With thanks to Bumgarner Oil/Cubbard Express Stores and Hickory Orthopaedic Center for sponsoring this year’s induction ceremony
Donald C. “Don” Beaver
of Hickory, NC would be recognized for his contribution to his community through the founding of a well-known chain of long-term care facilities, even if he had not led the way for the revival of professional baseball in Hickory and Catawba County’s entry into the major leagues of professional golf. He has been credited with “single-handedly taking the risk and making the commitment to make something happen for our community” in the world of sports.
Mr. Beaver was born in Statesville, North Carolina. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in business from Appalachian State University in 1962 and a Master’s in Business Administration from Appalachian St. in 1964. During his early career as a hospital administrator, he realized the need for health care for the elderly and founded the Brian Center Corporation, serving as CEO of the corporation from 1975-1995, building the company into a corporation with more than forty nursing homes in five states.
Mr. Beaver’s historic contributions to the Catawba County sports scene began in 1992, when his love of baseball led him to purchase the Gastonia Rangers of the South Atlantic League and relocate the team to Hickory as the Hickory Crawdads in 1992. The team has been extremely successful and has twice won the South Atlantic League championship.
Mr. Beaver’s impact on the Catawba County sports scene didn’t end with the Hickory Crawdads. In 1997, he purchased the 1300-acre Rock Barn Country Club and made extensive improvements, including a new 25,000 square foot clubhouse, pro shop, pool, tennis courts and 18-hole golf course designed by renowned course architect, Robert Trent Jones, Jr. Mr. Beaver used his growing influence in the sports world to lure the Champions Golf Tour, featuring the world’s best senior golf pros, to Catawba County for the Greater Hickory Golf Classic. The Classic began a successful run in 2003 and will celebrate its fourth year in the fall of 2006.
Local charities are the major beneficiary of the proceeds of the Greater Hickory Golf Classic and a $1 million gift from the Beaver family was instrumental in the opening of Hickory’s Patrick Beaver Memorial Library in 1998, named in memory of Beaver’s son. The Beaver family also began a foundation to aid children with reading disorders.
James G. “Bull” Newsome, Sr.
of Newton enjoys the unusual distinction of having been successful on the playing fields in high school and at Lenoir-Rhyne College; as a basketball and football coach at the high school level; as head baseball coach at The Citadel; and as an official, having umpired the College World Series. He also made a significant mark on his community as founder and owner of a successful tire business.
Mr. Newsome led Wilson High School to the state high school football championship in 1946 and played in the Shrine Bowl following his senior year. His introduction to Catawba County came in 1948 when he enrolled at Lenoir-Rhyne College. He co-captained the L-R football team in 1951 and the basketball team in 1952, making the All-North State Conference football team as a defensive guard in 1951, and was a second-team all-conference player in basketball, known for strong rebounding and defense. Legendary
L-R Coach and Athletic Director Clarence Stasavich considered Mr. Newsome to be one of the finest football players he ever coached. His play at center led the Lenoir-Rhyne team to a win over the University of North Carolina basketball team at the inaugural event in the Hickory Foundation Center.
After graduating from Lenoir-Rhyne, Mr. Newsome worked with DeHart Motor Lines in Hickory and then served as a history teacher, athletic director and head football and basketball coach at Lucama High School in Lucama, NC. He served a tour of duty in the U.S. Army at Ft. Jackson, South Carolina from 1952 until 1954, then served as a teacher, coach and athletic director for the Caldwell County and Statesville City School systems. From 1958 until 1964, he served as assistant football coach and head baseball coach at The Citadel, before returning to Hickory in 1965.
Since his return to Catawba County, Newsome’s accomplishments include three years as an official at the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska, after years of excellence as an umpire on the high school & college level. He was inducted into the Lenoir-Rhyne College Sports Hall of Fame in 1984.
Mr. Newsome has left an equally successful mark in the Hickory and Newton communities, first with DeHart Motor Lines as head of that trucking company’s tire program, then as founder of Newsome Tire Company of Newton.
of Hickory produced a record of high achievement on the playing field and for his college and community. A Catawba County native, Thompson was called “the best second baseman in Lenoir-Rhyne College history” by the late Hanley Painter, long-time L-R Coach and Athletic Director. As Recreation and Parks Director for the City of Hickory, he led Hickory’s parks system through a remarkable period of growth. After his retirement, he even won a state championship in golf in his age group.
Born in Brookford, Thompson’s successes on the playing field began when he played baseball while serving in the US Army from 1957 to 1959. The only non-professional baseball player at Fort Jackson, he was named to the All-Post Team. After he returned home to play for Lenoir-Rhyne College, Thompson started his first baseball game as a freshman and played every inning of every game before graduating from Lenoir-Rhyne in only three years. He was captain of a 1962 team that had a record of 16-3, still the second highest winning percentage in the history of the college; was the team’s leading hitter during his first two seasons; and made only one error in each of his last two years as a second baseman.
Thompson’s greatest contributions to his community began when he was named Assistant Recreation and Parks Director for the City of Hickory in late 1966, and Recreation and Parks Director in June 1967. Under Thompson’s leadership, the City of Hickory’s Parks and Recreation system grew from two to twenty parks and from 15 acres to a total of 700. The system had only one recreation center when he began and featured five recreation centers when he retired, including its first two senior centers. The system’s first tennis courts, soccer pitches and football fields were developed under his leadership. Many recreation programs now found across the state had their beginnings in the City of Hickory.
Even in the latter part of his career and after retirement, Thompson enjoyed athletic success. He returned to his alma mater…to coach the Lenoir-Rhyne baseball team in 1986 and 1987…leading a program that had not had a winning season in nineteen years to a school record of twenty wins in his first season. He won the Senior State Golf Championship in the age 60 to 64 group in 1998.
Larry A. Wittenberg
of Hickory achieved great success as coach of high school football, track and golf teams, and was honored as conference coach of the year on many occasions. Those who nominated him for the Catawba County Sports Hall of Fame point with pride to these successes. But they all say he deserves to be in the Hall as much for the strength of his character, and his ongoing desire to see the young people he taught and coached become successful.
A native of Hickory, Wittenberg was a star lineman for the Hickory High School football teams of 1954 through 1957. But an injury ended his playing career and pointed him toward a future of greater success as a teacher and coach who has touched thousands of lives. After teaching and coaching 7th and 8th grade students in Alexander County, he later served as assistant football coach and head track coach at Taylorsville High School, Carolina Military Academy, Scotland High School and Hildebran High School. He established the track program at Taylorsville High, and led the Carolina Military Academy track team to a 60-6 record. But his greatest successes came after he returned home to become a coach and teacher at Hickory High School.
Wittenberg’s football teams posted a collective record of 41-36 during his years as head coach, and won three conference titles. He was named Northwestern 4A Conference Coach of the Year on three occasions. As track coach for Hickory High from 1975 through 1992, he led teams to 129 first place finishes, 20 conference championships (never finishing lower than third in the conference meet), and three sectional titles. He was named conference Coach of the Year in track nine times. His teams won the prestigious Porter Relays in Lenoir over eight consecutive years.
Wittenberg’s impact on the local sports scene is also evident in his administrative activities. He served as Tournament Director of the Catawba Valley Classic for many years, and as Executive Secretary of the Southwestern Conference, Western 4A Conference and Northwestern 4A Conference as Hickory High moved among those conferences. Even after retirement from teaching in 1992, he coached Hickory Recreation Department football teams and College Park Middle School teams that fed players onto what some consider the best high school football team ever produced in North Carolina, the 1996 Hickory High state champion team.
2006 High School Student Athletes of the Year
Bandys High School – Matthew Woodlief – Savannah Huffman
Bunker Hill High School – Devin Patrick – Katherine Layne
Fred T. Foard High School – Eddie Farley – Lauren Durham
Hickory High School – Connor Hilton – Natalee Jarrett
Hickory Christian Academy Elijah Lackey
Maiden High School – Vantrel England – Lindsay Canipe
Newton-Conover High School – Spencer Huggins – Crissy Vickery
St. Stephens High School – Justin Young – Meredith McBride
Tri-City Christian School – Jeremy Repass – Jeniece Rahn