Posts Tagged ‘N.C. Sports Hall of Fame’

Joey Cheek waving the American flag at the 2006 Turin Olympics. Photo credit: Sports Illustrated.

There’s been a great deal of buzz around North Carolina athletes participating in the 2012 Summer Olympics. From the record number of swimmers with North Carolina ties to the prominence of athletes from UNC-Chapel Hill in the games, the Tar Heel state has made quite a splash in the run up to this year’s Olympics.

Several great Olympians of the past have come from North Carolina, and in celebration of the opening of the London games, we’ve gathered a few of their stories below.

  • Though born in New York City, Michael Jordan was raised in Wilmington. After a legendary three years at UNC-Chapel Hill, Jordan went on to play for the Chicago Bulls and was part of two gold medal-winning basketball teams in 1984 and 1992.
  • Originally from California, figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi resided in Raleigh while her husband played for the Carolina Hurricanes. After winning two consecutive world titles in 1991 and 1992, Yamaguchi won a gold medal in the 1992 Albertville games.
  • Sugar Ray Leonard originally hails from Rocky Mount and grew up in Wilmington. In addition to winning the 1976 gold medal for boxing in the light welterweight category, Leonard won five titles and was the first boxer to earn more than $100 million in purses.

A few lesser known Olympians from North Carolina have also made a mark on history:

  • A runner from High Point, Harry Williamson was the first North Carolinian to participate in an Olympics. Though he didn’t win a medal for his 800-meter run in the 1936 Berlin games, he was part of a world record 4 x 800-meter team later that year.

These stories represent only a small part of the storied history of North Carolina sports. You can explore the lives of Olympians and other renowned athletes, and see artifacts from Tar Heel sports at the N.C. Sports Hall of Fame, located on third floor of the N.C. Museum of History. NCpedia also has a wonderful collection of sports biographies worth checking out.

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In the days when female golfers were evaluated on their hats and hairstyles while being called “Georgia peach,” or “Carolina housewife,” one woman towered above the crowd. The resume of Estelle Lawson Page (1907-1983) earned her a spot in the first North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame induction class in 1963.  In honor of Women’s History Month, let’s take a closer look at her achievements.

This star of the links earned 10 Carolinas Amateurs titles, seven North and South amateurs victories over 10 years, a national championship, and twice represented the U.S. in international competition.  Lawson is generally considered the greatest female golfer in Tar Heel history.

During one event in Pinehurst in 1938, the New York Times wrote, “Stealing away from her household duties at Chapel Hill, Mrs. Estelle Lawson Page, women’s national champion, motored here today, fired the best score in the St. Valentine’s tournament, and then hastened home to prepare supper for her husband, Julius.”

The champion was described as the “Carolina housewife” and “determined young matron.”  One newspaper headline proclaimed “Queen of America’s Golfers Turns to Plain Housewife At Chapel Hill.”  She joked about her domestic skills and bemoaned her weight when prompted.  “You can’t reduce and play golf,” she explained.  “Most of us look like baby elephants.”

Page was born in New Jersey but grew up in Chapel Hill.  She graduated from Chapel Hill High School, where she played tennis and basketball.  She practiced with the men’s freshmen tennis and basketball teams at the University of North Carolina, since female students then could not compete in sports.  She graduated in 1928.  Later her father, a UNC coach and faculty member who was briefly a major league pitcher, taught Page and himself to play golf. 

Page won her first Carolina’s Amateur tournament in 1932, and three years became the first woman to win the North and South in Pinehurst.  Other titles included the 1946 Southern Amateur, and the Mid-South Amateur by a whopping 23 strokes one year.  In 1947 she tied the famous Babe Didrikson Zaharias for North and South medalist honors.

Among great thrills of her life, Page included her singles victories in two United States Curtis Cup triumphs (1938, 1948) over Great Britain.  She never turned professional, but competed in early pro events as an amateur.  She also held several leadership positions in women’s golf.  Page is buried in the Old Chapel Hill Cemetery.

Adapted from an article that originally appeared in Circa 2, no. 1 (spring/summer 2009): 16–17, copyright North Carolina Museum of History. Used with permission.


Also for Women’s History Month…
Library Trivia hosted by the Government and Heritage Library and the Express Library Fayetteville Street (Wake County Libraries) at the Morning Times, 10 E. Hargett St., in downtown Raleigh!

When: Thu, March 3, 7:30pm – 9:00pm

Where: Morning Times, 10 E. Hargett St., Raleigh, NC  – the event will be held on the second floor of the café (accessible by stairs)

Come out and test your trivia knowledge and win prizes! In honor of Women’s History Month the topic will be women and North Carolina women’s history. For more information go to www.ghlblog.org or contact Rebecca Hyman, rebecca.hyman@ncdcr.gov , 919.807.7454.

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