After 22 years of honoring our own, the Chattahoochee Valley Sports Hall of Fame is the symbolic home for 121 hometown athletes.
There is a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, an Olympic sprinter, a Masters champion, a world class marksman, a pioneer in sports medicine and a hockey star who liked to brawl. There are broadcasters, sports writers, stat keepers, caddies, peanut hawkers and enough old coaches to field teams in just about every sport.
The local hall of fame for sports grew by nine on Saturday as past inductees welcomed nine more stars into the fold including a NFL running back, a competitive swimmer, an LPGA golfer, an early basketball star, a reckless NASCAR driver, a play-by-play announcer, a man who built playgrounds, a quarterback who preaches the gospel and a war hero who didn’t make it home alive.
Meet the Class of 2018:
Rudy Allen comes from a hall of fame family of preachers and athletes but before he answered the call to the pulpit he was a quarterback whose path was altered when Georgia Tech changed football coaches and left him to tread water in a wishbone offense that did not fit his natural gifts.
Pop Austin was a football player and boxer at Clemson University who came to Columbus to build recreation centers and playing fields.
Dan Kirkland Sr. was the first basketball player to get a scholarship to the University of Georgia but back home he was better known for winning golf tournaments and setting records for the lowest score at every course in town.
Sam McQuagg started racing at the old Columbus Speedway, dominated dirt tracks all over Georgia and then moved to the NASCAR circuit where he competed in 62 big-time races and became known for surviving high-flying wrecks.
Scott Miller was a rock and roll morning man who left the rowdy FM turntables behind and began a play-by-play career in which he implores fans of Columbus State University basketball and baseball to “find their luck spots.”
Angela Jerman Ormsby started playing golf as a child and has never put down her sticks. She was a star at Columbus High, the University of Georgia and played seven years on the LPGA Tour before finding her niche as a coach.
James T. Skipworth was a standout end who captained teams at Columbus High School and the University of Georgia who found ever-lasting stardom on the South Pacific battlefields of World War II — a quest for peace that would take his life.
Karen Hill Waters was a one woman swimming team at Columbus High and a star at the University of Georgia who now laughs about having chlorine in her blood.
Moe Williams chewed up yardage at the University of Kentucky, spent 10 years in the NFL and now raises horses in Florida. But Saturday night he enjoyed a reunion with his Green Wave family from Spencer High School.
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The latest induction ceremony was held at the Columbus Convention & Trade Center. Old videos made some inductees teary. Acceptance speeches were poetic, emotional, prayerful and funny as inductees thanked the Lord, their parents, their coaches and even a crusty old fellow who told a little girl she couldn’t play with the boys until she hit 500 golf ball — and she did just that.
Speeches were filled with special moments.
Broadcaster Scott Miller was moved by the video that showed him courtside with the late Herbert Greene, his friend and the men’s basketball coach at Columbus State University.
“His family became my family and my family because his,” Miller said. He then pointed to Herbert’s wife, Jan Myers Greene, who was sitting at the Miller family table.
His daughter, Lauren Miller Landrum, is a broadcaster with CNN. When she was small she listened to her Daddy doing ball games on the radio and wrote notes that he would find when he finally made it home.
Yes, he saved them, and on Saturday night he fought back tears and read one of them to the audience.
Rudy Allen grew up in the years after desegregation. He was a racial pioneer in local Little Leagues, in grade school and even when he got to Georgia Tech. “My career was not a bed of roses,” he said. He recalled being called “anything but a child of God.”
His family always stood behind him and his father, Rev. Rudy Allen Sr., made sure his son kept showing up. “I was pretty young and I came home one day and announced, ‘Rev, I’m gonna quit.’ My Daddy said if you quit, you’re gonna have to move out of this house.”
Ministry is his Family Business and Allen said, “These days I’m throwing touchdowns for the Lord.”
Two descendants of the late James T. Skipworth accepted his award. Florida resident Thomas J. Skipworth and his son are named for the war hero.
Capt. Skipworth was killed in the South Pacific in 1945 and was originally buried in an Army grave in the Philippines. His remains finally made it home on a train in 1948 — two years after the end of World War II.
“I was just a kid but I remember his funeral at the First Baptist Church in Columbus. It was pouring rain that day. The church was full of people that we didn’t know. That’s how much he was loved by people,” he said.
Karen Hill Waters explained how a teacher at Columbus High signed papers qualifying her to compete as a swimmer even though the school didn’t have a team. “It was me — just me,” she said. Now she coaches the sport at her alma mater and at the head table Saturday her cell phone helped her keep up with her team. “They’re competing at state. We’ve got two thirds.”
Biographies of the inductees follow:
Paul “Pop” Austin played football at Clemson and also fought on the school boxing team. At 168 pounds, he later won a lightweight boxing title at Fort McClellan, Ala. and taught in a three-room, two-teacher school.
He came here to teach physics, biology and science at Columbus High in 1929, also coaching athletics for 10 years. His 1935 football team was 10-0-1, the tie with Central High. Columbus won 13-6 when the schools met again at the end of the season. His 1935-36 basketball team finished 17-1, losing the final game of the season to Lanier of Macon.
Then came a long productive stint with the Columbus Recreation Department. He was athletic director until 1948 when he became superintendent of recreation. The number of full-time playgrounds increased to 32 from five and at least nine lighted softball fields were added. The Tillis and Haygood gymnasiums were built on his watch and plans formed for what became the Pop Austin Recreation Center on Alexander Street.
Pop Austin retired as recreation superintendent in 1968.
Dan Kirkland Sr. could do anything. He played four years of basketball and was a power-hitting outfielder at Columbus High. He was the first scholarship basketball player at the University of Georgia and won the Southeastern Amateur Golf Tournament
He was a starter on the Columbus High basketball team as a ninth grader. He was an all-GIAA center as a 10th and 11th grader. (The GIAA was a conference composed of the largest high schools in the state.)
As a sophomore, Kirkland was the starting center on the Bulldog basketball team. As a junior, he led the team to their first-ever trip to the finals of the SEC tournament where they lost to Kentucky. He was all-SEC and the team captain as a senior — the same year fellow Blue Devils James Skipworth and George (Sonny) Swift were captains of the Georgia football and golf teams, respectively.
In his senior year, he was Georgia’s leading hitter and the Bulldog baseball teams on which he played beat Georgia Tech 11 times in the 12 games played and the basketball teams of which he was a member beat Tech five times in six meetings.
In the mid-1930s, there were three major golf tournaments held in town – the City championship, the Country Club of Columbus championship and the Columbus Country Club Invitational (forerunner of the Southeastern Invitational). Over a two-year span (1937-38), at the ages of 15 and 16, he won five of the six tournaments held.
At one time in the late 1930s, he held the course records at all four local courses – the Country Club, the Rexview course off 45th street and River Road, the Lions Municipal course and the Fort Benning course.
His son, Dan Kirkland Jr., was a high scoring basketball legend at Columbus High star who went on to play at Auburn. Dan Jr. is also a member of the Chattahoochee Valley Sports Hall of Fame.
James Turner Skipworth Jr. started participating in sports at the downtown YMCA when he was 9 years old — and he never quit playing the games.
At Columbus High, he played football, basketball and baseball from 1933 to 1936. He was alternate captain of the Blue Devils’ undefeated football team of 1935 and captain of the 1935-1936 basketball team. He made the All-Bi-City baseball team in 1935.
After a year at Gordon Military Institute in Barnesville, where he won letters in three sports, he enrolled at the University of Georgia, where he became an outstanding student and athlete. He was captain of the 1940 Bulldog football team — Wally Butts’ second season as head coach. He was the second of four Columbus products to captain a Georgia football team.
It was a great time to be a Bulldog for his teammates included Heisman Trophy winner Frank Sinkwich, the legendary Charlie Trippi and future Gov. Carl Sanders. In the 1940 Homecoming game against Georgia Tech, Skipworth caught an important pass from Sinkwich to seal the victory.
Skipworth was named the university’s outstanding senior and outstanding athlete in 1941 and, as a Cadet Major in Georgia’s ROTC unit, he received his permanent commission in the United States Army upon graduation.
Skipworth was sent to the South Pacific in 1943, and rose to the rank of captain. During fighting in New Guinea, he received the Silver Star. He was killed in action by a sniper on June 17, 1945 while serving with the Sixth Army on Luzon in the Philippines — only weeks before the U.S. dropped bombs on the Japanese mainland. He was 26 years old. Camp Skipworth in Korea was named in his honor. He was brought home for permanent burial in the family plot at Riverdale in 1948, three years after the end of the war.
For many years, the Columbus Quarterback Club presented the James T. Skipworth Trophy to the Bi-City football champion. In 1960, he was inducted into the Georgia Prep Sports Hall of Fame (which later merged with the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame).
Rudy Allen Jr. earned letters in football, basketball, baseball track at Kendrick High School. He led Region 2-AAA in passing in 1970 and 1971, completing 126 of 268 passes, throwing for 1,916 yards and 14 touchdowns. He was All-Bi-City quarterback in 1970 and 1971, was Kendrick’s MVP and was named Offensive Back-of-the-Year by the Losers and Liars Club in 1970.
After first announcing he would sign with Georgia, Allen signed a football grant-in-aid with Georgia Tech. He was co-captain of Tech’s undefeated freshman team (5-0-1), completing 26 of 52 passes for 307 yards, four TDs and just two interceptions. It was wacky time at Tech. When Allen signed, the head coach was Bud Carson, who was quickly followed by Bill Fulcher and Pepper Rodgers.
“These days I’m throwing touchdowns for the Lord,” Allen says.
Rodgers installed the run-happy wishbone offense. Allen still completed 28 of 52 passes for 357 yards and two TDs and rushed 46 times for 157 yards and three TDs. He closed out his career in 1975 by completing seven of 17 passes for 173 yards and one TD.
After Tech, Allen signed a free agent contract with the Chicago Bears but complications from diabetes curtailed his chances at a pro football career. He returned home and became human resources manager for barbecue grill manufacturer Char-Broil.
He is an ordained minister, like his father and several of his siblings and children.
Sam McQuagg competed in his first automobile race at the old Columbus Speedway in 1960, winning his heat and finishing second in the feature. He came up through modified sportsmen, enjoying considerable success on short tracks around Georgia. He won 35 of 37 races, including 19 straight at the Valdosta Speedway.
In 1965, he joined NASCAR. Driving a Ford, he was NASCAR Grand National Rookie-of-the-Year — believed to be the first Georgian ever accorded that distinction. He was fifth in the 1966 Daytona 500, and won the July 4th Firecracker 400 at Daytona in 1966. He finished 15th among NASCAR drivers in 1966, finishing in the Top 10 in every race in which he competed.
McQuagg came in third at the Southern 500 at Darlington in 1967 when he and Cale Yarbrough were involved in one of the most memorable crashes in NASCAR history. He bounced between several car owners, and left the top circuit after running five races in 1968 and three in 1969.
He retired after running 62 NASCAR Grand National races, finishing in the Top 10 21 times. He became a corporate pilot for AFLAC, though he would sometimes return to the short tracks under an assumed name. McQuagg died Jan. 3, 2009.
Scott Miller had bounced around radio stations in several smaller cities around the state until 1976 when he went on the air at WCGQ — a rowdy FM station that helped change the culture of broadcasting in Columbus.
Overnight, Miller became a popular morning man at 107Q. Between the rock songs he played, he reported sports — and today he has been involved in local sports longer than anyone on the air or in print.
Born in Waynesboro, Ga., his family moved to Atlanta when he was 10 years old and he graduated from Towers High in DeKalb County. As a youth, he listened to all of the legendary play-by-play voices of his generation — particularly Larry Munson. This inspired him to attend the Columbia School of Broadcasting where he received a Journalism/Radio Broadcasting degree.
Early in his stint at McClure Broadcasting — the owners of the Q — he approached coaches Sonny Clements and Charles Ragsdale about putting Cougar games on radio. It was an offer he made on his own and it opened the door to a warm relationship with CSU sports that continues today.
One of the top sports broadcasters in the state, Miller has been behind the microphone for CSU basketball and baseball teams in five different decades. His signature style — particularly when games are on the line — is well known to local listeners.
He has aired three national championship baseball series — including the 2002 season when the Cougars won the title. He has broadcasted women’s basketball games when the Cougar ladies played three Elite 8 games and two Final 4 games.
In 1980, he was the play-by-play announcer for television on Video Sports Network for Auburn University football, joined by Pat Sullivan and Jim Fyffe. From 1976–1982 he broadcasted NCAA Division 3 football National Championship games in Phenix City.
Miller has also broadcasted local high school sports. He called football state title games involving Glenwood and Brookstone and championship baseball games featuring Kendrick, Hardaway and Shaw. The highlight may be the 14 state championship series he has aired for Columbus High. He was the voice of the Columbus Astros minor league baseball team for nine years and was host of a daily radio sports show for more than a decade.
Miller worked for McClure Broadcasting from 1976 to 1999 before joining I-Heart radio in 1999, where he is co-host of a morning magazine show with longtime sidekick Wes Carroll on News Radio 540 WDAK.
Miller is a multiple winner of the Georgia Association of Broadcasters “Gabby Award” for best play-by-play broadcast in the state and a 2008 Finalist for the “Radio and Records” News/Talk/Sports Local Personality of the Year award. He was named “Columbus Citizen of the Year” by the VFW in 1999 and elected to the Columbus State University Athletics Hall of Fame in 2004. He has been a Heisman Trophy voter since 1986.
He has been married to the former Peggy Henson of Buena Vista, Ga., since 1979 and they are the proud parents of a daughter Lauren, who works for CNN and is the wife of Miles Landrum.
Angela Jerman Ormsby started playing golf at an early age on a local nine-hole golf course and blossomed as a member of the golf team at Hardaway High School.
She attended the University of Georgia from 1998-2002 where she racked up numerous accolades. She was named South Region Freshman of the Year in 1999, SEC Golfer of the Year in 2002, twice named an NCAA All-American (1999, 2001) and named to the All-SEC Team and All-Academic SEC Team four years in a row. She helped the Bulldogs to two SEC Championships and a National Championship in 2001.
Ormsby obtained a Bachelor’s of Science in Marketing from Georgia in 2002. After graduation, she joined the LPGA Tour, where she competed for seven years before retiring in 2010. Ormsby competed in 10 Major LPGA events, with her best finish being an 11th place mark at the McDonald’s LPGA Championship.
From 1999 to 2007 Ormsby was a coach and volunteer at First Tee in Columbus. First Tee is a non-profit organization created to build character and enhance the lives of children through the game of golf. Ormsby then became a coach and instructor at Sequoia Golf in Peachtree City from 2012-2015. She recruited and motivated children of all ages to participate in nationwide golf events while working with each student to improve all aspects of their game. She had a similar role this past year at the Highland Country Club in LaGrange where she helped start a junior golf program.
She was named the head women’s golf coach at Point University in 2015.
Karen Hill Waters has always been a competitor, and she passed along her love of competing to her three daughters though they would chose other venues. From the time she was 7, Karen was at home in a pool, but daughters Ashley, Hillary and Morgan chose soccer, softball, equestrian sports, track, cross country and lacrosse.
As a young swimmer, Karen enjoyed traveling with her family all over the country competing in national events and at every age level she set new records. She was nationally ranked in every age group from 10-Under to 15-16 and was No. 1 in the nation in 1979. She went to Junior Nationals at the age of 13 and won the 100 free at the age of 14. She qualified for the 1984 and 1988 Olympic Trials in two events and qualified for nationals every season after 1983. She was Georgia Swimmer of the Year and was on two national teams.
With her father Wade serving as her personal driver, Karen competed in water sports in grade school representing the Windsor Park Swim Team and at Columbus High where, for awhile, she was a one-woman team.
“It was me — just me,” she says.