The Thomaston-Upson Sports Hall of Fame held its 2013 induction banquet Saturday, Feb. 23 at the Upson-Lee High School cafeteria. The committee inducted five new members, Gwen Murphy Cowart, Tammy Dawson, Jeff Neighbors, Ronnie Paul, and Wallace Rhodes. The committee also inducted 1972 Thomaston Little League All-Star Team. The 2013 Merit Award was given to William H. Heule for “his selfless contributions to the athletics of Thomaston and Upson County.”
In the finals, the 1972 little league team faced a team from East Marietta, an area of the state where many strong baseball players originate. Against these odds, the young Thomaston youth pulled off the feat of State Little League Champions. This was the first and only time a little league team from Thomaston has won the State Championship.
Members of the 1972 team are Andy Allen, Steve Brown, Wayne Chambers, Jim Dawkins, Reid Flanagan, Claude Johnson, Lee Lindsey, Kim Montgomery, Tim Norris, Downey Poteat, Bobby Selph, and Richard Smith. Coaches were Sammy Waller and Claude Waller.
Gwen Murphy Cowart is a 1965 graduate of the R.E. Lee Institute where she was a three-year letterman and starter for the Rebel basketball team. In 1963 Cowart finished the season with a perfect 32-0 record. After graduating, she attended West Georgia College (now University of West GA) where she played volleyball. She was named Most Valuable Player in 1968 and “Woman Athlete-of-the-year” in 1969 at West Georgia.
Tammy Dawson is a 1983 graduate of the R.E. Lee Institute. She was a four-year letter winner for the Lady Rebels basketball team. Coach Bobby Smith once said, “You did not outwork Tammy Dawson.” Dawson went on to play at Gordon Junior College (now Gordon State College). At Gordon she held the highest scoring average in Ga. and was 14th in the nation. In 1988 she was named Gordon’s team captain. Dawson was selected as one of the top five junior college players in 1988 by the Atlanta Tip-Off Club. Gordon retired her jersey, #30 following her 1988 season. Dawson now coaches basketball at the Thomaston Civic Center.
Jeff Neighbors is a 1982 graduate of the R.E. Lee Institute. Neighbors was a three-year letterman linebacker and kicker for the Rebels from 1979-1981. In 1980 he was named Lee’s Best Defensive Back Award; in 1981 he was named the Rebels’ Most Valuable Player. In 1981, Neighbors was named to the national “Blue Chip Report” as a top football prospect in America by the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Neighbors earned a football scholarship to Auburn University. Neighbors resides in Thomaston with his wife, Alicia, and their family; he is a Thomaston business owner.
Ronnie Paul participated in many local youth recreational programs in his early years. He is a 1978 graduate of the R.E. Lee Institute. Paul was a four-year letterman for the Rebel football team. He is the only runner in R.E. Lee history to be the top rusher for three seasons. “He was running just as hard the 30th time as he was the first time,” said coach Tommy Purdue, who coached the Rebel football team. Paul’s athletic awards include: 1974 Most Promising Player; 1975 and 1976 Best Offensive Back Award; and 1977 Most Valuable Player award. Paul’s uniform, #32, was retired following his career at R.E. Lee. Paul received a football scholarship to Davidson College in N.C. Paul resides in Thomaston with his wife Dianne and children in Thomaston.
Wallace Rhodes is a 1954 graduate of Cuthbert High School. He was a four-year letterman in football, basketball, baseball, and track. Rhodes attended Auburn University and was a member of the freshman basketball team. In 1964 Rhodes became the head coach for the boys basketball team, head coach for the track team, and assistant football coach at R.E. Lee Institute. Rhodes finished the 1968 basketball season with a 21-3 record; he finished the 1975 season with a 22-3 record. Over a dozen of his player received scholarships to play at the college level in their sport. In 1976 Rhodes became Principal of R.E. Lee Institute and then Superintendent of Thomaston City Schools. Rhodes currently resides in Thomaston with his wife Lynda; he is a member of the Thomaston City Council.
The 2013 Merit Award went to William H. “Bill” Heule. Heule entered the Navy at age 18 and served in Yeoman and on the USS Missouri during World War II. After the war, Heule attended Emory University and earned a degree in journalism. After graduating Heule was employed by WSFT radio in Thomaston. In 1950, Heule married Ruth Bennett; in 1954 they had a daughter, Nan.
Heule became an active member of the Thomaston community, he was was member of the Morning Star Lodge #27, a member and president of the Thomaston Jaycees, a member and president of the Thomaston Lions Club, a past district governor for the Georgia’s Lions Club, a member of the Pete Thurston American Legion Post #81, and a member of the First United Methodist Church. Heule eventually became co-owner of WSFT radio.
Heule broadcast R.E. Lee baseball games and covered R.E. Lee football and basketball teams. He tirelessly recorded interviews with coaches and players in an attempt to keep his listeners up to date with the athletic programs at Lee and Upson High Schools. He was most well known for his popular broadcast, “Rebel Roundup,” a fall Saturday morning wrap-up show covering R.E. Lee football.
Bill Heule died in 1990, three years before the school consolidation. His daughter, Nan Heule-Brown, accepted the award on his behalf.