May 14th, 2012
Multi-Purpose Complex, Catawba Valley Community College
David W. Abernathy, Sr.
David W. Abernathy, Sr. is one whose imprint has been solidly stamped in Catawba County – and beyond. A Catawba County native, Abernathy first made a name for himself as an all-conference basketball performer for two years, showing enough progress on the court to earn a basketball scholarship to Appalachian State University. His exploits as a member of the Mountaineers’ basketball squad over 55 years ago still have his name etched at or near the top of the ASU record books.
Beginning his collegiate career in 1954, Abernathy quickly became a star for the Mountaineers. In the 1955-56 season he finished with a scoring average of 26.6 points per game, a mark that still tops the ASU record lists for season scoring average and an achievement made more remarkable in that his performance was well before the era of shot clocks and three-point field goals.
Today, he still ranks third in career points (1,744), second in career field goals (665), third in career free throws attempted (600) and seventh in career rebounding (8.8/game).
His outstanding performance made him a two-time All-Carolinas Conference selection in 1956 and ’57. In 1984 he was inducted into the Appalachian State University Athletic Hall of Fame.
After his collegiate career concluded, Abernathy eventually returned to teach and coach at Bunker Hill High where he started the football and track programs, as well as coached basketball and baseball. His teams amassed a combined record of 197-98-4.
The field and court aren’t the only areas where Abernathy has made his mark. In 1972, he was tabbed as Reader’s Digest’s National Man of the Year and was inducted into the magazine’s hall of fame in 1988. In addition, he has served as a past president of the Conover Lion’s Club, and was a member of the Conover Planning Board for 19 years, serving as chairman for 14 years.
William N. (Bill) Bass
For those who knew William (Bill) Bass, many words of description come to mind, among them: “friend”, “fatherly figure”, “classy” and “gentleman”.
But for many in Catawba County, Bill Bass will simply be thought of as “The Voice”.
For greater than 50 years, Bass’s professional and almost soothing sound could be heard from press boxes throughout the county.
For 51 years (1952-2002), he could be heard at Lenoir-Rhyne University football games as the Bears’ public address announcer. His tones came from the Hickory High press box for even longer where fans could listen to Bass on Friday nights for 58 seasons (1951-2008). More incredibly, at both locations he never missed a game during his tenure.
Football games, though, weren’t the only times where Bass could be heard. He served as the announcer at the Hickory American Legion Fairgrounds for 16 seasons for the Post 48 American Legion squad (1995-2010) and filled the same role for Hickory High’s varsity baseball program for 15 years (1995-2004, 2006-2010).
In appreciation of his years of outstanding service, the press box at Frank Barger Stadium at Hickory High was dedicated in his honor in 1999. He was a past recipient of Distinguished Service Awards from the North Carolina High School Athletic Association and Lenoir-Rhyne University.
James L. (Jim) Correll
When looking at the contributions that James L. (Jim) Correll has made to the sports scene in Catawba County, it is easy to spot the obvious.
Since the inception of the Greater Hickory Classic at Rock Barn Golf & Spa, Correll has served as the Champions Tour tourney’s executive director.
Under his leadership, the event has flourished becoming one of the Tour’s premiere stops for players. His work has been so exemplary that he was selected by the PGA Tour to serve as a past chairman of the Champions Tour Tournament Association.
But look a little closer, and one will discover that Correll’s reach extends well beyond the Classic.
As president and co-founder of the Hickory Sportsman’s Club in 1985, he has been instrumental over the past 27 years in bringing notables from the sports world including Bobby Knight, Bob Costas, Jim Nantz, Terry Bradshaw, Pete Rose and Johnny Bench, among numerous others, to attend meetings of the Club to share stories and discuss with sports enthusiasts their various professional careers.
Correll’s work doesn’t stop there. He was part of the founding group that initiated the Catawba Valley Basketball Classic in 1987, an event that still takes place each December featuring some of our area’s top high school basketball programs.
In addition, Correll was a founding board member of the Hickory Metro Sports Commission.
Marion W. Kirby
Marion Kirby had his thrills and honors as a football star at Hickory High in the late 1950s. An all-state and all-conference offensive lineman and linebacker for the Red Tornadoes in 1959, Kirby didn’t have to travel far to take his talents to the next level, accepting a scholarship for legendary Lenoir-Rhyne football coach Clarence Stasavich. It was at LRU where Kirby would cement his legacy. Lenoir-Rhyne has garnered one national title in its athletic history, and Kirby’s foot was largely responsible for it.
With time running out in the 1960 championship game, Kirby was called on to kick the potential go-ahead field goal, which he promptly booted through the uprights to give the Bears the NAIA’s national title.
Following his LRU career, he eventually became head coach at John A. Holmes High School in Edenton where he guided his teams to three conference championships before moving on to Page High School in Greensboro in 1973. It was at Page, where he amassed staggering numbers for over 20 years.
While with the Pirates, Kirby’s teams won nine conference titles, and in the 1980s his teams made trips to five 4A state championship games coming away with wins in four of them. His Page squads went to the state playoffs 16 times and won 13 conference titles He left the Pirates program in 1995 to build Greensboro College’s new football program, and he finished with a prep coaching mark of 278-65-8.
Kirby also went on to serve as athletic director at Guilford College. He is a past recipient of the Lenoir-Rhyne Distinguished Alumnus Award. He was inducted into the university’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1988 and is also a member of the North Carolina Athletic Directors Association Hall of Fame.
Another honor of notable achievement: Kirby was honored twice as North Carolina Coach of the Year.
Thomas L. (Tom) Swatzel, Jr.
Thomas L. Swatzel had plenty of success as a high school and collegiate athlete, but perhaps his greatest impact came on the scores of youth he coached in Catawba County in his post-collegiate years.
A two-sport star at Hickory High, Swatzel earned all-state and all-conference accolades in both football and baseball for the Red Tornadoes before moving on to Wake Forest in 1951 where he was a member of both Deacons squads.
A right-handed pitcher, he earned victories over Duke and North Carolina his freshman year before his career on the mound was curtailed due to a shoulder injury.
After his sophomore year with the Deacons, Swatzel served a two-year stint with the Army before returning to Wake Forest and its football program where he earned all-conference honors.
Upon the conclusion of his collegiate career, he then returned to Catawba County where his impact on the sports community can still be felt today.
Beginning in the 1960s, Swatzel begin coaching football in youth leagues at the Hickory Foundation Center, and he guided and aided young men in furthering their educational opportunities and athletic endeavors for more than 40 years.
Swatzel also served as a president of the Catawba County Chamber of Commerce, Hickory Jaycees and Hickory Rotary Club organizations. In 2005 his work with the area’s youth was forever honored when the Hickory Parks and Recreation Department renamed its two youth flag football leagues the Tom Swatzel, Jr. Instructional Flag Football League (for 5 and 6-year-olds) and the Tom Swatzel, Jr. Flag Football League (7 and 8-year-olds).