By Joshua Price/Sports Editor
The most recent inductees to the Etowah County Sports Hall of Fame were enshrined during a special ceremony at Convention Hall in Gadsden on July 27.
Emma Sansom’s Walter Holt and Terry Cooper, Southside’s Kyle Chambers, and Tennessee native and current Gadsden resident Marian Stirling Burnett Ford were selected by the committee as the Class of 2012 for their accomplishments and contributions to local sports.
Earlier this week I strolled through the hall of fame, located inside Fitness Plus in Rainbow City, to view the new bronze plaques commemorating the inductees.
Bronze plaques with the likenesses of the most revered athletes and coaches of this county line the walls of the facility. Each plaque gives a brief description of the athletic achievements of each member. Attalla’s “Gentleman” Jim Glover, Alabama City’s Fred “Buster” Gross, Hokes Bluff’s Doster “Doc” Griffith, Altoona’s Bill Nichols and Carver’s John R. Smith are some of the more recognizable names on the wall.
There are 97 plaques representing as many athletes. As I read the accomplishments of each member, I couldn’t help but notice one fact about the shrine – its distinct lack of female recognition.
Including the induction of Ford on July 27, only seven of the 97 plaques are females.
Ford, a member of the state senior tennis circuit, joined Minnie Lee Ashley, Francis King Guyton, Doris Fowler Sims, Jackie Christine Lambert, Vickie Byars “Moore” Calhoun and Pat Martin as the only females recognized in this county for their athletic accomplishments.
The current members of the hall of fame, both male and female, are very deserving and rightly recognized for their accomplishments and contributions to sports in this county.
In this case, it’s not “who’s in” that is most notable, but “who’s not in.”
When I think about deserving female candidates, two ladies quickly come to mind.
Kristie Grant graduated West End High School in 1988, and she was more than just an average athlete.
Grant was the catalyst of the first three of the Lady Patriots’ five consecutive Class 2A state volleyball championships – 1985, 1986 and 1987.
Grant was named Class 2A’s Most Valuable Player in 1985, 1986 and 1987 – the award equivalent to “Miss Volleyball” in today’s laurels.
Grant was a six-year starter for West End in volleyball, and was named All-Area, All-County and All-State in 1984, 1985, 1986 and 1987. She was also selected as Etowah County’s Most Valuable Player for the 1986 season. The Patriots finished 39-2 in 1985, 41-6 in 1986, and 42-2 in 1987. West End won the state championships in 1988 and 1989, were runners-up in 1990.
As a senior in 1987, Grant was named to the All-Tournament team in each of the six volleyball tournaments in which West End competed.
Grant received a full-scholarship to the University of North Alabama to play volleyball. She excelled in both volleyball and softball at UNA, and was named All-Gulf South Conference three times in volleyball (1988, 1989 and 1990) and twice in softball (1989 and 1990). Grant led the UNA volleyball team to consecutive GSC championships in 1988 and 1989. She also led the team in assists in 1988, 1989 and 1990. Grant was recently named to the All-Time Gulf South Conference volleyball team.
A softball knee injury at UNA in 1991 ended her playing career.
Grant is the only athlete in the history of UNA to be awarded All-GSC five times, and was inducted to the UNA Sports Hall of Fame in 2006.
Grant was also a standout basketball and softball player at West End. She was named to the All-County and All-Area teams in both sports three times.
During the 1987-88 basketball season, Grant averaged 18 points (second in the county) and nine rebounds per game.
Another deserving female is Hokes Bluff basketball star Dale Walton.
Walton was an All-County, All-Area and All-Region player in 1976-77 and 1977-78. She averaged over 25 points and 15 rebounds per game during those two seasons, including a record-setting 44 points during one game in the annual Etowah County tournament. The Lady Eagles won 37 of 40 games those two seasons and appeared in the state tournament both years.
Walton earned athletic scholarships to Gadsden State Community College and to the University of South Alabama.
Walton was named to the All-AJCC Northern Division and All-Region XXII teams at Gadsden State, and the Lady Cardinals won the region and state championships in 1980. She was one of the top three scorers at USA.
During her high school and college career, Walton netted over 2,000 points. She was limited to two years of high school action because girls’ basketball was dropped for many years in Alabama and not revived until the 1976-77 season.
Many females from this county deserve recognition in the hall of fame. Numerous ladies that could be inducted were multiple state, conference and national championship winners as both coaches and players, while some hold state track and field records that are decades old. Some are even members of their respective college’s sports halls-of-fame.
As I read the plaques I noticed a peculiar trend in the inductees: all female members, with the exception of Lambert, were former students/coaches of the Gadsden City school system or Etowah High School. There were no females from Carver, Hokes Bluff, Glencoe, Litchfield, Southside, Sardis, Westbrook Christian or West End High Schools or any other small schools in this county.
As I continued to examine all the plaques, I noticed that a few of the male inductees are not natives of Etowah County. Further, one member’s plaque noted no athletic accomplishments whatsoever.
So why are 93 percent of the members of the Etowah County Sports Hall of Fame males? Sure, those guys did great things as athletes, but there are many females out there that have accomplished as much, if not more, in athletics than many of those guys – yet they receive no recognition.
If the Etowah County Sports Hall of Fame is truly a shrine to the most accomplished athletes and coaches in the history of this county, it is currently a mediocre representative of it – most notably concerning females in general and players of both genders from the smaller, rural schools and communities.
The hall of fame committee should seek more diversity.
As the voting is cast for the class of 2013, there should be heavy consideration for more of our gals to be enshrined.
They deserve it.
Joshua Price can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.