The names lining the walls read like a page from a "how-to" manual on sporting glory.
There are all-timers here, hallowed names, some current professionals and some of the people who shaped sports throughout Georgia and beyond.
Welcome to the Northeast Georgia Sports Hall of Fame.
Sporting culture accounts for something special throughout this nation and this state, and Northeast Georgia has produced more than its fair share of memories when it comes to sporting endeavors.
It is the Northeast Georgia Sports Hall of Fame’s avowed purpose to keep those memories alive and fresh, and to honor those who have played a role in giving pride to the area. This summer, the Hall is set to induct five new members.
"Ever since I can remember, sports has played a key role in Northeast Georgia," noted longtime sports editor Phil Jackson, who began his journalism career with The Times in the 1930s and helped assemble the first two Hall of Fame classes. "My family moved up here from Washington, Georgia, when I was 10, and this area already had quite a reputation for sports, especially for things like mill league baseball and Gainesville High football."
Beginning in 2004, the Hall — under the guidance of Jackson — has inducted 85 individuals, two teams and a sporting club into its annals, each among the best in their sport of choice.
"Because we have so many people that have done so much, we had to put some strict guidelines on who gets in," Jackson said. "So we decided that to get in, you had to have some sort of national recognition."
Names like Tommy Aaron (1973 Masters champion), Damon Evans (Gainesville High and University of Georgia football player and current UGA athletic director) and Terry Allen (Banks County, Clemson and NFL football player), will be known to even average sports fans across the nation. But even some of the names known more locally have all proved themselves against the best.
Athletes and coaches like Seth Vining, Stephanie Ransom and Kingsley Barrett have each excelled at the highest levels.
"A lot of folks don’t realize this about Barrett, but she won four straight state individual titles in golf in high school, and that had never been done before in this state," Jackson said. "She went on to compete with some really good teams at Auburn, but she would have been eligible even for what she did in high school."
After a three-year respite, the Hall is ready to continue adding to its honor roll and will induct five more local legends, each of which has accomplishments worthy enough to stand up on a national level.
The Hall is also adding another chapter to its legacy this summer with the edition of the Elite 10. Along with its five new members, the Hall will honor 10 of the greatest prep athletes to have graced the area over the past 10 years (2000-09).
Starting on today and running through July 19, the Hall of Fame will release one name per day of each of the 15 athletes and coaches set to be honored this year. Keep an eye on your local publications and an ear to the radio to find out who will make up the class of 2009.
It is sure to stoke warm memories and maybe even spark a little debate, as we look back at the people who have made sports what it is in Northeast Georgia.
"This is still a big sports area, and we’re still coming up with names worthy of going into the Hall even today," Jackson said.