State’s Hall of Fame adds top-notch group

By: Wally Hall
Published: Thursday, January 10, 2013
Stacy Lewis, who won the LPGA's Rolex Player of the Year in 2012, is one of this year's inductees into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame.
Photo by The Associated Press
Stacy Lewis, who won the LPGA's Rolex Player of the Year in 2012, is one of this year's inductees into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame.

— Outside it was cold with a blustery wind whipping through the trees, but inside the North Little Rock convention offices, on the second floor, 38 men and women gathered with a single goal in mind.

To determine the 2013 Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame induction class.

From Richard Johnson to Blake Eddins, Ronnie McFarland to Ray Rodgers, Bobby Tiner to Harold Horton and many in between, there are so many who care about the Hall of Fame.

It was selection day, and while the board of directors meetings are always popular, there are none more so than the day we cast our votes for the Hall of Fame.

The process gives the board the honor of choosingthree or four from the regular category and then one or two from the senior or posthumous categories.

The membership, those who pay $50 for all the benefits, choose the first two for the regular induction. The board, with a 66 percent vote, could veto a name, but so far that has not happened.

The membership is important to the success of the Hall of Fame, and making their vote count has been a priority with the board andthe executive committee.

Admittedly, the Hall of Fame hit a speed bump recently over some missing funds. Since that discovery, the executive committee has met almost weekly to fix the problem, and it is being fixed.

We have even postponed development of the conference center to make sure everything is shipshape. We still have more than three years to decide on how to proceed with that development.

The situation is now in the hands of law enforcement, and we are focusing on making the 2013 banquet the best ever.

So we gathered in December, and after everyone was brought up to speed, our attention turned to the responsibility of the vote.

Zach Vint had counted themore than 700 ballots three times and he provided us with the results, including the two automatic inductees.

From the next 15 top votegetters, each board member votes for one, not necessarily in order.

Needless to say, there was an immediate runoff.

Also, there are some really passionate talks on behalf of some of the nominees.

It is not a short-lived process.

As the voting began to unfold it became increasingly more interesting to watch the results.

Make no mistake, you get almost 40 people in a room voting on the single biggest sports honor in Arkansas and you are going to have factions. But the truth is, the board is incredibly diverse. Every partof the state is represented, as is, unofficially, every college or university.

As the balloting continued it became obvious there were no race, religion or politics involved. Those who spoke on behalf of a nominee backed it up with statistics. Not all of those were inducted.

It will be perhaps the most diverse class ever. Golfers Stacy Lewis and Wyn Norwood are in, along with Sonja Tate, Arkansas State’s all-time leading scorer in women’s basketball. Arkansas track and field star Frank O’Mara, Jeremy Jacobs, the owner of Southland Greyhound Park and the Boston Bruins, and basketball standout Marcus Brown also made it. Rounding out the class is the late, great Johnny Outlaw and my old junior high basketballcoach, Don Nixon.

The reason I mention Coach Nixon last is that many times it has been mentioned in this space that I played for him, but never has it been reported that a few years ago he came up to me, gave me a warm handshake and said, “I really don’t remember you as a player.”

Actually, it didn’t hurt my feelings, because there was no good reason to remember me.

That’s not the case with the latest group of Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame inductees, all of whom are deserving of this great honor.

Sports, Pages 15 on 01/10/2013