Thursday, March 26, 2015

Wendell Hart deserves spot in Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame

EHS Coach Wendell Hart
The Alabama High School Athletic Association inducted its 25th group of honorees into the AHSAA Sports Hall of Fame on Monday at the Renaissance Hotel at the Convention Center in Montgomery.

This year’s group included 12 outstanding individuals who have gone above and beyond in their contributions to high school athletics in Alabama over the years. This year’s class included Houston Young, Bobby Wright, John Tatum, Steve Rivers, Alan Mitchell, Myra Miles, Steve Jefferson, Ron Ingram, Doug Goodwin, Jack Doss, James “J.D.” Chesteen and Nancy Becker.

Chesteen, a 1946 graduate of Brantley High School and a long-time head football coach at Coffee Springs, Samson and Geneva County, was inducted into the Sports Hall of Fame this year in the “Old Timer” Category. Each year since the AHSAA inducted its first class into the Sports Hall of Fame in 1991, they have inducted an “Old Timer” for accomplishments prior to 1991. More often than not, this inductee has already passed away.

When it comes to Conecuh County and the “Old Timer” category, I’m convinced that former Evergreen High School coach Wendell Hart more than deserves a place in the AHSAA Sports Hall of Fame.
Hart’s sports life in Conecuh County spanned decades. Anyone who’s read our regular Sports Flashback feature over the past several years will have seen that Hart was not only a successful football, basketball and baseball coach, but he also excelled in those sports as a player. Hart touched many lives, and there are still many of Hart’s former players and teammates in the community and elsewhere who have fond memories of Hart.

Hart passed away at the age of 60 on Nov. 26, 1977, well before the first class was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1991. Known as “Coach Hart” to hundreds of former students and players, he served as a head coach at Evergreen High School for 20 years. He also coached at Luverne, Elba and Lyeffion. In his heyday, he was one of the state’s most successful coaches and the coach with the most senior years of service in the state.

He was also a graduate of Evergreen High School, where he was an outstanding athlete before going on to play at Sunflower Junior College in Moorehead, Miss. and Millsap College in Jackson, Miss. In both high school and in college, Hart lettered in football, baseball and basketball. He went on to graduate from Troy State University.

After serving in World War II, he was named the head coach at Evergreen in 1946 and successfully coached football, basketball and baseball. In 1949, he coached the only undefeated football team in Evergreen High School history, going 8-0-2. His teams in 1949 and 1950, had a combined record of 17-1-2.

Later, he left Evergreen to coach at Luverne and Elba and had success at both of those schools. He eventually returned to Evergreen as a head coach and teacher, and later coached at Lyeffion. His health eventually forced him to give up coaching.

When you take into account his entire career and the impact he had on so many young people, he more than deserves inclusion in the AHSAA Sports Hall of Fame in the “Old Timer” category. 

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