TENNESSEE SPORTS HALL OF FAME 2016 CLASS OF INDUCTEES
The Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame was proud to award the eleven inductees to be enshrined at its annual Induction Banquet on Saturday, June 18, 2016. The Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame’s goal is to enshrine successful teams and individuals who display sportsmanship, good character and success, creating a legacy for others to follow.
Joe Biddle is a Tennessee native, born June 13, 1944, in Johnson City and has been writing about sports for different publications for decades. His father died when Joe was two, and his mother married five years later. They had two children, Richard Machamer Jr., and Sally Heydel of Brentwood. Biddle is a 1962 graduate of Science Hill High School and a 1971 graduate of East Tennessee State with a B.S. in Journalism. His professional career started with the Johnson City Press Chronicle in 1971. He also served in the Air Force from 1966-70, including a year in Vietnam. He was a sports writer for the Daytona Beach News-Journal from 1972 to November 1979, covering college football and basketball as well as the NFL expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and he moved to the Nashville Banner in November, 1979, as sports editor and columnist until the afternoon newspaper closed in 1998. He was hired as a sports columnist at The Tennessean and remained there until 2011. During those years, Biddle was a four-time Tennessee Sports Writer of the Year by the National Sportscasters and Sports Writers Association. He covered the Super Bowl 25 years, College Football’s National Championship games and numerous bowl games. He voted for years on Associated Press college football and basketball polls. He was also an original voter for the Harris Poll, which determined the top two teams in college football. Biddle remains the State Director for Heisman Trophy voters. He now writes sports columns for WKRN-TV2 in Nashville and Franklin’s Williamson Herald. Biddle was inducted into the Tennessee Sportswriters Association’s Hall of Fame in 2013 and was inducted into the 2005 Alumni Hall of Fame by ETSU’s Communication Department. Outside of football, Biddle also covered 25 Masters golf tournaments and a number of PGA Championships, Ryder Cups, NCAA Final Fours and two Summer Olympics Games. Biddle married Sharon Biddle in 1975. She has a daughter, Leigh Anne.
Six brothers dedicated to their faith, family and football. In John Branston’s, Rowdy Memphis, he called the Canale Brothers “The first family of Memphis jockdom.” The brothers would have disavowed such celebrity. They’re far too humble.
From oldest to youngest, Frank, George, Whit, Justin, Billy and Conn grew up on the family’s 70-acre hay farm just east of Memphis. A 1964 Sports Illustrated article described the six sons as having “made the family name the most notable in southern football … the seventh might have added to the family football stature had not her parents named her Mary Arnette.” Their father, George Canale Sr., had played for Notre Dame. When asked if his sons got their athleticism from him, he insisted it came instead from their mother, Augusta Hise Canale, a former All-State basketball player.
The young men grew strong on the farm, described by one writer as “a gladiatorial training ground”; it had ball fields, a shot put pit and hurdles. This remarkable family gene pool was sought out by the premier football programs across the South. A ‘who’s who’ of coaching notables — including John Vaught and Paul “Bear” Bryant, on multiple occasions — visited at the Canale dinner table.
The brothers all starred at either Christian Brothers High School or Memphis Catholic, and each played football in the vaunted Southeastern Conference; Frank, George, and Whit at the University of Tennessee, and Justin, Billy and Conn at Mississippi State. One game found Mr. and Mrs. Canale in the end zone to remain neutral. Each player was lettered, and some set records in football and track at those schools. George was drafted by the Canadian Football League, while Whit and Justin played professional football for the Bengals, Dolphins, Steelers and Patriots.
At the core of their athletic achievement — rooted in dedication, humility, generosity and faith — lies a family bond, uncommon and profound. As the Sports Illustrated piece stated, “their loyalty to one another is legendary.” Impeccable manners, respect for women, their elders, and God were and are a part of everyday family life. The Canale brothers have indeed personified much of that which is exemplary in American sport and the American South.
Mike Curb has been active for most of his adult life in motorsports. Curb has won over 500 races in 40 different motorsports series and has won over 25 championships and finished top 10 in championship point standings 150 times.
Curb owned the winning car in the historic 2011 Centennial Indianapolis 500 with driver Dan Wheldon. Curb’s victories include the 10 domestic NASCAR owned series [Sprint Cup, Xfinity, Camping World Trucks, IMSA SportsCar Daytona Prototype, IMSA GTU, K&N East, K&N West, the Whelen Modified, Southern Modified and the Whelen All-American Late Model Series victory at the 2013 inaugural Daytona Battle at the Beach]. The Curb-owned racing team scored a major victory at the famed Daytona International Speedway in 1984, which was Richard Petty’s historic 200th victory, with President Ronald Reagan in attendance. Dale Earnhardt won his first championship in the Curb-sponsored car and recently Curb had his 500th NASCAR start in Nashville, Tennessee with ten-time winner Johnny Sauter who won the 2013 Daytona NASCAR truck race. Curb also was the co-winner of the 2012 50th anniversary Daytona 24 hour Rolex sports car race. In 2013 Curb won the NASCAR K&N East Championship with Dylan Kwasniewski and the 2013 World of Outlaws Championship with Daryn Pittman in association with Kasey Kahne. The Curb-Agajanian Racing Team has won 11 USAC National Championships including being the only Owner/Entrant to win all 3 USAC National Championships in the same year. In 2013 the Curb-Agajanian team repeated as the Triple Crown Champions with Christopher Bell in association with Keith Kunz in the USAC Midget cars, with Bryan Clauson and Bobby East repeating as winners of the USAC Sprint car and Silver Crown Championships in association with Tony Stewart. In 2014 Curb-Agajanian won two more USAC championships with Rico Abreu and Kyle O’Gara, the Badger and POWRi championships with Christopher Bell, the American Sprint Car Series (ASCS) championship with Jason Johnson, the IMSA GT3 Lone Star Le Mans in Austin, Texas with Michael Lewis and victories in NASCAR with Johnny Sauter, Bobby Santos, and the Modified All-Star Shootout with Ryan Newman. In 2015 the Curb-Agajanian team won the historic 55th Knoxville Nationals and the World of Outlaws National Championship with Donny Schatz in association with Tony Stewart and in 2015 and 2016 won the historic Chili Bowl with Rico Abreu and Curb has been inducted into the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame.
Conrad Graham, who grew up in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and graduated from R. J. Reynolds High School, signed with the University of Tennessee as a defensive back in 1969. Graham was a three-year starter in Tennessee’s secondary during a time which the Vols boasted one of the best pass-coverage defenses in history. Three of the defensive backfield members earned All-America status, including Graham during his senior year of 1972.
Graham’s college career highlights (1970-72) include 15 interceptions (tied for third), eight fumble recoveries (tied for first) and three touchdowns by return. He was part of the 1970 Tennessee team which still holds the NCAA record for total takeaways (57) in a single season and set the school record with 36 interceptions. Graham was a member of the 1971 team which also holds the NCAA record for most touchdown returns off interceptions (7) and the highest return yardage after interceptions (782).
In 1972, the Tennessee defense held their opponents to eighty-three points through eleven games. Tennessee’s record during his time there was 31-5. The Volunteers were consistently ranked in the top ten in college polls. His college career was capped off with a win in the 1972 Bluebonnet Bowl where, with two minutes remaining in the game, he broke up a fourth down pass to preserve a 24-17 lead against Louisiana State University. After his senior season, Graham played in the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama and in the Coaches’ All America Game in Lubbock, Texas. He was drafted by the Chicago Bears in the eighth round; however, knee injuries ended his playing career during his first pro season. Conrad lives in Winston-Salem and is a construction equipment salesman for Linder Machinery. He and his wife, Betty Allen, have two sons, Conrad and his wife Mallory and Hunter and his wife Morgan, and three granddaughters.
In high school, Gray was a three-sport athlete. He helped his football team win 1975 State Championship and was chosen as a Mississippi High School All-Star that year. Gray was named all-conference and all-district as a junior and senior in basketball and also placed second in state championship in both low and high hurdles.
One of the most renowned pass receivers in Tiger history, Earnest Gray set virtually every Tiger receiving record during his four seasons at the University of Memphis.
Starting as a true freshman at then Memphis State, he finished his career with 97 receptions, 2,123 yards and 17 touchdowns holding most of the schools receiving records. He currently holds Memphis records for average yards per reception in a career (21.9), longest touchdown pass reception (94 yards) and average gain per reception in a season (29.5). As a result of his athletic achievements, Gray was named to the 1978 and 1979 All-South Independent teams and the Associated Press and Football News All-American teams. He was selected to play in the East-West Shrine Game and the Senior Bowl after his senior season. Gray was inducted into the M Club Hall of Fame in 1991.
Gray, who played seven years in the NFL, was drafted in 1979 by the New York Giants as the 38th overall pick in the second round. During his rookie year, he had 28 receptions for 537 yards and four touchdowns. In the 1980 season, his 10 touchdowns tied for the lead in the NFC conference. He held both Giants’ records for receptions and yardage with 78 catches for 1139 in 1983. His honors include playing on the 1979 All-Rookie team being chosen as the 1980 and 1983 Most Valuable Offensive Player of the year for the Giants. He amassed 246 receptions, 3,790 yards and 27 touchdowns during his professional career.
Gray, who calls Memphis home, has been with the Memphis Fire Department for 27 years. He and his wife, Helen, have four children: Decobia, Tameka, Al, and Akim.
Missy (Alston) Kane grew up in Nashville, Tennessee, and graduated from Saint Cecilia Academy. Although she never ran track and field before entering the University of Tennessee in 1973, she still walked on the newly formed Lady Vol cross country and track team. As a vital member of the squad, she later was named captain. She earned her Undergraduate and Master’s Degrees in Exercise Physiology from Tennessee.
Kane competed in the 1500 meters at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, won a bronze medal in the 1983 Pan-American games and placed 6th in the World University games. She also spent four years coaching distance runners at the University of Tennessee, and was named Southeastern Conference cross-country coach of the year in 1990 as her team won the SEC title and finished 6th in the NCAA’s.
She also worked at the NBC station, WBIR in Knoxville, for more than 12 years and was the first female sports anchor in East Tennessee when she anchored weekend sports from 1990-91. She went on to work as a track and field TV commentator for Fox Sports for 19 years while covering the SEC indoor and outdoor championships and worked for NBC sports at the 1987 World Championships in Rome, Italy.
She was inducted into the Knoxville Sports Hall of Fame in 1996 and into the Lady Vol Sports Hall of Fame in 2004. In 2012, she was awarded the Presidential Physical Fitness Award for her work in the East Tennessee community as she helped people gain better health through exercise.
Kane is currently the health and fitness coordinator for Covenant Health and is fitness hosts of a television show “Missy Fit and Fun” on ET PBS. She is married to Jim Bemiller a professor at the University of Tennessee. They have two daughters, Kelsey Kane, a former Lady Vol track athlete, and Gracie Bemiller, a freshman at West High School.
It was 1968, and the University of Tennessee’s Volunteers were playing their first game on artificial turf, dubbed “Doug’s Rug” for Vols Head Coach Doug Dickey. Tennessee vs. Georgia was the first game and the first catch for No. 85, a shy sophomore from Nashville, Tennessee, named Lester McClain. Dan Conaway perfectly summed up the day: “1968 was the symbolic year of the tragedy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the spring and Robert F. “Bobby” Kennedy in the summer, and of the hope symbolized in one young man catching a ball in the fall. When McClain caught that fourth-down pass, he wasn’t black or white. He was orange”. That same year, McClain helped end racial segregation on the football fields of the Southeastern Conference by earning a varsity letter for the University of Tennessee.
McClain was born in Nashville on September 17, 1949. He attended Haynes High School in Nashville for his freshman through junior years, as he was unable to attend the school closest to his home, Antioch High, because it was not racially integrated. In his senior year, McClain was allowed to attend Antioch High where he met UT alum Bill Garrett who ran the morning football practices. Garrett liked what he saw and approached Coach Dickey on McClain’s behalf. Tennessee recruited McClain primarily to be a roommate for an exceptional high school athlete named Albert Davis, who most thought would be the first to integrate UT’s football program. When Davis went elsewhere, the burden fell to McClain, and he rose to the occasion. During his three seasons at UT, McClain caught 70 passes for 1,003 yards and 10 touchdowns. He also rushed 30 times for 123 yards and two touchdowns and returned eight kickoffs for 168 yards.
McClain was honored by the East Tennessee Chapter of the National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame. He is also a member of the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools Sports Hall of Fame and UT’s Athletics Hall of Fame, and he has earned the Maxwell House Sport Award. In 1987, McClain was appointed to an alumni position on UT’s Athletic Board. He has also received numerous state appointments including the Tennessee Human Rights Commission by Governor Lamar Alexander.
McClain, who has been with State Farm for 33 years, has four children: Angela Harrison, Dr. Andre Scott, Treasure McClain, Esq., and Dr. Justin McClain. He also has one granddaughter, Jordyn Scott. Lester and his wife Virginia celebrate 44 years of marriage.
Mt. Olive, Mississippi, became a football recruiting hotspot the fall of 1990. Mt. Olive had a future star on its roster: Steve McNair. McNair was recruited heavily all over the Southeast by every major college program as a defensive back or even a running back, but he considered himself a quarterback and he would not compromise. That essentially narrowed his choice to Alcorn State, where he was promised that he would be a signal caller. While at Alcorn, he threw for 14,496 yards and 119 touchdowns and rushed for 2,327 yards and 33 scores. During his collegiate career, McNair received numerous honors including the Eddie Robinson Trophy and the Walter Payton Award. Even though Alcorn State was a Division I-AA school, “Air” McNair finished third in the 1994 Heisman Trophy balloting.
Drafted third overall by the NFL’s Houston Oilers in 1995, McNair became the Oilers’ regular starting quarterback in 1997, their first season in Tennessee, and remained the starting quarterback for the Titans through 2005. He was the first African-American quarterback to be chosen as the NFL’s Most Valuable Player.
Steve led the Titans to the playoffs four times and played in Super Bowl XXXIV. He is the Titans’ all-time leading passer, a three time Pro Bowl selection, an Ed Block Courage Award recipient and was named Sports Illustrated Player of the Year, All-Pro and Co-MVP in 2003. Most recently, he was inducted into the SWAC Hall of Fame, Black College Football Hall of Fame, and also the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame.
But the real story of his playing career was not told by the stats. Leadership and toughness were the areas where Steve has made his reputation. In pressure situations, he was cool and confident. During his NFL career, there were times his body was so badly battered that he simply couldn’t practice. Still, he gutted it out every Sunday. His willingness to play with pain was a constant source of inspiration to his teammates. In turn, there was nothing they wouldn’t do for him.
No pain, no gain; if that’s the case, McNair was light years ahead of the rest of the NFL. Each Sunday seemed to bring a new challenge, as well as a great story about how he overcame it. When Steve broke into pro football, all his teammates could talk about was his jaw-dropping athletic talent. Soon, they couldn’t stop raving about his superhuman toughness. When Steve retired, the game lost more than a great player: It lost one of its most inspiring and generous people.
While Steve’s on the field achievements were a source of immense joy and pride for him, his wife, Mechelle, along with his four sons – Tyler, Trenton, Steven, Jr. and Steven – were his ultimate accomplishment.
King Oehmig became head coach of the boys’ and girls’ golf teams at Chattanooga’s Baylor School in 1998. His passion for junior golf and his love of his alma mater, Baylor — where he himself was a three-year golf letterman and two-time All-Mid-South player — helped to fuel the historic success that both golf teams would achieve in his 12 years coaching there.
During his tenure at Baylor, Oehmig’s girls’ and boys’ teams combined to win 21 state championships, including 12 straight state titles for the girls — part of their record of 16 consecutive state championships. Five different Baylor girls won 11 individual state titles, while three different boys were awarded four individual championships. In 2007, “Coach O,” as his golfers called him, was recognized as the National Girls’ Golf Coach of the Year by the National High School Coaches Association. His golfers’ success also carried on well after their years playing for Baylor. Twenty Baylor graduates who played for him earned collegiate golf scholarships. His formers players were twice Southeastern Conference Players of the Year, twice SEC Scholar Athletes of the Year, and include one NCAA Player of the Year, six NCAA All-Americans, and six golfers who play or have played on the PGA and LPGA Tours.
After his coaching stint at Baylor, he also served for three years as the head coach of the NCAA Division III men’s golf team at Sewanee: The University of the South. He was also the son of legendary amateur golfer, Lew Oehmig, who was also inducted into the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame in 1973. King Oehmig was an accomplished player himself, competing as a four-year letterman at the University of Virginia and having won numerous Chattanooga-area tournaments. A historian and advocate of classic golf course architecture, he played an instrumental role in the layouts of four of the region’s top courses. Off the golf course, he held a Doctor of Ministry from The School of Theology at Sewanee and was an ordained priest in the Episcopal Church, serving in various parishes for nearly 40 years. He passed away in May 2015, and is survived by his wife, Margy, two sons and daughters-in-law and three grandchildren.
Mike Taylor, a graduate of North Side High School in Jackson, Tennessee, was a football team captain, MVP and a member of the AAA all-state team. Taylor was an all-state football player for North Side when the Indians were still in Class AAA. At UT- Martin Taylor was a four-year starter and named Offensive Player of the game against Austin Peay. He started 44 consecutive games for UT-Martin and was selected to the UT-Martin Hall of Fame. Taylor is also a member of the Jackson-Madison County Sports Hall of Fame.
Taylor began his career as a football official with the Northwest Tennessee Officials Association and later joined the Ohio Valley Conference in 1993. In the six years with the OVC, he worked numerous NCAA Division I-AA playoff games including two national semifinals. As a Southeastern Conference official, he worked 18 post season assignments including the National Championship in 2005, five SEC championship games, five BCS games and numerous bowl games. Two memorable regular season games he officiated were the “Blue Grass Miracle” and the 2013 Iron Bowl. In the Blue Grass Miracle, Louisiana State University beat the University of Kentucky on a Hail Mary pass play at the end of the game and In the 2013 Iron Bowl, the University of Alabama attempted a game-winning field goal with no time remaining on the clock, but an Auburn University player caught the ball in the end zone and returned it for a game-winning 100-yard touchdown return for the Tigers. Mike and his late wife Jerrie have two sons, Michael Taylor II, a freshman on the Ole Miss Football team, and Cade Taylor, a freshman at University School of Jackson.
Duard B. Walker Sr. was born in Piney Flats, Tennessee. After achieving academic success and playing an active role in sports in high school, he entered East Tennessee State University and played baseball. He transferred to Milligan College the next year and played several sports. As World War II was then underway, he was assigned to the Navy V-12 Officer Training program at Milligan. He later participated in the battles at Iwo Jima and Okinawa.
After three years in the Navy, he returned to Milligan in 1946, where he is the only person to have earned 12 varsity letters in five sports. He was also awarded the Scholar Athlete Trophy. He met Carolyn Roberts, and they married in 1947. After graduating in 1948 and completing his Master’s Degree at Columbia University, he taught and coached for two years at Knoxville Farragut High School.
He returned to Milligan in 1951 to teach and coach. Through the years, he taught health and physical education and coached baseball, basketball, track, cross country and tennis. He was also athletic director, Dean of Men and head resident of the boys’ dorm.
Walker received Milligan’s highest honor, the Fide et Amore medallion for Distinguished Service. He was also an inaugural member of the Milligan Hall of Fame, a distinguished Milligan alumni, the 2001 NAIA National Athletic Director, a inductee into the 2008 class of the NAIA Hall of Fame and the Carter County Hall of Fame and the Northeast Tennessee Hall of Fame. Today, The Appalachian Athletic Conference has the Duard Walker All Sports Trophy in his honor. In December of 2000 Sports Illustrated featured him with an article entitled, “Like a Rock,” detailing his life and legacy.
Actively involved in Hopwood Christian Church, he has served in several capacities. His outreach to community includes: Little league coach, President of the Optimist Club, TSSAA basketball and football official and serving as the Northeast Tennessee TSSAA Football Commissioner. His participation in the Senior Games led his team to a National 3rd place in badminton. At age 91, he won gold in the 100 and 50 yard dashes, shot put, discus, javelin, softball throw, long jump and pickleball. In leading by example, Duard’s students realized what he taught went beyond academics and sports. He taught them about life and having the character and integrity to be the best they could be. In August, Duard and Carolyn will celebrate their 69th wedding anniversary with their five children, all of them Milligan graduates.