50 CLASSES OF ASHOF Class of 1997

Published Wednesday, November 29, 2017 4:00 pm

On April 28, 2018, the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame will induct its 50th Class.  In celebration of this milestone, we will be providing you with information on all of our Inductees beginning with the Inaugural Class of 1969, and culminating with the Class of 2018.


Number 26 of 50

Class of 1997

  


 

Neil Bonnett

Neil Bonnett born in 1946 in Hueytown, Alabama. He entered his first stock car race in 1969. It took him just three weeks to win his first race at Montgomery International Speedway. He went on to spend 25 years in racing, becoming one of the most popular drivers in NASCAR history and one of the key members of Alabama's prominent "Hueytown Gang" racing family. He had 18 Winston Cup victories and 21 pole positions in his storied career, which came to a tragic end when he died in a practice-run accident at Daytona International Speedway in 1994. Among his most significant victories were the Firecracker 400 at Daytona in 1977, the Talladega 500 in 1980, the Southern 500 at Darlington in 1981 and a pair of World 600 victories at Charlott in 1982 and 1983. He finished his career with $3.85 million in earnings.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Alice Coachman Davis

Alice Coachman Davis was born Nov. 24, 1921 in Albany, Ga. She was "discovered" by Tuskegee Institute track coach Cleve Abbott, who moved her to Alabama where he groomed her to become the best female athlete in the world. She became the most in spring black woman athlete in the U.S. in the first half century winning the 1948 Olympic Games in London with a record high jump of 5 feet, 6-inches. In the process, she became the first black woman to win an Olympic Gold Medal. Her record stood for eight years. She went on to win 25 national championships from 1939-48, mostly in the high jump, but was also a four-year All-American in the 50-yard and 100-yard dashes. When her athletic career ended, she returned to Tuskegee to become a teacher where her accomplishments served as inspiration for her students.



 

  

Theodore Roosevelt Dunn III
 
Theodore Roosevelt Dunn III was born in 1956 in Birmingham, Alabama. Dunn was known to basketball fans in Alabama as T.R. He led West End High School to the 1972 state basketball championship in his junior year and was named MVP. He went on to star at the University of Alabama, where he earned a special place in Alabama basketball history. Although he never led the Tide in scoring, rebounding or assists, he was the unquestioned leader long before being elected captain his junior year in 1976. Dunn was a four-year letterman from 1974-77 at Alabama, he started 105 consecutive games. He went on to the NBA when Portland drafted him in the second round in '77. He was named to the NBA All-Defensive team for three straight seasons. Many consider him best defensive guard in the NBA in the last two decades. He is currently on the coaching staff of the Denver Nuggets of the NBA.
 
William Henry Getty France
 
William Henry Getty France was born Sept. 29, 1909, in Washington D.C. France was known affectionately as "Big Bill" by race drivers. He was the founding father of the National Association for Stock Car Automobile Racing (NASCAR). He started as an apprentice mechanic, to mechanic, to driver, to building his own race cars….to eventually building the nation's finest super speedways at Daytona and Talladega. Don Naman, executive director of the International Motorsports Hall of Fame an Museum, said, "I'm convinced in my mind Bill's four greatest accomplishments were putting together NASCAR, building Daytona in 1959, opening Talladega in 1969, and creating the (Motorsports) Hall of Fame in 1983." France died in 1992 at the age of 82, but not before turning over family NASCAR business operations to his son.
 

Ozzie Smith

Ozzie Smith was born in Mobile the day after Christmas in 1954. Smith is a Baseball Hall of Famer waiting to happen after a dazzling baseball career with the St. Louis Cardinals that included 13 Gold Gloves, 13 All-Star games, three NL championship games and three World Series. Dubbed "The Wizard of Oz" for his fielding, he holds the NL record for most games played by a shortstop (2,581) and holds the major league record for most assists by a shortstop (8,375).
 


Willie Smith
 
 


 

Willie Smith is a transplanted New Yorker who was the 1974 National High School Athlete of the Year at Uniondale High School on Long Island. He came to Auburn University along with fellow Auburn teammate Harvey Glance. Smith earned a spot representing the U.S. in track and field at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal. He was a two-time NCAA 400-meter champion (1977-1978) and in 1978 earned Auburn University's top honor as Athlete of the Year. After graduation, Smith won the American 400- meter championship (1979-1980) the world championship as a member of 4x400-meter relay team (1979-81). His hopes of an Olympic Gold Medal were ruined in 1980 when, after making the U.S. Team, sat out the competition when the U.S. boycotted the Games. He did get his Gold in 1984, however, on the 4x400 winning relay team. At age 40, he competed in a collegiate meet, won his heat and finished sixth overall. Smith set a world 400-meter masters' record in 1996.