Inside Hotlanta and the SIAC
By Hal Lamar
Photos by Patsy Collier-Lamar
At last! South Carolina’s Joe Mathis inducted in state’s Athletic Hall of Fame
Although this writer is happy it happened. I am also saddened that it took the decision makers of the South Carolina Sports Hall of Fame so long to see what has been apparent to those of us who pushed to instill legendary high school coaching gibraltar Joseph “Joe Mathis.
It certainly wasn’t because they didn’t know. In the so called Palmetto State, retired South Carolina State head football coach Willie “Jeff” Jeffries, a voting member of the Hall of Fame committee pushed doggedly on Joe’s behalf. No small amount of prodding came from Coach Mathis’s daiughter,Janice, now a prominent attorney and head of the Georgia chapter of Rainbow and her sister-in-law, Davita Mathis, who is also a successful barrister in South Carolina.
Both co-host a successful radio program devoted to the law with anchor Lorraine White on Atlanta's WAOK Monday mornings (WAOK.com) I got to know Janice some years ago when she set foot in Atlanta to begin her practice and represent the organization founded by a Joe Mathis protégé, Rev Jesse Jackson. I have spoken with Rev. Jackson on several occasions about Coach Mathis and he always remembered the opportunities he provided his ballplayers by taking them to various cities for games. I also prodded (probably to death) Coach Jefferies who told me in 2010 that 2011 would be Mathis’s year.
Mathis coached at Greenville, South Carolina’s E.R. Sterling High school, so named not long after the start of the 20th century for Mrs E.R Sterling, a benefactor who financed the education of the school’s first principal DM Minus at Claflin College (now of the SIAC).
Mathis, a graduate of the high school himself, returned in 1946 after an outstanding college career at Benedict and Allen University and helped put Tiger football on the map. According to the Mathis and Mathis legal team in their blog , “ole black Joe” compiled a 107-17-26 mark and three AAA state titles. It was no easy feat, going up against teams like Pearl High of Nashville, Howard of Chattanooga (the late Reggie White’s high school alma mater), Booker Washington and Manassas of Memphis, Booker T Washington, Howard, Carver and Turner High schools of Atlanta, and Risley High of Brunswick.. Many of his talented elevens went on to college and pro fame including JD Smith (NC A&T) a 1955 NFL draft pick and a two-time all-pro and Jackson, a quarterback who came within an eyelash of being recruited to Atlanta’s Clark ( now CAU) College
“ I was sent by (Clark head football Coach Leonidas) Epps on a recruiting trip which included looking at Jackson,” said former CAU Head Coach Jesse McClardy. “ I was told he was the truth. He was.”
But notwithstanding football, Mathis found time somehow to coach other school sports, teach physical education and was the school’s assistant principal. He was a disciplinarian but a caring coach who admonished students and athletes to attend college and often took money out of his own pocket to buy clothes for needy students.
The state of South Carolina took their sweet time about it but have at last given “jolting” Joe his comeuppance. His beloved city of Greenville and the USA can do no less.
(Thanks to Janice and Davita for the information on their blog page that made this column possible).
I took a glance at the qualifiers for the NCAA Division II outdoor track and field events for May 26-28 and found the SIAC well represented in the men’s 200 meters, 110 and 400 high hurdles, 4x100 and 4x400 and a discus thrower from Morehouse College. Also catching my eye as I perused the page was Lincoln University of Missouri which qualified five of their cindermen in the 100…
…The SIAC women are also represented with two making the grade in the 200 meters, Albany State’s 4x100 team making the list along with Fort Valley’s 4x400 team and Paine and Valley lady athletes qualifying in the high jump and long jump….
The 28th Circle City Classic in Indianapolis Indiana will feature two teams from the SIAC. Defending conference champ Albany State will take on the ‘Breds” of Kentucky State University. Interesting that the Classic, known to mix Division I and II teams together (INSIDE was in Indy in 2008 when Tuskegee surprised Alabama A&M ) chose two from the same conference. The game is scheduled for October 1 in Lucas Oil Stadium……
While in Oklahoma City for the graduation of my daughter Anita from law school a fortnight ago, Patsy and I drove out to Langston University. Those who attend the college a far piece outside Oklahoma City don’t have to fear nightlife interfering with their studies.
To put it as politely as possible, Langston is in the “boonies”. But if I had a college-age youngster and wanted to make sure their heads were in the books and not the streets, I’d send them to Langston in a heartbeat!!!....Incidentally, you will notice yours truly is in a cloaked cap and gown aside my daughter the barrister.. On May 7, I was humbled with the presentation of an honorary doctor of divinity degree from Atlanta’s Carver College. Carver is one of only a handful of predominately black schools of theology in the US and head by Rev Robert Crummie (Benedict).