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Sports club inducts 11 new members into Hall of Fame

The late Fayetteville parks and recreation legend Leonard Sanders Sr. was honored for helping youngsters fulfill their athletic dreams.


Former Cumberland County athletes and coaches along with a parks and recreation legend who for more than three decades provided youth with courts and fields to hone their athletic dreams were among 11 enshrined Wednesday night into the Fayetteville Sports Club Hall of Fame.

Among those inducted was a Super Bowl champion, a Golden Gloves boxing champion and a high school football hero who went on to fight for his country in Afghanistan and receive a Bronze Star for his service in the Global War on Terrorism.

“We honor those who have excelled in their respective sports or athletic-related careers,” Greg Parks, the sports club president, said before the ceremony at Highland Country club, “and who have exemplified sportsmanship.”

Approximately 80 people attended the dinner.

There were memories of games won and lost amid smiles, emotions and gratitude on an evening that marked the 20th anniversary of the Hall of Fame. The classes of 2021 and 2022 were recognized Wednesday night, bringing the Hall of Fame roster to 98. The 2021 banquet was postponed because of the COVID-19 health pandemic.

Inductees from the Class of 2021 were Sheila Boles, a former Seventy-First High School girls’ basketball standout who later played for the University of North Carolina at Wilmington; Blaire Sutton Craig, a former Terry Sanford High School and N.C. State tennis standout; Alex Gaines, a former Seventy-First High School football standout who later starred in soccer at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke; Ray McDougal, a retired football and golf coach at Fayetteville State University; and Jack McGinley, who pitched Wake Forest University to the 1957 NCAA College World Series championship.

Inductees from the Class of 2022 were Dwayne Allen, a Terry Sanford High School football star who attended Clemson University and was a member of the winning New England Patriots in Super Bowl LIII; Francie Barragan, a former Terry Sanford and N.C. State tennis whiz who became head tennis coach at Methodist University; Earl Harvey, who played football at Douglas Byrd High School before a record-breaking career at N.C. Central University; the late Horace Whitaker Jr., a football player of renown at Seventy-First and Douglas Byrd high schools; the late Mabon Leslie “Beau” Williford of Golden Gloves boxing fame; and the late Leonard Sanders Sr., the first African-American program director hired by the Fayetteville Parks and Recreation Department.

Sanders remembered as a trailblazer

“I salute all of the inductees this night, and it is a pleasure and honor to represent my family in the induction of my father into (the) Fayetteville Sports Club Hall of Fame,” Leonard Sanders Jr. said. “My family and I offer gratitude to those who give our daddy this great honor for 2022.”

Leonard Sanders Sr. was remembered as a trailblazer and mentor for local African-American youth and for organizing countless baseball, softball and football leagues in his 34 years with the Fayetteville Parks and Recreation Department. He retired in 1974.

“He was a country boy from South Carolina,” Sanders’ son said. “My dad’s life touched many of us in many ways. For some, he was a coach. For others, he was a pioneer in recreation activities. Some of us remember him as a pathfinder for African-American youngsters in this city.

“My dad was a courageous man. He looked beyond to see. Before there was a Seabrook pool, we swam in the Cape Fear River. My dad crusaded for a pool in this city.

“My dad and Marie Sanders had seven children,” Leonard Sanders Jr. said. “Education and service were hallmarks in our house. And for years he served kindergartners to senior citizens. And kids from midget league football to the NFL. We played table tennis. We square-danced. This night is a celebration of remembering those who make life better for all people, and I salute all of the men and women being celebrated tonight.”

Leonard Sanders Jr. called for his sister, Franzetta Grandison, to join him at the podium.

“When my dad became ill, I was working in Washington, D.C.,” he said. “She was the only one left with my dad. She took care of him. She couldn’t lift him out of his bed, so she hoisted him. She fed him, she bathed him and she took care of my dad. Franzetta, I salute you and I say thank you. Life is short, and I thank parks and recreation and the Fayetteville Sports Club for celebrating my dad.”

Leonard Sanders Sr. attended Fayetteville State University and St. Augustine University. He died at age 97 on July 18, 2006.

Sheila Boles

“The only thing that would make this night better would be if Chuck and Dena Boles were here,” Boles, 68, said about her parents. “No child ever had two better parents.” After a stellar career at Seventy-First High School, Boles attended the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, where she played on the first women's basketball team. She was the team’s first female scholarship athlete and its first most valuable player. Boles coached the boys’ varsity basketball team at John T. Hoggard High beginning in 1989 and the gymnasium later was named in her honor. She received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the YWCA of the Lower Cape Fear. “I had many Cumberland County legends here touch my life – Jane Jernigan, Mrs. Lucille Barrett, who was my third-grade teacher, Ted Chappell, Alex Warner, Bob Lewis and Kenneth Edge. And on June 23, 1972, they passed Title IX. Thank you for this great honor.”

Blaire Sutton Craig

“It is very overwhelming,” Craig, 46, said of her induction. “And a huge congratulations to the 2021 and 2022 classes. It is truly an honor and pleasure to share the stage with all of you.” Craig starred for the Terry Sanford High School tennis team, winning N.C. High School Athletic Association state singles titles in 1990, 1991 and 1993. She attended N.C. State University and was only the fourth player in Wolfpack history selected to the All-Atlantic Coast Conference team. She was the No. 1 player for NCSU in 1997-98, leading the Wolfpack to its most successful season in history. “I was 8 1/2 when I hit my first tennis ball right out there on those tennis courts. Once I played tennis, I never wanted to play another sport. I learned so many life lessons. I thank God and my family who helped me fulfill my dreams. And my grandfather, who kept scrapbooks that I will share with my kids. I’ve given a big part of my heart to tennis and tennis has given me so much. That’s why they call tennis the game of love.”

Alex Gaines

“Let me tell you, I’m the luckiest guy in the world,” Gaines, 53, said. “I just loved sports.” A soccer and football standout at Seventy-First High School, Gaines kicked the field goal that led the Falcons to a 3-0 victory over West Charlotte for the 1986 N.C. High School Athletic Association state 4-A championship at Loyd E. Auman Athletic Field. He led the conference in scoring that season with 55 soccer goals. Gaines later participated in soccer and track and field at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, where he was all-conference four times in track and field and all-district three times in soccer. He was the soccer MVP in 1989-90. He spent 20 years in the Air Force, receiving a Bronze Star during Operation Enduring Freedom in 2003. Gaines was inducted in 2004 into the UNC-Pembroke Athletic Hall of Fame. “Greg Killingsworth was my first coach, and I am glad he is here tonight. My family over there means so much to me, and my brother Steve should be up here. The difference is that he played defense and I played offense.” He also remembered his parents, and notably his father – a Fayetteville High School football hero. “My dad survived three wars and he went through hell.”

Ray McDougal

“This is a legendary coach and all of Fayetteville should be proud they have an African-American man do what he did,” said Tom Baldwin, a former football player under McDougal, 89, who spent 44 years at Fayetteville State University, where he coached the football and men’s golf teams. His 1975 and 1976 Bronco football teams achieved 7-3-0 records, and McDougal was a three-time National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics District 26 Coach of the Year. His golf teams won 15 Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association titles and six PGA National Minority/Division championships. The 2009 NCAA regional earned the Broncos a spot in the NCAA tournament, making it the first historically black college or university to compete in the NCAA finals in 35 years. McDougal was inducted into the CIAA Hall of Fame in 2018. “I love him like my own dad,” Baldwin said. “We congratulate you, coach. God has honored him, and you have blessed him by being here this evening.”

Jack McGinley

“It gives me great honor to be taken into the Fayetteville Sports Club Hall of Fame,” said McGinley, 86. “This club has done a lot over the years to make Fayetteville proud. It’s an honor for me to stand here.” McGinley was a pitcher for Wake Forest University and helped lead the Deacons to the 1955 NCAA World Series Baseball Championship. He won two games in the regional playoff and another three in the NCAA World Series for a 5-0 record. His final earned run average was 2.52 in 90.3 innings pitched. He moved to Fayetteville and later was a baseball coach and assistant basketball coach at Fayetteville High School and later became principal at Reid Ross High School. “We just had that magical season,” McGinley said about the 1955 championship. “I was just a sophomore.” Beyond baseball, however, he remembered coaches to include Buddy Luper, Len Maness, John Daskal, Sonny Basinger, Charlie Underwood, Red Wilson and Bob Reynolds, and the many athletes to include Wayne Byrd, Hooper Hall, Tommy Bradford, Sammy Bradford, George Armstrong, Harold Ingle, Vann Williford, Chris Cammack, Jim Perkins, Don Perkins and Howard Smith. “They all have grown into men now, and they are all very special,” he said of the athletes. “This is a great place to live, a great place to be and I thank the sports club for this great honor.”

Dwayne Allen

“I’m blessed to have worked with some young people,” said Wayne Inman, the former Terry Sanford High School football coach who lured Allen to the game. “Dwayne wasn’t one of them.” Not in the beginning. He was, Inman said, a kid with something of an attitude. “He was the youngest of seven kids. His daddy left the family when he was seven. His mother drove a city street sweeper at night. Dwayne needed someone to love him and someone to hold him to a standard. I told Dwayne, ‘You’re not going to fail on my watch.’ He had a great high school career.” A standout basketball and football player for Terry Sanford, Allen attended Clemson University, where he received the John Mackey Award as best tight end and was named consensus All-America. Drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in 2012, he later played with the New England Patriots and the Miami Dolphins. He was a member of the Patriots, who won Super Bowl LIII, 13-3, over the Los Angeles Rams. “Today, he has raised millions of dollars for inner-city kids where he lives in San Francisco. Dwayne has a platform and he feels the NFL let him help kids with less privilege of other kids. He feels strongly about his passion to help young people. Fayetteville should really be proud of this young man.”

Francie Barragan

 “I’m really honored for this award,” Barragan, 43, said. “I’m humbled to share the stage with all of you, and especially with Blaire. Blaire was an amazing tennis player at N.C. State. Playing with Blaire at N.C. State was the time of my life.” Barragan was a member of three N.C. High School Athletic Association teams at Terry Sanford. She later played No. 1 in singles and doubles at N.C. State University and qualified for the NCAA tournament. Barragan returned home to coach the women’s tennis team at Methodist University that won multiple conference titles. Barragan is a member of the Methodist University Hall of Fame. “I had some wonderful players that made me look good as a coach at Methodist University,” she said. Barragan also recognized coaches to include Fatai Adeleke, Mike Maddox, Ron Melvin and “the legendary Gil Bowman,” and her parents. “My mom and dad were always there to cheer me on. Tennis has meant the world to me.” Barragan served as director of tennis at MacGregor Downs Country Club in Cary and in 2021 was hired as USTA Southern Sectional tennis service representative for North Carolina.

Earl “Air” Harvey

Harvey was a basketball player and football player for one season under the late Bob Paroli before graduating and starring for the N.C. Central University football team. He was the first freshman to pass for more than 3,000 yards, earning Harvey the nickname “Air.” He was selected All-CIAA four consecutive years from 1985-1988. Harvey set school, conference and NCAA Division II records for career passing completions, career passing yards, career total offense, consecutive games throwing a touchdown and most touchdowns responsible for and career passes. Harvey did not attend the induction. Greg Parks accepted the award on Harvey’s behalf.

Horace Whitaker Jr.

“We are humbled and Horace would be tonight,” said Sara Whitaker, widow of the late football, basketball and baseball standout at Seventy-First High School before transferring to the newly-built Douglas Byrd High School in the mid-1970s. He led the Douglas Byrd football teams to an 8-2-0 record and the Mid-South 4-A Conference title during his senior year, rushing for 1,400 yards and being named to the East-West All-Star football game. He was named top football player in Cumberland County and an All-East team selection. Whitaker was recruited by Coach Lou Holtz and N.C. State. “It’s been a rough year for us,” Mrs. Whitaker said. “Horace was a gifted athlete and he did give God the glory. He was a natural in any sport he played. He wanted to be the best. He was a fierce competitor whether playing for pleasure or in competition. He had many great coaches– Jim Boyette and Coach Charles Babb and Coach Maurice Chapman. He was forever grateful for all these men. In early October, when Horace was very sick, Coach Boyette and Coach Babb were there. It was great to see that.” Son Adam Whitaker said his father always “challenged me to be better.” Horace Whitaker died at age 66 on Nov. 11, 2021.

Mabon Leslie “Beau” Williford

“He went to Louisiana, and you mention his name and they thought he was better than sliced bread,” said Parks, who accepted the honor for Williford. “He did a lot for a lot of people down there. He just touched a lot of people. Beau would come back to Fayetteville, you’d see him and he was just a class act. He was one of the good guys.” A graduate of Fayetteville High School, boxing was his passion. Williford earned a N.C. Golden Gloves title, was National Amateur Boxing Champion in 1967 and once sparred with the legendary Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, Joe Frazier, Jerry Quarry, George Chuvalo and Chuck Wepner. He also trained some top-rated pros, including women’s world featherweight champion Deidra Gogarty. Gogarty was the first woman appointed to the Louisiana Boxing Commission. Williford later founded the Ragin’ Cajun Boxing Club in Lafayette, Louisiana, where he was a mentor and life coach to young people in the Lafayette community. Williford died at age 72 on July 31, 2019.

Bill Kirby Jr. can be reached at billkirby49@gmail.com or 910-624-1961.

Fayetteville Sports Club, Hall of Fame, induction