NASHVILLE -- The Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame on Tuesday announced the names of 11 inductees to be enshrined at its annual banquet Feb. 11 at the Renaissance Hotel in Nashville.
“This year’s banquet features an outstanding class of athletes and sports personalities,” said Bill Emendorfer, president of the state-wide sports organization. “We’ll have a former NFL standout, a former Olympic gold medal winner, and perhaps the one individual who has influenced basketball more in the state of Tennessee than anyone. I can assure an exciting evening for everyone who loves sports, an evening you will truly never forget.”
The 2011 Inductees are as follows:
Timothy (Tim) Edward Irwin -- A native of Knoxville, Tim Irwin grew up following the Big Orange football program, so it came as no surprise when offered an opportunity to play for Tennessee he jumped at the chance. Irwin was one of 30 players who signed football scholarships with Tennessee in 1977, and of that number nine went on to play in the NFL. His senior year, Irwin was named All-SEC tackle and also won an NCAA Post-Scholarship Award for academic work in pre-law. He was named to the SEC Academic Honor Roll in both 1979 and 1980.
Irwin was a third-round draft pick in 1981 and played in the NFL from 1981-94, including a 13-year career with the Minnesota Vikings. Following his retirement from the NFL in 1990, he returned to Knoxville where he earned his law degree and was admitted to the Tennessee Bar. He practiced law in Knoxville until 2005, when he was appointed Judge of the Juvenile Court of Knox County. He was co-founder of the Catholic Youth Football league and has sponsored the Tim Irwin/Food City Bass Tournament with proceeds benefitting the Boys and Girls Club of the Tennessee Valley. The tournament has raised in excess of $550,000 since 1990.
Jackie Walker (Posthumous) -- A native of Knoxville, Jackie Walker was an outstanding student-athlete excelling in football, basketball and baseball. His head football coach at Fulton High, Lon Herzburn (who later became Jackie’s position coach at the University of Tennessee), worked with the young Walker and helped him develop athletically and academically. Following graduation from Fulton, Walker accepted a football scholarship at Tennessee, becoming the first African-American student from Knoxville to receive a sports scholarship to attend UT or any other SEC university.
During his tenure at UT, freshmen were not allowed to play varsity. His sophomore year he was a starting linebacker. His junior year he lead the Vols defense with 82 tackles and 42 assists. Walker was a two-time All-America and his senior year was selected team captain -- the first African-American to be selected captain for a sports team in the SEC.
Following his senior year, Walker was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers. After a brief professional career, he relocated to Atlanta. Walker, who died in 2002, was inducted into the Knoxville Sports Hall of Fame in 2008.
William R. “Bill” Battle III (Lifetime Achievement Inductee) -- A native of Birmingham, Bill Battle was an outstanding tight end on Alabama’s first national championship team under head coach Bear Bryant. Following graduation, he entered the coaching profession serving as an assistant at Oklahoma, Army and Tennessee -- where in 1970 he was named head coach after four years. During his tenure as UT head coach, Battle’s teams went 59-22-2, twice finished in the top 10, twice in the top 20 and won four of five bowl games.
In 1978, he returned to his home state and held various management positions, including president of two separate companies, with Circle S Industries. During his tenure, the company grew in earnings from $12 million to $60 million. He then founded Battle Enterprises Inc., later to become The Collegiate Licensing Company (CLC), the nation’s oldest and largest marketing agency dedicated to providing domestic and international licensing services to the collegiate market. CLC currently represents 200 colleges, universities, bowls and conferences, as well as the NCAA and The Heisman Trophy. In 2007, CLC was acquired by IMG, the world’s premier sports and entertainment marketing company. IMG College is now headed by Bill’s son, Pat, and Bill remains active in CLC and its related businesses.
Battle was named first-team tight end on the Alabama Crimson Tide All-Decade Teams of the 1960s, and in 1981 was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame.
Elizabeth Henderson -- Henderson began playing tennis when she was 8 years old and she’s still at it. By the age of 12, she was playing in southern and national tournaments. She reached No. 1 in the southern rankings for Girls 14s and Girls 16s. Henderson’s highest national ranking was when she attained the No. 9 position in the Girls 14s. She was ranked No. 16 nationally in the Girls 16s.
After leaving junior tennis, Henderson played for the UT Chattanooga women’s tennis team. During the 1970s, UTC played SEC, ACC and Big Ten schools because a conference for women had not yet been established. She was named to the All-America team on each of UTC’s three AIAW Small College National Championship squads.
Following college graduation, Henderson began her college coaching career at North Carolina. After two years at UNC, she moved to William and Mary. In 1983, Henderson returned to Knoxville to head the women’s tennis program at Tennessee. After four years of leading the Lady Vols program, Henderson lightened her schedule to meet the demands of raising a family. She then took over the tennis program at the Peninsula Club in Knoxville, where she is in her 30th year of teaching at the grassroots level.
Coach Don Meyer -- The former Lipscomb head basketball coach, Meyer is the all-time leader in coaching wins in NCAA basketball history. After coaching at Lipscomb for 24 years and averaging 32 wins per season over his last 10 years, he moved to Northern State in Aberdeen, S.D. He retired from coaching following the 2009-10 season with 923 wins in a career that spanned four decades. He is currently serving as a Regents Distinguished Professor and Assistant to the President at Northern State.
Meyer was named NAIA National Coach of the Year following both the 1988-89 and 1989-90 seasons. He took the Bison to 13 national tournaments and won the 1986 NAIA National Championship. He was elected to the NAIA Hall of Fame at the age of 47 and was honored last July at the ESPYS with the Jimmy V. Perseverance Award.
Coach Marynell Meadors -- Raised in Nashville and a graduate of Hillsboro High, Meadors decided in the seventh grade her future was coaching women’s basketball. Following graduation, she attended Middle Tennessee State and there began coaching women’s basketball before it became a varsity sport prior to Title IX. In 1970 following the passage of Title IX, she moved to Cookeville and became the women’s head basketball coach at Tennessee Tech. She coached the Golden Eagles for 20 seasons, compiling a 363-138 (.724) lifetime record. While coaching at Tech, she won six consecutive Tennessee state championships, four Ohio Valley Conference championships and two Metro Conference championships. She was twice named Ohio Valley Conference Coach of the Year and became the first major women’s college coach to win 350 games at one institution.
In 1986, Meadors accepted the head coaching position at Florida State, where she led the program for 10 years. In 1991, the Seminoles won the Metro Conference Championship and advanced to the second round of the NCAA.
Meadors is currently the head coach and general manager of the Atlanta Dream of the WNBA and was one of the original eight head coaches when the league was formed in 1997.
Thomas Henderson Jr (Posthumous) -- A multi-sports standout at Vanderbilt, Tom Henderson earned nine varsity letters from 1929-33. He was named captain for both the football and baseball teams and played quarterback for the late Vanderbilt head football coach Dan McGugin. While a student at Vanderbilt, Henderson was awarded the Bachelor of Ugliness, the university’s highest honor. He was named to Grantland Rice’s All-America football team, and in 1957, Sports Illustrated named Henderson to its Silver Anniversary All-America Football Team.
Following college, Henderson’s athletic accomplishments continued. He was the 1931 Tennessee Valley Golf Association State Champion and in 1945 was the Nashville City Golf Champion. Later in 1967, he qualified for two national sporting events the same year -- the 1967 U. S. Open and the National Masters YMCA U.S. Handball Championship. He won the Handball National Masters Championship and the Southern Handball Doubles Championship in 1968.
Barbara Jones-Slater -- A former Tennessee State Tiger Belle, Barbara Jones-Slater at the age of 15 became the youngest woman to win an Olympic gold medal in track and field -- and she still holds that distinction. In the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, Slater and her teammates captured the gold medal breaking the world record in the 4x100 relay. She struck gold again in the 1955 Pan American Games and later in the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome as a member of the 4x100 winning relay team.
Currently living in Atlanta, Slater has served as a member of the Paralympics games committee and the Atlanta committee for the Olympic games youth advisory educational council.
Bob Dudley Smith -- A native of Nashville, Bob Dudley Smith was an outstanding athlete at West High excelling in both basketball and baseball. During his four years at West, the basketball team made three consecutive trips to the TSSAA state basketball finals. His senior year, Smith was named the Nashville Banner’s 1948 Interscholastic League’s Most Valuable Player and was named to the Tennessee State Basketball Tournament All-State team in 1947-48. He was named the state’s Most Outstanding Men’s Player the same year.
Following graduation, Smith was offered a basketball scholarship to Vanderbilt (only the school’s second basketball scholarship offered; the first went to former fellow West High School standout Billy Joe Adcock). Smith was also offered a baseball contract with the Boston Red Sox organization. He said he accepted the Vanderbilt scholarship, “because I knew that was the only way I could get a good education and baseball could still be an option following graduation.”
As a junior at Vanderbilt, Smith was part of Commodores basketball history winning the school’s first SEC Tournament Championship. He was named to the All-Tournament Team. In later years, Smith excelled on the senior’s tennis circuit playing in tournaments around the world.
John Lewis Hudson -- Born in Memphis, John Hudson grew up in Paris, where he was a standout football player for Henry County High. During his senior year, the Patriots went 10-0, he was named team captain and All-State (AP), Wendy’s All-South Team and starred in the Tennessee-Kentucky All Star Game. Following graduation, he signed a scholarship with Auburn, where he was starting center from 1986-89. In 1989, he was named to the Coaches All-SEC team and was presented the Ken Rice Award for Best Blocking Lineman.
After graduation from Auburn, he was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles. In 2000, he was signed by the Baltimore Ravens and played on the Super Bowl XXXV Championship team. Following his professional football career, Hudson returned to his hometown of Paris, where he currently serves as a high school football coach for his alma mater.
John R. “Jack” Eaton -- Born in Warren, Pa., Jack Eaton is known to thousands of Memphis fans as the “Voice of the Tigers.” Eaton began his broadcasting career in 1954 in Columbus, Ga. He moved to Memphis two years later and joined WMC Radio and TV. There he served as sports director and anchor for WMC-TV Channel 5 and WMC-AM 790 from 1956 until his retirement in 1991.
In his role as Voice of the Memphis Tigers, Eaton broadcast Tigers basketball from 1959-87 and football from 1964-86. During his time as “Voice of the Tigers,” Eaton’s famous exclamations of “Great Scott” and “Great Caesar’s Ghost” became synonymous with his play-by-play of Tiger sports.
In addition to college sports, Eaton did radio play-by-play in the 1950s and 1960s for local high school football games and Memphis Chicks minor league baseball in 1957. In 1959, Eaton became the first Memphis television sportscaster to announce professional wrestling.
During his career in the Bluff City, Jack Eaton became the area’s most noted and impactful television and radio sports personality.
Along with these inductees, a number of individual and team “honorees” will be recognized. Those recipients will be announced soon and will include the Male and Female Amateur Athlete of the Year, and the Professional Athletes of the Year.
Reservations for the awards banquet and induction ceremony are available from the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame for $125. For more information on the event, call the TSHF office at (615) 242-4750 or e-mail email@example.com.
The Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame is a statewide, nonprofit organization founded in 1966 to honor and preserve outstanding sports achievements in Tennessee.
(E-mail Stan Crawley at firstname.lastname@example.org)