Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College’s Athletics Hall of Fame was enriched Friday evening at Gressette Gymnasium with the additions of five individuals and one team.
All inductees were honored at the annual Hall of Fame ceremony, which started with an introduction by ABAC athletic director Alan Kramer.
Kramer gave thanks “to ABAC folks who support this and ABAC athletes.” He specially mentioned ABAC director of public relations emeritus, Mike Chason, and athletics administrative associate, Shirley Wilson, for making the night possible.
The ceremony paused for dinner, with an invocation delivered by Hall of Famer Craig Sowell.
Chason introduced ABAC President, David Bridges.
“It’s wonderful to have you all back on campus,” said Bridges. Chason’s introduction made mention of campus changes in recent years, mainly improvements and additions to buildings. Bridges said, “One thing hasn’t changed. We’re still ABAC.”
The 2019 class of inductees were the 1968-69 men’s basketball team, Alfred Barney, Lisa English Doherty, Jennifer McCarthy, Terry Mixon and Sidney White. The individual athletes were inducted for their skills in basketball, tennis, softball, baseball and football.
Chason and Kramer split biographies of the inductees, each introducing three.
White made his mark as a football player for ABAC when the school was Georgia State College for Men, a name it retained until 1933 when the state of Georgia switched it to a two-year program. Around when Georgia State was overpowering the University of Miami on the gridiron, White went on to be a coach, with stints in football and girls’ basketball. White’s 1965 Warner Robins team won the state championship and he was runner-up five other times.
White, a Sylvester native, died in 1999. His grandson, Don Veal, represented him Friday.
Veal said his grandfather actually attended Georgia State College for Men off-and-on for 10 years and played football for many of them. When asked how he was able to continue playing, Veal relayed that White said, “Eligibility rules weren’t that big then.”
White moved on to Stetson (Fla.) where he found out that school did check eligibility and was not allowed to play.
At GSCFM, Veal said White helped pay his way by working at the school store.
“He was such a great role model and such a great person,” said Veal.
McCarthy helped lead the Fillies to consecutive fast-pitch softball GJCAA titles in 1997 and 1998, being named Most Valuable Player in the conference each time. During those seasons, she won more than 30 games and hit .300. She went on to play for Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville.
McCarthy began her speech talking about her transition from Canada, from the pickup trucks to “the biscuits, the grits and gravy.”
“Tifton easily became my new home,” said McCarthy.
She said she felt an instant connection to head coach Donna Campbell, whom she credited for her success at ABAC.
“She believed in me more than I believed in myself,” said McCarthy. “She was an angel to me.”
Basketball brought Barney to ABAC. A graduate of Pelham High, he was MVP as a sophomore, but his career really took off after leaving Tifton. He played hoops at Austin Peay (Tenn.), but found his calling on the sidelines. Possibly most famous for coaching men’s basketball at Georgia Perimeter (where honors include Naismith Junior College Coach of the Year), Barney was also at Georgia Southwestern and Tuskegee (Ala.).
Barney thanked the people who got him here. Those included ABAC head coach Peter Dees and his wife, Elaine. Barney talked of his grandmother’s influence as well of that of three friends he made at ABAC, Rufus McDuffie, Byron Wright and Judson Lavind.
Barney said he realized he needed a change after being cut by several professional basketball teams. He then became a graduate assistant at Austin Peay, then moved into assistant coaching and ultimately, head coaching.
He also credited his wife of 35 years, Lois. “I thank you and I love you,” he said.
Barney closed by saying that wins and losses are not all that counts for success. It is also “how you touch people” not just on the field, but off.
Lisa English Doherty
Doherty won the NJCAA Region XVII Most Valuable Player award sin 1995 and 1996 for her play on the tennis courts. She was selected International Tennis Association All-American for the same seasons. After her time as a Fillie, Doherty played for Mercer University.
Like McCarthy, Doherty had tales of arriving in South Georgia from a foreign country. In her case, she flew from South Africa to Albany, Georgia. Her luggage flew to Albany, New York.
She has worked for various tennis equipment companies. Because of her experience in Tifton, Doherty said, “I promote ABAC all the time.” It’s apparently working. Doherty said that upon seeing the campus, her young son told her he wanted to attend.
“It’s awesome to be at ABAC,” she said.
Mixon arrived on campus from Live Oak, Fla. On the diamond, he hit .321 and .359 in his two seasons with the Stallions before finishing out his carer at Georgia Southern. There were many coaches among this year’s class of inductees and Mixon was no exception. At Suwannee High in Live Oak, he coached everything from baseball to golf to bowling.
“It’s a privilege to be here tonight,” said Mixon, who said his first visit to town was to try out for head coach Tom Moody.
When Mixon started, the Stallions played at Eve Park. As a sophomore, they moved to their current field. Among his memories, he said, was a not particularly good one at the time. In their last game at Eve Park, he had three errors. He remembered begging the ball not be hit his way again.
Mixon said he drives through town fairly often. On occasion, he will drive to the ABAC baseball field. If no one is there, he said he has gone out to his old position of shortstop and reflected on his time as a Stallion.
1968-69 Men's Basketball Team
Vann Brackin’s 1968-69 ABAC men’s basketball squad won the Southern Conference of the GJCAA with a 12-0 mark and finished 25-5. There was another big achievement for the Stallions that season, but one that came before it started; the team became the first integrated ABAC squad with the additions of Albert Lewis and David Adams to the lineup.
Brackin spoke for the squad. He said it was “certainly a blessing to me as a young 25-year-old” to be head coach.
“This group formed a brotherhood,” he said. Though it was the first integrated team, he recalls the “embracing of Al Lewis and David Adams, two outstanding human beings.”
Brackin said the team had an “unbelievable work ethic” and “pure trust in one another.” They averaged 93 points per game. Recalling this stat, Brackin turned to the players on stage behind them and looked up and down the line at each. “Nine of them wanted to shoot the ball every time they touched it.” That worked out, he said, as the ball always seemed to find the net.
As impressive as their record at ABAC and their continued basketball play was, Brackin said, “These guys have given back to their communities.”
He thanked Tifton for its financial generosity to the players then, and to Ellen Vickers for the cheerleading support.
Besides Brackin, Lewis and Adams, the roster consisted of Leslie Moore, Ashley DeLoach, Harold Adkins, Julian Deaton, Mark Hall, Jerry Johnston, Odell Pack, Dennis McSwain, Carlos McSwain, Harley Stewart, and Buddy Whitley.
In addition to the 2019 inductees, their friends, teammates and family, each previous Hall of Fame class had at least one representative in attendance.