THOMASVILLE -- Eight of the best athletes in the Thomas County area were inducted into the Thomasville Hall of Fame Tuesday night. Billy Anderson, Frank Thomas Jr., Gale Hicks Stewart, Sonny Clay, J. Frank Moore, Johnny Bannister, Andy Seery and Wylie Moore Watt were the honorees.
While all shared a common bond in having a positive impact on the community, each did it in his or her own way.
Anderson played running back for Central High School. Anderson's induction had a big place in his heart.
"It's a big thrill because I wasn't a big athlete," Anderson said.
"Just to be mentioned with these names right here is a special honor. Being inducted with them is something else. It's just awesome."
Anderson's biggest thrill on the field came in 1967 when his team played cross-town rival Thomasville. Though the Yellow Jackets lost 21-7, it still is very memorable for Anderson.
"The best one was when I scored against Thomasville," Anderson said.
"It was special."
Thomas was one of the best athletes to walk the halls at Douglas High School, as he played football, basketball and ran track.
He won the Best Athlete Award for three straight years.
"It was amazing," Thomas said of his induction. "I was a good athlete in all the sports I participated in."
Stewart was a star in basketball for Central High School. She was a key component on Central's state championship teams in 1967 and 1968. The former guard explained just how shocking it was when to found out she was being inducted.
"I was kind of surprised when they asked me. It was just an honor to be invited," Stewart said.
As far as what memories stand out in her mind of her time on the court, it was the unity her and her team had together.
"Basically the camaraderie with all the team and the relationship we had," Stewart said. "We had come from a real strong background in athletics. We came together when we consolidated, so it gave us a lot of depth. I think that's one of the reasons we had such a strong team.
"It was phenomenal while it lasted, and we really enjoyed it. We learned a lot and had a really good coach."
While Stewart shined on the court, the late Sonny Clay played football and basketball for the Bulldogs. He is best remembered for calling football games for Central and Thomasville High School. His wife, Pat, said Sonny was a man totally involved in the community.
"He would be delighted. He loved Thomasville and Thomas County," Pat said. "He was very active in the community."
When people remember Clay on Friday nights, there's that memorable catch-phrase that symbolized Sonny behind the microphone.
"Instead of saying they threw a flag, the official dropped the hanky," Pat said. "We teased him about that all the time."
Moore played baseball and football at Thomasville. Like everyone else, he was very surprised when he first found out about the induction.
"It means a great deal to me," Moore said. "I thought maybe they had the wrong number when they called me.
Upon graduation in 1947, Moore entered the Army before moving to Brown University where he played football. It was here that Moore recalls his fondest memory as a player, when he played, now legendary head coach Joe Paterno.
"I was a freshman when Paterno was a senior. We scrimmaged them," Moore said. "We had a good time doing that."
Bannister was a track star for Central High School, as he led the team to the Region 1-AAA Championship and a trip to state. He even set a state record for the 440 hurdles. To be mentioned with the great athletes in the Thomasville area is something Bannister will never forget.
"It's probably the greatest honor you can put on someone," Bannister said. "To have grown up in this community and especially to have your coaches that go in ahead of you, then you follow them, that's probably the most fun of it.
Seery was one of the many leaders for the Thomasville Bulldogs in the mid-60s. He was a man who lead by example.
"This is a great honor," Seery said. "I'm very appreciative, very humble. There really are some great athletes here, some great coaches and teachers that meant a lot to us and the community."
Seery recalled the fond memories he had on the field and of former coach Joe Sumerall.
"A lot of hard work, a lot of practice, a lot of sweat and a lot of teamwork. I remember particularly, how (our coach) had us always doing the right thing. I grew on that, and it helped me.
Watt played football during his four years at Thomasville High School. For him, one word describes his feelings on being inducted.
"Humbling, extremely humbling," Watt said. "It's far superior to anything I've ever done. Out of all the people being inducted, I'm about the least athletic."
He is the son of Sports Hall of Fame inductee Dr. Charlie Watt. Like his father, Watt has been instrumental in the community, teaching youth about life, God and family.
"It's extremely important. I think that's what it's really all about," Watt said. "getting involved in your community."
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