Huntsville, Ala. - Twelve former athletes with ties to the Tennessee Valley, including one of the University of Alabama’s most celebrated female gymnasts, have been elected to the Huntsville-Madison County Athletic Hall of Fame.
Dee Foster Worley, who was known as Dee Dee Foster when she competed for coach Sarah Patterson’s Alabama gymnasts from 1989-93, will join 11 men in the Class of 2013 during the Hall of Fame’s annual Induction Banquet at the North Hall of the Von Braun Center on April 1. She attended Grissom High School in Huntsville before going off to college in Tuscaloosa, becoming the first African-American woman to sign an athletic scholarship with the Crimson Tide. At Alabama, she was a 17-time first-team All-America in gymnastics, a school record.
The 2013 class of the Huntsville-Madison County Athletic Hall of Fame also includes former basketball players Richard Gattis, Pat Lewallen and Tony McGinnis, former football players Thad McDowell, the late Porter Moore and Jeff Redcross, former baseball players David Keel and Mark Hutchison, former softball player Charles Hillis, former track standout Mike Hill, and longtime Lee High School baseball coach Butch Weaver.
Gattis played basketball at Lee High School and later at the University of Alabama- Huntsville in the early 1970s. Lewallen played basketball at Butler High School in the mid-‘70s and went on to the University of North Alabama, where he was a member of the Lions’ NCAA Division II national championship team in 1978-79. McGinnis, also a Butler graduate, was an All-Stater in 1991 and a four-year letterman on the Texas A&M basketball team from 1992-95.
McDowell was one of the top players on Johnson High School’s football dynasty of the 1980s, when the Jaguars won five straight city championships and four straight area championships. He went on to stellar career at Southern Mississippi. Moore, who died at 27 in 1976, starred in both football and basketball at Lee, where he was one of the early pioneers in athletics during the integration of the Huntsville schools in the late 1960s. Redcross played football at Sparkman High School and quickly developed into a dominating collegiate player at UNA, becoming a four-year letterman and an All-American on teams that went 32-14-1 and won a Division II national championship (1993).
Keel, a 1990 graduate of Lee, was an All-State baseball player for the Generals and the MVP in the city as a senior. He signed a scholarship with the University of Mississippi and later transferred to Motlow State, played seven years of minor league professional baseball, and later coached baseball at UAH. Hutchison was a two-time All-City player in baseball at Butler (1979 and 1980) and also All-City in basketball in 1980; he played baseball at Calhoun Community College and then received a baseball scholarship at Auburn, where he became the starting shortstop in 1983. He is now the head baseball coach at Westminster Christian Academy.
Hill, now a medical doctor in Knoxville, Tenn., was one of the early track stars at Grissom (1971-75) and later carved out a fine distance-runner career on the track team at the University of Alabama. Hillis, who owns a Huntsville scoreboard sales and service business, was one of the most prominent softball players during the pinnacle of fast-pitch popularity in the 1950s and ‘60s. He played fast-pitch for more than four decades.
Weaver, a 1974 graduate of Lee, played football, basketball and baseball for the Generals before continuing his education at Calhoun and then at Alabama, where he graduated in 1979. He went on to a long high school coaching career that has included stops at Bob Jones, Butler, Johnson, Madison Academy and Butler. He is currently in his 27th year as the head baseball coach at Lee, where he has been named the city’s Coach of the Year six times. His teams have appeared in 19 state playoffs.
This will be the 21st class since the Huntsville-Madison County’s first induction class of 1989, when a record number of 30 individuals were enshrined. Counting this year, the Hall of Fame will have inducted 288 and presented 21 additional Special Achievement Awards.
----------------- Profiles of the Hall of Fame Class of 2013 --------------------------------------------
- RICHARD GATTIS – A three-year letterman for coach Jerry Dugan at Huntsville’s Lee High School in the early 1970s, Gattis accepted one of the first basketball scholarships ever offered by the University of Alabama-Huntsville. After playing junior high ball at Madison Cross Roads, he became a starter at guard as a sophomore at Lee. As a junior, he averaged nearly 15 points per game and was named second team All-City. He also broke Condredge Holloway’s single-game assist record, recording 13 against Grissom, and was named MVP of the Tennessee Valley Conference Tournament. As a senior, Gattis averaged double figures and was a unanimous All-City selection. After high school, Gattis signed a basketball scholarship with coach Kayo Willis at UAH, quickly became a starter. As a senior in 1973, he helped UAH to a 13-1 record and a trip to the NAIA National Tournament in Kansas City. After college, Gattis played several years in the Huntsville Industrial League. Since retiring from basketball in his mid-40s, he has enjoyed training and showing Quarter Horses throughout Alabama and the Southeast. Gattis is currently the chief appraiser of Madison County, responsible for appraisal of property for tax purposes.
- MIKE HILL – At Grissom High School, a hotbed of track and field since the school first opened more than 40 years ago, Mike Hill is still remembered as one of the school’s early pacesetters in track. After a four-year career at Grissom from 1971-75, Hill went on to the University of Alabama (1975-79), where he continued to excel as a distance runner. He continued his education at the University of South Alabama School of Medicine (1980-83), and in 1986 he became board-certified in Internal Medicine from the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta. In 1996, he acquired his board certification in Diagnostic Radiology from the University of Tennessee. He now operates a private practice in Internal Medicine and Diagnostic Radiology in Knoxville. Hill set numerous records in track and cross country while at Grissom. In the 10th grade, he ran the fastest time (9 minutes, 20.5 seconds) in the two-mile and qualified as third fastest in the United States. He also ran the fast time (4:27) in the one-mile race and won many cross country races. At Alabama, he ran a personal best in the 1,500 meters (3:46) and set the school record in the 3-mile indoor race. He also qualified second in the SEC with a time of 13:46 for the 3-mile indoor. As a college senior, he won the 1979 Magic City Marathon in Birmingham.
- CHARLES HILLIS – A native of Madison County, Hillis started school at New Market, moved to Lincoln Village when he was 15, attended night school for a year and a half before the Korean War, and finished at Huntsville High School in 1954. He first began playing softball at 16 on a team coached by J. D. Carroll. After serving as a medic in the U.S. Army in 1957-58 and playing service baseball in German, Hillis returned to his softball roots upon his return to civilian life, playing fast-pitch in Huntsville and throughout the northern Alabama, suiting up with the Merchants and a variety of other teams while competing alongside such renowned local players as Jim Bishop, Jim and Clyde Hobbs, Ed Baker and Skip Cloys. Hillis has continued to play softball for more than 40 years. “My big claim to fame, I guess,’’ he said, “was going 10-for-20 against Eddie Feigner back when we played occasionally against the King and His Court.’’ Hillis worked for the Huntsville City School System from October 1959 until December 1988 in facility management, servicing electrical and plumbing at Goldsmith-Schiffman for 20 years and Milton Frank Stadium for 18 years.
- MARK HUTCHISON – Hutchison grew up in Huntsville and began playing football, basketball and baseball at the age of 6 in the Continental Athletic Association. During junior high, he began focusing on baseball and basketball. He started at shortstop in baseball and point guard in basketball in junior high and in high school at Butler, where he was a three-time letterman in both sports (1978-80). He was All-City and Butler’s MVP in baseball as a senior on a team that won the city and regional championship and finished second in the state. He also played on the East-West All-Star team in 1980. In basketball, he was All-City and All-Region in 1980. He played two years of baseball at Calhoun and was named All-Conference in both 1981 and 1982, and was Calhoun’s MVP in 1982 after batting .338 and stealing 19 bases. He signed a baseball scholarship with Auburn University that year and was the Tigers’ starting shortstop in 1983, leading the team in fielding. He later played softball for four different associations from 1987-2001. Named head coach of the Westminster Christian Academy middle school in 2006, Hutchison was assistant varsity coach from 2007-09 and was named Westminster’s head coach in 2009. Since 2007, Westminster baseball has reached the state 2A baseball playoffs every year.
- DAVID KEEL – Born in Huntsville in 1972, Keel became one of the city’s most prominent baseball personalities of his generation over the three decades. As a player in the city’s youth leagues, he became a member of two state championship teams before his 18th birthday: in Senior Babe Ruth while playing for the Northwest Huntsville Babe Ruth All-Stars in 1989 and in American Legion while playing for Post 237 in 1990. In the 1990 American Legion state tournament, Keel was named MVP. He was playing baseball at Lee High School during the same time period. After being named All-City in baseball in 1988, 1989 and 1990, and being honored as the city’s MVP and a member of the All-State team in 1990, he signed a baseball scholarship with Ole Miss. Two years later, he transferred from Ole Miss to Motlow State College in Tennessee. He set a single-season school record for runs batted in at Motlow in 1992 and was named to the Tennessee Junior College Athletic Association’s the same season. Keel then played professional baseball for the Oakland A’s organization for four years, one year of independent pro ball and two seasons in the New York Yankees organization before retiring. He helped Bobby Pierce start the UAH baseball program in 1995 and later served as head coach in 2003-04.
- PAT LEWALLEN – In both high school and college, Lewallen was the epitome of the hyphenated term “student-athlete.’’ An accomplished basketball player for Butler High School coach Jerry Rice in the mid-1970s and later a member of a national championship team at North Alabama, Lewallen was also a star in the classroom in both high school and college. At Butler, he was an officer in the National Honor Society and graduated with a GPA of 96.4; at UNA, he was Valedictorian of his graduating class and the recipient of the prestigious Keller Key after compiling a GPA of 3.97 while majoring in mathematics. A tall, slender forward-center, Lewallen was known for his rebounding and defense at Butler, but he was also a proficient scorer, averaging nearly 10 points per game as a sophomore, 8.3 ppg at a junior and almost 19 ppg as a senior in 1977, when he was named MVP of the team, first-team All-City and first-team All-Region. He was also honored as an All-American Publications selection. A three-year letterman in golf, he was named captain in both basketball and golf. At UNA, he was a three-year letterman and played on two NCAA Division II Final Four teams. Lewallen is now a systems engineer for the Oracle Corp.
- THAD McDOWELL – When he was a sophomore linebacker at the University of Southern Mississippi, McDowell once told a newspaper reporter that as a high school student in back in Huntsville, Ala., his mother wanted him to play two sports. “I was so hyper that she wanted me to do something else besides football to keep me busy,’’ McDowell said. “I played football and wrestled. If I didn’t do something else, I would get into trouble.’’ Obviously, mom knew best. An All-City wrestler at 112 pounds at Ed White Middle School in 1983, McDowell went on to become one of the best football players in the history of J. O. Johnson High School. A punishing 6-foot-2, 210-pound linebacker for the Jaguars, he was one of the ringleaders of a team that never lost a city game in the mid-1980s and reeled off 11 straight victories his senior year in 1986. It was the same year that McDowell was named the top defensive player in the state, a feat that earned him a scholarship to USM. He became a dominating four-year letterman in college, totaling 306 tackles, five sacks and four interceptions before graduating in 1992 with a degree in management. McDowell is now general manager of TM Finance, Inc., in Lawrenceville, Ga.
- TONY McGINNIS – McGinnis, who works in Social Services at the Harris Home for Children and also serves as the head basketball coach at Oakwood College, is one of many players who achieved high school stardom and went on to successful college careers after being tutored by Butler High School’s legendary basketball coach Jack Doss, a 2007 inductee in the Huntsville-Madison County Athletic Hall of Fame. McGinnis, a three-time All-City selection, was first-team All-State as a senior at Butler, averaging 20.6 points per game and 8.2 rebounds on a team that advanced to the Final Four of the state tournament. He also led the Rebels in scoring as a sophomore (16.4 ppg) and a junior (17.3 ppg). McGinnis then became a four-year letterman and three-year starter at Texas A&M, averaging 10 points as a junior and 15 a senior. He led the Aggies in blocked shots as a junior and in steals as a senior. He was named to the All-Southwest Conference defensive team as a senior and finished his career as the No. 12 scorer in Aggie history (1,240 points). McGinnis, a journalism major, has written a book (“The Game Is Deep’’) that documents the ups and downs of basketball, and why so many struggle in life after leaving the game.
- PORTER MOORE – Moore, who lettered in football, basketball, track and baseball at Lee High School, is still remembered and revered as one of the best and most popular high school athletes of the mid- to late-1960s during the early integration era of the Huntsville city schools. “I watched Porter go through the struggle,’’ says his younger brother Joe Moore, who now lives in Oak Ridge, Tenn. “He was a trailblazer. Not many individuals could have handled the racial slurs and threats he had to go through so that his siblings and others could follow in his footsteps. He knew it was his time and he showed the community how athletics could make a difference in this city.’’ Moore was a star in football for coach Keith Wilson and in basketball for coach Jerry Dugan. “Porter was our first black athlete at Lee and he was outstanding,’’ the late Lee principal, Fulton Hamilton, said in a 1976 interview following Moore’s heart-related death at 27. “His character is the thing I remember most.’’ After his graduation from Lee in 1968, Moore joined the U.S. Army and was honorably discharged three years later, and later played football at Alabama A&M. “One of my great thrills was getting to play against Porter when he was at A&M and I was at Tuskegee,’’ says Joe Moore.
- JEFF REDCROSS – Redcross, a Sparkman High School graduate, played only one season of prep football due to his religious views as a Seventh Day Adventist, but later went on to dominate in the sport at the University of North Alabama. He was a four-year football letterman at UNA from 1990-93 and was named the NCAA Division II National Defensive Player of the Year by the Football Gazette as a senior. Following the 1993 season, he was selected first-team All-Gulf South Conference, GSC Defensive Player of the Year, All-South Region, first-team All-American by the Division II Sports Information Directors and second-team All-American by the Associated Press. As a senior, he finished with 82 tackles, caused one fumble, recovered three other fumbles, broke up six passes and had 20 quarterback pressures, 15 tackles for loss and seven sacks. Redcross played on UNA that went to the NCAA playoffs in 1990, 1992 and 1993. In 1993, the Lions won the national championship with a 14-0 record. Redcross was selected on the 50th Anniversary All-UNA Football Team for 1948-98. A criminal justice major at UNA, he is now a member of the Muscle Shoals police department.
- BUTCH WEAVER – A graduate of Lee High School, Calhoun Community College and the University of Alabama, Weaver has one of the most successful high school coaches in the Huntsville system for more than three decades. He began his assistant football coaching career at Bob Jones following his graduation from Alabama in 1979, coached at Butler the following year, then at Johnson from 1981-85, at Lee from 1986-89 and 2006, and also coached at Madison Academy from 1998-2004 and 2007-08. He was also an assistant baseball coach for his one year at Butler and his five years at Johnson. From 1990-96, Weaver was the head football coach at Lee, winning the city championship twice (1991-92) and advancing to the state playoffs four straight years from 1991-94. Eighteen of his players signed college scholarships and one went on to play professionally. Weaver’s first love in sports has always been baseball. He was the head coach at Bob Jones for one year and is now in the midst of his 27th season as head coach at Lee, where his teams have appeared in 19 state playoffs . He has been named the city’s Baseball Coach of the Year six times (1989, 1991, 1995, 1998, 2006 and 2012) and has served as Lee’s athletic director for six years. One of Weaver’s former players, Craig Kimbrel, is currently the star relief pitcher for the Atlanta Braves.
- DEE FOSTER WORLEY – She was known as “Dee Dee’’ back in 1984 when 13-year-old Dione Foster of Huntsville was named the first Elite gymnast in the state of Alabama. She was still Dee Dee as a student at Grissom High School and later at the University of Alabama, where she became the star of stars on the uneven bars, balance beam, floor exercise and vault as coach Sarah Patterson was beginning to build a gymnastics dynasty at the Capstone. A member of the USA National Team when she was in high school, Foster’s star soared in college after an untimely injury prevented her from competing in the 1988 Olympic Trails. At Alabama, she was a four-time All-SEC performer, a 17-time All-America and the first Alabama gymnast to score a “Perfect 10’’ in competition. At the time of her graduation, she was the only NCAA gymnast to finish in the top three in All-Around for four straight years. In her senior year, she was the NCAA Gymnast of the Year and the state’s Amateur Athlete of the Year. Twenty years later, she is now married to former University of Georgia All-America running back Tim Worley. Tim and Dee are co-founders of Worley Global Enterprises in Huntsville. Dee heads up the business consulting division and Tim is in charge of the motivational and mentoring divisions.