Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Ringing the Bell

Just in case you did not see it, here is article by Ed Grisamore that appears in the Macon Telegraph today. Keep ringing the bell.


Ring the bell for one more
By Ed Grisamore -

BUTLER --The late John Turk was the kind of philosopher every small town seems to have among its riches. He would supervise the ringing of a bell from an old oak tree after every victory for the Taylor County High girls basketball team.

For five years, it was a familiar sound, like church bells on a Sunday morning. Everyone walked around with ringing in their ears.

From 1967-72, a stretch folks around here affectionately call "The Wonder Years," the Lady Vikings won 132 straight games and five state championships.

Coach Norman Carter could have been elected king. Or mayor. Or, at the very least, county school superintendent.

Actually, he was named superintendent in January 1969, when his girls teams had a 39-game winning streak. He asked if he could coach until the "streak" was over, never dreaming he wouldn't step down for another three years.

It is the longest consecutive winning mark in state history and the fourth-longest nationally among high school girls teams.

I say all this because I believe Norman Carter deserves to be in the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, he's not.

The trouble with halls of fame - music, sports or tiddly winks - is they are the most selective and subjective institutions in the world. You can't apply for membership or buy your way in. You're supposed to earn your spot in the hallowed halls. Even then, there's no guarantee.

Our state sports hall of fame will induct its 2007 class of nine members Saturday night at the Macon City Auditorium. But, for every Steve Bartkowski or Don Richardson, there are dozens of others outside the door without an invitation.

I am familiar with the process. I served as a member of the selection committee in 2001. I now feel compelled to join the campaign for Carter, who doesn't deserve to keep being passed over.

By now, the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame is very familiar with Carter. Ever since the Lady Vikings teams held their 35-year reunion in late March, folks from Butler, Reynolds, Potterville and points between have been waging a full-court press to have their coach immortalized.

In 12 seasons, Carter's teams won six state championships and compiled a remarkable record of 350-32. During the streak, the Taylor girls won five titles in three different classifications. They began the streak when the rules allowed only three players per side and adjusted to the switch to "rover" (six-player) basketball in the 1970s. Taylor won 63 consecutive games prior to integration, then helped smooth the transition of merging with the all-black R.L. McDougald High by winning 69 more.

If Carter is getting the cold shoulder because he coached for only 12 years, then the qualifications are flawed. Do we want length or depth?

With that line of thinking, Jackie Robinson, who broke baseball's color barrier, might never have been inducted.

He was born in Cairo but moved with his family to California when he was only 16 months old. He never lived in Georgia after that. Jackie, we hardly knew ye.

Carter grew up in Talbotton, was a star athlete at Mercer University and has been a pillar in Taylor County since 1960. He served as school superintendent for 21 years. And he continues to change the lives of hundreds of women at "The Golden Rule," a home he founded in 1998 for victims of alcohol and substance abuse.

He's one of the finest men I've ever known.

I cannot believe there's not a place in our state's hall of fame for someone like him.

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