01/12/12 — George Whitfield Hall of Fame preview

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George Whitfield Hall of Fame preview

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on January 12, 2012 1:48 PM

Where in your travels would you encounter a hometown hero, a priceless Carolina gem, a Legion of Merit recipient, an Australian Open finalist and a storied Hall of Fame writer?

Give up?

Why Goldsboro, of course.

Those five individuals, and many more, comprise the 40th class of inductees slated for enshrinement in the prestigious George Whitfield Hall of Fame on Friday evening. The ceremony begins at 7 p.m. in the auditorium on the Goldsboro High School campus.

The Hall of Fame celebration kicks off the two-day weekend which includes a day-long baseball clinic on Saturday. Mark Johnson, who retired as head baseball coach at Sam Houston State, is the guest speaker.

Dr. Ken Keesee will discuss injury prevention for today's baseball player, and then a host of the nation's top baseball coaches will talk about what they look for when on the recruiting trail. The clinic will test budding players' abilities through indoor and on-field drills, pitching, catching, infield play, outfield play, base running and hitting.

"We try to add some new faces each year," said Whitfield. "Lots of them I've known for a long time and have been friends with for a long time. They're wonderful about offering their time and expertise to help young people, and that's really what it's all about.

"They down-to-earth people who just enjoy helping kids."

Moments after shaking hands and receiving "thank you's" from the inductees last year, Whitfield's attention had already shifted to 2012. One friend dared that Whitfield couldn't -- and wouldn't -- surpass the star-studded event that left everyone in awe.

Well, he has.

"I think we've got a nice lineup and it's very well scattered among different types of people," said Whitfield. "They have been very kind and are happy to come, and naturally I'm happy to have them. All of them have had something to do with in athletics in their lifetime, and every one of them have a different story.

"This group will rival any class that we've had (inducted)."

* Goldsboro native David Thornton, who retired from the NFL last August, is part of this year's class. The Goldsboro High and University of North Carolina alum was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in 2002 and acquired by the Tennessee Titans in 2006.

While Thornton's career numbers speak for themselves, his ability to balance civic and professional responsibilities certainly didn't go unnoticed. He was the Colts' Community Man-of-the-Year in 2004 and the Titans/Walter Payton Man-of-the-Year in 2008.

Thornton's football jersey has been retired at GHS.

* Woody Durham received the "Carolina Priceless Gem" in January 1994 after his 1,000th broadcast of a Carolina game. After describing more than 72-percent of Tar Heel victories during his illustrious career, Durham hung up his headset less than a year ago.

A 13-time North Carolina Sportscaster-of-the-Year, Durham has done considerable work for the eastern N.C. chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and has served as co-chairman of the Carolina Kids Classic for 22 years -- a fund-raising event for the Ronald McDonald House, UNC Children's Hospital and Childhood Trust.

* One of the most-decorated airmen in United State history, Air Force Maj. Gen. Alfred K. Flowers was the longest-serving general officer in the Department of Defense on active duty when he retired Jan. 1 of this year.

A Jones County native, Gen. Flowers have received many awards, including the Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster, during his career that spanned nearly five decades.

* Alexander "Andy" Andrews started his tennis career at Woodberry Forest (Va.) School and earned All-American status at N.C. State University. Alexander won a record five Atlantic Coast Conference championships and was named as one of the top 50 players in ACC history.

Andrews still holds the Wolfpack records for career winning percentage in singles (.789) and doubles (.846). He and doubles mate John Sadri reached the Australian Open finals in 1983 and advanced to the U.S. Open semifinals later that year.

* A five-time N.C. Sports Writer-of-the-Year recipient, South Carolina native Wilt Browning is also slated for induction into the N.C. Sports Hall of Fame. Browning served in the USAF from 1956-60 and started his illustrious journalism career as editor of the Forbes AFB paper.

* Other inductees:

-- Richard Bell, Arkansas tight end in late 1950s;

-- Carol Carson, head athletic trainer at N.C. Wesleyan College;

-- Wes Chesson, played in NFL with Atlanta and Philadelphia;

-- Bill Davis, served in World War II and played football at Duke,

-- Ron Fly, well-reknowned basketball official;

-- Wells Gulledge, Mount Olive graduate who coaches at Kinston;

-- Mark Johnson, retired head baseball coach at Sam Houston State;

-- Robert P. Kennel, former football player at N.C. State;

-- Ray Korn, prep and collegiate standout athlete from New Jersey;

-- Mac Morris, compiled 400-plus victories as basketball coach;

-- Wendell H. Murphy, Duplin County native who is agricultural genius;

-- Richard Pridgen, former head football coach at Wilson Fike;

-- William Rowe, started 8-man football program at Parrott Academy;

-- Don Shea, sports director at WTVD-TV in Durham;

-- Carl R. Tacy, former men's basketball coach at Wake Forest;

-- Timothy Taft M.D., played soccer and ran track at Princeton University;

-- Jerry R. Tolley, lettered in four sports at Holmes HS in Edenton;

-- Robert Vaughan, started men's basketball at Elizabeth City State;

-- Lindsay Warren, Washington native has served several positions;

-- Tony Womack, played in Majors with Pittsburgh and Arizona;

-- Larry Worsley, played for legendary Everett Case at N.C. State.