CLASS OF 2008
Born in Virginia in 1902, Leslie Baker would move to Atlanta where he played multiple sports at Clark College. He then pursued his graduate degree at Hampton Institute where we won gold medals in track and field and was a SIAC Doubles champion in tennis. In 1930, Baker began coaching at Booker T. Washington High School in Atlanta where he earned the nickname “Chief” because he coached almost every sport at the school. On the football field, his teams won 4 GIA State Championships and complied a 222-30-9 record under his watch. His basketball teams were also very successful posting a 289-45 mark under his tutelage. He would retire in 1967 after 37 years of service. He coached many athletes who went on to professional careers including Don Clendenon, MVP of the 1969 World Series. In 1998, Baker was inducted into the SIAC Hall of Fame and he is also a member of the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
Earnest Byner grew up in Milledgeville, was raised by his grandmother, and was a standout running back at Baldwin High School. In 1980, he signed with East Carolina University where he played fullback gaining 2,049 yards on 378 carries for the Pirates. Byner was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in the tenth round of the 1984 NFL Draft. Over the next 14 years, Byner would have two stints with the Browns: 1984–1988 and 1994–1995. He would also spend 4 seasons with the Washington Redskins and two years with Baltimore. While with the Redskins, he was named to the Pro Bowl in 1990 and 1991. He finished his 14-year NFL career with 8,261 yards on 2,095 carries, with 56 touchdowns. He also caught 512 passes for 4,605 yards and 15 touchdowns. Earnest left the NFL finishing as one of the top 50 all-time leaders in rushing attempts, rushing touchdowns, and total yards. He is a two-time Super Bowl Champion, was named one of the 70 all-time greatest Redskins and a member of the Ravens Ring of Honor.
Norman Carter helped put Butler on the map as he helped create a powerhouse girls basketball program at Taylor County High School. “Mr. Norman” was known to many, left an outstanding legacy during his 12 seasons at Taylor County. His team won a record 132 consecutive games and five straight State Championships from 1968 to 1972. His overall girls record of 350-32 constituted a state record .916 winning percentage. Carter served a dual role also coaching the boys program at Taylor County where he compiled a 128-87 record. He also served 21 years as the Taylor County School Superintendent. Norman founded and conducted the Norman Carter Basketball School from 1971‐ 1996 influencing thousands of players throughout the years. He and his wife Jane also guide the work of the Golden Rule, a non‐profit program that provides shelter and rehabilitation for women with substance abuse problems.
James (Jim) Dent was destined to be a professional golfer. After all he was in the golf mecca of Augusta. He began his golf career as a caddie at Augusta National, participating in his first Masters when he was just 15. Jim caddied both at Augusta National and at Augusta Country Club as a youth and then attended Augusta's historically black Paine College where he honed his own golfing skills. Dent turned pro in 1966 and in 1970 he played in the Tucson Open, where his outstanding play earned him his PGA TOUR card. His best PGA TOUR finish was a tie for second in the Walt Disney World Open. He joined the PGA Senior (Champions) Tour in 1989 and won a total of 12 tournaments. His 14 top-10 finishes during the 1992 season set a new Champions Tour record for most money won in a single season without a victory. Dent also set a Champions Tour record of finishing in the exempt top 31 money-winners for 12 consecutive years.
Richard Dent was a standout performer at Atlanta’s Murphy High School and his football exploits earned him a scholarship to Tennessee State University. A solid collegiate career enabled Dent to be drafted in the eighth round by the Chicago Bears in the 1983 NFL Draft. Dent immediately exceeded the Bears expectations. He played in every game as a rookie in 1983. The following year, he became a permanent starter at right end recording a team record 17.5 sacks which was also the most of any defender in the NFC. In 1986, Dent led the NFL with 17 sacks. That year the Bears trounced the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XX. Dent’s Super Bowl performance: three tackles, 1.5 sacks, and two forced fumbles earned him Most Valuable Player honors. Twice in his career, Dent recorded a career high 4.5 sacks in a single game. Richard would play the majority of his career with the Bears but he also had stops with the San Francisco 49ers (1994), Indianapolis Colts (1996), and Philadelphia Eagles (1997) finishing with 137.5 career sacks. He was named to four Pro Bowl teams.
William Earnest "Ernie" Harwell grew up in Atlanta and was an avid baseball fan from an early age. Harwell became visiting batboy for the Atlanta Crackers of the Southern Association at the age of five and by 16, he was writing sports as a regional correspondent for The Sporting News. Harwell attended Emory University, where he was an editor for the school newspaper. In 1940, Ernie worked as a copy editor and sportswriter for the Atlanta Constitution and in 1943, he began broadcasting games for the Atlanta Crackers on WSB radio. After stints with the Giants and Orioles, Harwell would land in Detroit and become voice of the Detroit Tigers over the next 50 years. Harwell was named Michigan Sportscaster of the Year 19 times, and is a member of the state Hall of Fame. In 1991, Harwell was inducted into the American Sportscasters Association Hall of Fame. Harwell was also honored by the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1981 as the fifth broadcaster to receive its Ford C. Frick Award.
WAYNE "TREE" ROLLINS
Wayne Rollins is better known to most people as “Tree” Rollins and it’s pretty simple to figure out why. The Cordele native towered over his opponents on the basketball court at Crisp County High School and his 7 foot, 1 inch frame afforded him a nickname that would remain throughout his 18 year NBA career. Rollins played college ball at Clemson where he helped lead the Tigers to their first top 20 ranking and he became the first Clemson athlete to have his number retired. Rollins was the first round selection of the Atlanta Hawks in the 1977 NBA Draft. He would spend 11 of his 18 year NBA career with the Hawks. At the time of his retirement in 1995, he was fourth all-time in career blocked shots, behind only Hakeem Olajuwon, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Mark Eaton, with a total of 2,542. Tree was an All-NBA Defensive First Team member in 1984.
Elmore Smith was a powerhouse basketball player at Ballard Hudson High School in Macon before going on to Kentucky State where he was an All-American. Smith grabbed an incredible 799 rebounds in 1971, and he averaged 25.5 points and 24.2 rebounds per game leading Kentucky State to NAIA Championships his last two seasons. Following his college career, he was drafted by the Buffalo Braves in the first round of the 1971 draft as the number three pick overall. His shot-blocking ability earned him the nickname "Elmore the Rejector." He led the NBA in that category in both for 1974 and 1975 and posted 17 blocks in one game against Portland in 1973. Smith spent 8 years in the league playing for the Buffalo Braves, the Los Angeles Lakers, the Milwaukee Bucks and the Cleveland Cavaliers. He averaged a double-double (13.4 points and 10.6 rebounds) over the course of his career.
HERB ST. JOHN
Herbert St. John was born in Perry, Florida but he would ultimately help put Perry, Georgia on the map. St. John was an All-State football player in Jacksonville, Florida and joined two former prep teammates by signing with the University of Georgia. Herb was a 5-8, 200-pound guard on Bulldogs 11-0 team in 1946 that claimed the National Championship. He was selected to the All-SEC team four consecutive years (1944-47). As a junior, he was All-American. He played in both the Blue-Gray and North-South All-Star games. St. John spent four years playing professionally with Chicago and Brooklyn before embarking on a coaching career. At Georgia’s Perry High school from 1954-1968, he posted a 95-50 record and was named Region Coach of The Year six times. The old Perry High stadium was named after St. John.