The 16th annual Big Country Athletic Hall of Fame banquet is set for Monday, May 1 at the Abilene Convention Center, and the diverse Class of 2017 includes a pair of state championship football coaches, a state champion quarterback, a high school and collegiate track star, a father-son combo who were both national pole vault champions, a state champion Golden Gloves boxer, a three-sport standout at Abilene High who is a scouting supervisor for the World Series champion Chicago Cubs, and the “Godfather of Professional Poker.”
Long before Doyle Brunson won the World Series of Poker, becoming the first player to win $1 million in tournaments and being inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame, the former Longworth (Fisher County) and Sweetwater resident had made an impressive mark as a gifted athlete as a basketball and track star at Sweetwater and Hardin-Simmons University.
Because of ill health, Brunson, who lives in Las Vegas, will probably not be able to attend but will provide a video acceptance.
Joining Brunson in this year’s class are the late Larry Wartes, who won state championships as the football coach at Stamford in 1958 and 1959; Abilene High graduate Steve Lineweaver, who won four state titles as the head coach at Commerce and Euless Trinity; Mary Bolden-Washington, a state champion track star at Hamlin and the University of Texas; former Brownwood and Texas Tech quarterback Jimmy Carmichael who helped the Lions win two state championships; former Abilene High three-sport standout Trey Forkerway, who is now a regional scouting supervisor for the Chicago Cubs; and former Taylor County commissioner Jack Turner, who was a standout Golden Gloves flyweight boxer in his career.
The Legacy Award goes to the Parris family of Abilene. Rickey Parris was a four-time NAIA national champion in the pole vault at McMurry, and his wife Pug Parris has taught at McMurry for nearly 40 years, currently serving as McMurry’s Director of Inter-Disciplinary Studies. She is the former chair of the kinesiology department. Their son Brad Parris is now the head track coach at McMurry. He is a five-time NCAA Division III pole vault national champion.
For the fourth straight year, the Hall of Fame board of directors will recognize two Bill Hart Memorial Legends Award recipients, who competed before 1950. To be recognized posthumously are Charles Norris Shira from Hamlin and Lon McMillin of Haskell. Shira played football at Texas A&M and West Point and later coached at Tennessee and Texas before becoming the head coach and athletic director at Mississippi State. He died at age 49 in 1976 of a cerebral hermorrhage, and the field house at Mississippi State is named for Shira. McMillin was a multi-sport standout in football and track at Haskell and won a state lightweight Golden Gloves title in 1938.
Tickets for the banquet are now on sale. Individual tickets are $65 each. Tables of 10 can be purchased for $800 and include the VIP reception prior to the banquet. Tickets can be purchased online at bigcountryhalloffame.org or by calling (325) 668-3685. Proceeds from the banquet will go to college scholarships. Twelve $1,000 college scholarships will also be awarded again this year at the banquet to graduating student-athletes from the 19 counties in the Big Country.
The Big Country Athletic Hall of Fame is open to the public free of charge during business hours at the Abilene ISD administration building at 241 Pine in Abilene. The newest inductees will bring the list of former athletes and coaches from the 19-country Big Country area to more than 150 who have been inducted into the Big Country Athletic Hall of Fame.
Here is a brief profile of this year’s Hall of Fame inductees:
Doyle Brunson led Sweetwater to the state basketball tournament in 1950 where he was the second highest scorer in the tournament with 49 points. He also played baseball at Sweetwater and then won the mile run at the state meet. At Hardin-Simmons, Brunson was voted the Border Conference MVP as a junior scoring 428 points in 28 games and leading the Cowboys to the NCAA tournament. A broken leg in the summer before his senior year curtailed his NBA aspirations. He is in the HSU Hall of Fame and is the author of several books on poker.
Larry Wartes will be inducted posthumously. He was an assistant to Gordon Wood on two state championship teams at Stamford. He then replaced Wood as the Bulldogs’ head football coach and won two more state titles in 1958 and 1959. His football coaching record was 97-47-4 at Stamford and Hereford. He was all-Border Conference in basketball and also played baseball at Hardin-Simmons, where he is member of the HSU Hall of Fame.
Steve Lineweaver, a graduate of Abilene High, compiled a 258-43-2 record with four state football titles at Commerce and Euless Trinity. He won district 18 times and at the time of his retirement, he was tied with G.A. Moore behind Phil Danaher of Calallen for most playoff wins with 65. His average season as a head coach was 12-2. Lineweaver was also the offensive coordinator for two Southlake Carroll state championship teams in the early 1990s.
Mary Bolden-Washington of Hamlin was a three-time state champion in the long jump and 4×200 relay in high school and also won gold medals at the state meet in the 200, triple jump and 4×100 relay. She was the SEC champion in the 100 as a freshman at the University of Tennessee. She then transferred to Texas, where she helped the Lady Longhorns win NCAA national indoor championships in 1986 and 1988. Bolden was a three-time all-American and ran on a national champion 4×100 relay team. She placed fourth in the 200 at the 1984 U.S. Olympic trials. She was also the MVP of the 1987 Texas Relays.
Jimmy Carmichael, who played quarterback at Brownwood from 1967-69, was named to Texas Football magazine’s all-decade team of the 1960s. He passed for 3,585 yards and 48 touchdowns in his three-year career. As a senior, he led Brownwood to the Class 3A state title with a 34-16 win over West Columbia as he passed for 255 yards and three touchdowns. He threw for 2,308 yards and 28 touchdowns as a senior. Carmichael was a three-year letterman at Texas Tech and led the Red Raiders in passing as a sophomore. He was inducted as a founding member of the Gordon Wood Hall of Champions in 2000 and was inducted into the Texas High School Football Hall of Fame in 1992.
Trey Forkerway was a three-sport letterman for three years in football, basketball and baseball at Abilene High. He signed to play baseball at Oklahoma and then transferred to Texas Tech, where he was an all-Southwest Conference infielder in 1992 and 1993. He played professional baseball for seven years, including four seasons in the minors for the Chicago Cubs. He has been with the Cubs’ organization for 21 years, including four years as a minor league hitting coach, two years a manager and 10 years as a scout, signing four players who reached the major leagues. He is in his third year as a regional supervisor covering 12 states in the Midwest and West for the Cubs.
Jack Turner, who is retired after a long career as Taylor County commissioner, lost only five times in his boxing career, all in the Golden Gloves state finals. He then coached Abilene’s Golden Gloves boxing team from 1948-59 and was the first Abilenian to coach the Texas Golden Gloves team at the national tournament in Chicago. He was a judge at state Golden Glove tournaments and for professional boxing bouts from 1960-81. He also served as the Little League baseball district administrator from 1972 to 1984 during the heyday of Abilene youth baseball that served as the foundation for two Abilene Cooper high school state championships.