as a guerrilla leader afterward, he was decorated with the Distinguished Service Cross by Gen. Douglas MacArthur. In prison camp he remembered the axioms of football that had been drilled into him at Tennessee. One seemed especially made for his situation: Play for the breaks, and when they come your way, score.

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