Those four inductees were former Spring Garden basketball player Tim Cronan, former Cherokee County coach Bobby Beckett, former Sand Rock and Jacksonville State University basketball player Earl Cleland and former Cherokee County basketball player Michael Stimpson. Their additions give the Cherokee County Hall of Fame a total of 22 total members.
Beckett was the first member to be honored last Saturday. Beckett was a part of 168 wins at Cherokee County High School, including back-to-back baseball state championships in 1980-81 and four area championships. Prior to coming to Cherokee County, Beckett helped Ragland High School’s baseball program claim state runner-up in 1971.
Along his coaching path, Beckett coached numerous athletes who have played at the collegiate level, and three of his baseball players (Greg Jelks, Shawn Covington and Patrick Jelks) went on to play professionally. Beckett also holds the distinctions of coaching five different sports in Cherokee County (baseball, football, boys and girls basketball and track).
Beckett also established the baseball program at Gaylesville and was also the head football coach at Collinsville High School (1993-97), where he led the Panthers to a 9-2 record in 1995 and was ranked as high as second in the state football poll. Beckett’s 1997 team finished 7-5 and went to the state quarterfinals.
The Panthers baseball program also flourished with Beckett at the helm. He led Collinsville to three playoff appearances and an area championship from 1995-98.
After his tenure at Collinsville, Beckett went on to become the Warriors head football coach in 1998. That team won the area championship for the first time since 1991 and finished with an 8-3 record.
Beckett, who is still coaching today as a football defensive coordinator at Chattooga County, Ga., passed his knowledge of coaching to his son, Alan, who is now the head football coach at Collinsville.
Alan Beckett presented his father into the Hall of Fame.
Following Beckett’s induction, Cleland was honored for his career accomplishments. As a 6-foot-5 center at Sand Rock in the late 1950s, Cleland was a three-time All-Cherokee County basketball selection (1955-57), which helped him earn a scholarship to Jacksonville State where he was a four-year starter.
Cleland led Jacksonville State in scoring during the 1958-59 and 1959-60 seasons, averaging 13.1 points and 11.3 points respectively. He was also the leader in rebounds and field goal percentage in 1960, which helped earn him the J.W. Stephenson Most Valuable Player honor.
Cleland was presented to the Hall by his high school basketball coach Paul Johnson.
Cleland was followed by Cronan, one of Spring Garden basketball’s most prolific scorers and rebounders.
Cronan averaged over 20 points and grabbed more than 10 rebounds per game for the Panthers in the late 1970s, which helped earn him three All-Cherokee County basketball team selections (1976-79), all-area honors from1977-79, two all-state selections in 1978 and 1979 and a spot on the 1979 North All-Star Basketball team.
Most people in Spring Garden remember the 1978-79 Panther team for its valiant run in the state tournament, of which Cronan was a big part. That season, Spring Garden finished 22-11 and made it to the state tournament where it finished runner-up to Rebecca Comer.
A couple of seasons prior to the Panthers’ state runner-up finish, when Cronan was a sophomore, the Panthers were 1-24.
Cronan’s coach, Dale Welsh, presented Cronan into the Hall.
The final honoree of the night was Stimpson. An all-state basketball selection and Cherokee County MVP in 1969, Stimpson added another impressive accolade to his high-school athletic resume on April 11, 1969. On that day, Stimpson became the first athlete at Cherokee County High School to break the five-minute mile run mark with a time of 4:42.
A few hours later, he would be fighting for his life.
The same day in which Stimpson set the mile mark, he was involved in a terrible car accident which killed senior teammate Kenny Holcomb and severely injured Stimpson. He was unconscious for three weeks following the accident. When he finally awoke, he couldn’t walk or talk.
His hard work and determination to make it back on the playing fields helped him earn a scholarship to St. Bernard College in 1971, where he played basketball and baseball. Stimpson then transferred to Gadsden State in 1972, where earned a scholarship to play basketball. He eventually earned a degree from Samford University in 1975.
Stimpson was already a well-established name in Cherokee County before the accident. As a sophomore in 1968, he helped lead the Warrior basketball team to a 26-6 record and a runner-up finish in the area tournament.
The following season, Stimpson and the Warriors finished as the Class 3A state runner-up to Austin from Decatur. Austin handed Cherokee County its only loss of the season, as the Warriors finished with a 29-1 record.
Stimpson was the Warriors’ leading scorer that year, averaging 20 points per game.
In his three years on the varsity team, Stimpson led the Warriors to a 74-19 mark. He was heavily recruited in basketball before the accident. Among those interested in his talent were Tennessee, Cornell and Davidson.
While Stimpson was best known for his basketball skills, he also made his mark in football. He played numerous positions in his three seasons, mostly at wide receiver and special teams. He played offensive end and defensive guard his senior year. Cherokee County went 24-4-1 during Stimpson’s years on the varsity team, including the Warriors’ 1968 fifth-place finish in the state in Class 3A.
For the early part of his senior year, Stimpson was relegated to being a spectator in the press box when the Warriors took the field. Without Stimpson that season, the Warriors went 1-2-1. When he returned to the field against Hokes Bluff, the Warriors claimed a 47-21 victory and didnʼt lose a game the rest of the season. They finished with a record of 7-2-1.
Stimpson was presented into the Hall of Fame by former Cherokee County basketball coach Jerald Cardin.