The 2012 North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame honorees chronicled sports; played high school, college and professional football; played and coached basketball in college and in the pros; coached and played baseball and basketball in college; officiated college football; water-skied; played basketball for a NCAA championship team; and coached high school football.
The eight new members are Wilt Browning, Wray Carlton, M. L. Carr, Sam Esposito, Dr. Jerry McGee, Kristi Overton Johnson, Lennie Rosenbluth and Henry Trevathan.
They will be enshrined at the 49th annual induction banquet on the evening of Thursday, May 10, in the main ballroom of the North Raleigh Hilton.
“The achievements of this year’s class of inductees enrich our state’s remarkable sports heritage, and they certainly earned the honor of joining the 281 men and women previously enshrined,” said Dr. Janie Brown, president of the hall.
Banquet ticket information is available at www.ncsportshalloffame.org or by calling (919) 845-3455.
The North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame was established in 1962. The permanent exhibit is located on the third floor of the North Carolina Museum of History on Jones Street in downtown Raleigh. The exhibit features significant artifacts donated by all the inductees. The museum is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. Admission is free.
Five times Browning was honored as Sportswriter of the Year in North Carolina (1982, 1985, 1988, 1990and 1993). He is a former sports editor and longtime sports columnist for the Greensboro News & Record. During his newspaper career, he was the first major league beat writer for the Atlanta Journal, covering the Atlanta Braves through the team’s first six seasons in the South. He wrote the first story in which Hank Aaron said that he had set his sights on the Babe Ruth home run record, thus sparking a nationwide watch that lasted for more than two years. He also spent five years as the public relations director for the Atlanta Falcons and one year in the same capacity for the Baltimore Colts before returning to the newspaper business in Greensboro. Browning ended his newspaper career as the sports editor and columnist for the Asheville Citizen-Times. He is a member of the South Atlantic League Hall of Fame and the author of seven books.
Carlton made a name for himself as a high school star in Wallace, NC, before entering Duke University in 1955. As a running back at Duke, he shattered the legendary Ace Parker’s rushing and scoring records and set the ACC single-game scoring record of 26 points against Virginia — and he only played a half. He also scored all of Duke’s points against Rice, Clemson and Carolina while leading the Blue Devils into the Orange Bowl and a date with Oklahoma. As a high school star, Carlton turned down a chance to sign with the Pittsburgh Pirates to play shortstop. He had scored 48 points in a basketball game and six touchdowns in a football game. As a pro, the two-time All-ACC performer also was a two-time All-AFL selection. As part of a rushing tandem with Cookie Gilchrist, Carlton played a key role in the Bills’ 1964 and 1965 AFL titles. As a pro, Carlton had 3,368 yards rushing, 1,329 yards receiving and scored 34 touchdowns.
At Wallace-Rose Hill High School, Carr ran track barefooted because he could afford only one pair of shoes — basketball shoes. Before his playing career ended, Carr had run to the top levels of the sport and, along the way, had played a key role in winning a storybook national championship for Guilford College. Carr became a pro star, playing a dozen years in the NBA and the ABA, and is best-known for his years with the Boston Celtics, the team he would later serve as general manager and, briefly, as coach. He was a key element in the Celtics’ 1980-81 and 1983-84 NBA championship teams. If one moment can capsulize a long career, for Carr that moment came in Game 4 of the 1984 NBA Finals, when he made a steal and cashed it in with a thundering dunk that sealed the victory for the Celtics and became the key to the title.
Esposito played in the major leagues for 10 years with the Chicago White Sox including 1959 when the South Siders won the American League pennant and played in the World Series. In 1967, he was named baseball coach at N.C. State, where the team had won 20 games just one time since 1908. For 21 years under Esposito’s direction, the Wolfpack never suffered a losing season. His team won a program-record 513 games and he coached 69 All-ACC players and seven All-Americans. At N.C. State, he also coached 12 players who made it to the major leagues, including four who played in the big leagues for at least ten years. His 1968 team won the ACC championship and the NCAA District III title and finished third in the College World Series. His teams also took three straight league titles in 1973-1975. He was named ACC Coach of the Year in 1984 and 1986.
Dr. JERRY McGEE
In a football officiating career that lasted more than 40 years, Dr. McGee ascended to the pinnacle of the college game. In fact, Jerry was the referee in the 2009 BCS championship game between Oklahoma and Florida, the last game at which he wore both the white hat and the striped shirt. When he retired after that game, Jerry had worked 405 games in his career and was awarded the “300 Games” plaque, the only such award ever presented by the Atlantic Coast Conference. More than 300 of his assignments came at the Division 1-A level, a number believed to be a record for NCAA referees. A former four-sport letterman at Rockingham High School (Class of 1961), Jerry began his officiating career at the high school level in 1967 and earned state playoff assignments every season before moving to the Carolinas Conference and the South Atlantic Conference. He worked 20 post-season bowl games including three with bearings on the national championship. He was a college baseball player at East Carolina University and was a golf and basketball coach at Richmond County Community College. Since 1992, he has been president of Wingate University. He has served on a number of national committees dealing with college athletics. He is a recipient of the Order of the Long Leaf Pine.
KRISTI OVERTON JOHNSON
The Greenville native has been a competitive water skier for more than 30 years. She began to compete at age 5 and captured state, regional and national records before turning pro at 13. As a pro, she has been the World Record Holder since 1992. In women’s slalom, she has 80 professional victories and has captured the No. 1 world ranking in the event, which is more than any other woman. Kristi won the U.S. Masters eight times and the U.S. Open four times. She traveled throughout the world setting records as a World Champion, World Cup Champion, Pan American and U.S. Pro Tour championships and also won the British, French, Italian, Australian and Austrian Masters titles. She was away from competitive skiing for five years while she underwent 10 major surgeries to repair a congenital hip deformity, and she stunned the skiing world by returning as a competitor in 2008 in the U.S. Masters.
Rosenbluth now lives in Chapel Hill, where in the mid-1950s he and the University of North Carolina basketball team made history with an undefeated season and a national championship victory over Kansas and Wilt Chamberlain. The New York City native led the Tar Heels in scoring in his first varsity season and still holds the school record for points in a season (895) and scoring average in a single season (28.0). He averaged 28 points a game in the 1957 NCAA Tournament and got 20 against Chamberlain’s Jayhawks. He was named in 2002 to the ACC’s 50th Anniversary men’s team and was selected to the “All-Decade Final Four” team for the 1950s. Rosenbluth is a member of the Helms College Basketball Hall of Fame and is regarded by many as one of the 100 greatest college basketball players of all time. He is a member of the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.
Trevathan coached Wilson Fike to three consecutive 4-A state football championships in 1967-69. He also was head coach at Rocky Mount High School and an assistant coach at N.C. State. He coached at every level of competition, including midget, junior high, junior varsity, varsity, college freshmen, college varsity and professional, and only missed one practice (for a family funeral) in more than a half century of work. He coached quarterbacks, offensive backs, defensive backs, wide receivers and special team members in 10 years on the staff at East Carolina University, then spent nine years on Dick Sheridan’s staff at N.C. State. There, as the special teams coach, Trevathan developed five All-ACC kickers and punters, two All-Americans and one Lou Groza Award winner, all of them originally walk-ons at N.C. State. In retirement, Henry became a valued volunteer assistant at Bridgewater College in Virginia and was the school’s first recipient of the Soaring Eagle Award. He is a three-time North Carolina Coach of the Year Award winner at the 4-A level.
For further details about the N.C. Sports Hall of Fame, call (919) 845-3455 or go to www.ncsportshalloffame.org. For more information about the N.C. Museum of History, call 919-807-7900 or visit www.ncmuseumofhistory.org.
The Museum of History, within the Division of State History Museums, is part of the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources.