Iredell County Sports Hall of Fame

Six athletes or coaches and one legend in sports writing are those being honored by the Iredell County Sports Hall of Fame.

The Hall of Fame Committee made the announcement Thursday.

Long-time Record & Landmark editor Jerry Josey, who started his career as a sports reporter, is being honored with the Harold Johnson Community Partner Award. The fourth class of inductees have compiled more than 80 years of athletic contributions in Iredell County. The inductees are Luther Conger, Jean Dowell. Hazel Starrette Phillips, Joe Popp, David Rothwell and Donald Eugene Spencer.

Luther Conger

A graduate of Scott School, Luther Conger was an inaugural member of the 6-man football team. He started in all 24 games from 1948-1950. He was a Co-Captain of the 1949 Tri-County Conference championship team. Luther also played basketball and baseball. He was a three-year starter for his respective teams in basketball. Luther was also a four-year starting pitcher with a record of 18-4 for Scotts. He also played for the Statesville American Legion and the Salisbury Bombers Semi-Pro team. Luther went on to play baseball at Elon College from 1952-1957 with a record of 18-7 as a starter. He was All-North State Conference and All-State in 1954 and 1955. He signed a baseball contract with the Baltimore Orioles in 1955. Luther was inducted into the Elon College Sports Hall of Fame in 1981. He is married to Louise Conger.

Jean Dowell

A graduate of Union Grove School, Jean Dowell was before her time with women’s athletics. At Union Grove, she played basketball and softball. She was All-State in both sports. She went on to Western Carolina to find out there was no women’s basketball program. She set out to change that and played from 1963-1966 and was inducted into the Western Carolina University Sports Hall of Fame in 1992. She then went on to University of Georgia to start the women’s program in 1967 and coached will 1968. She then went to College of Mount St. Joesph’s to coach from 1970-1994 and in her first season, won the Ohio Intercollegiate Women’s Championship. Under Jean’s tutelage, the Lions made six straight NAIA District 22 appearances (1988-1993), and in 1992 won their first NAIA District 22 Championship advancing to the Final Four of NAIA Division II National Tournament. She had a 342-164 record with the Lions. She was inducted into the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame in 2011 and inducted into the Communiplex Women’s Sports Hall of Fame.

Hazel Starrette Phillips

A graduate of Cool Springs School, Hazel Starrette Phillips was born into a large family of six brothers and two sisters. She played basketball at Cool Springs as it was the only sport offered to girls at that time. She went on to High Point College and set a record for consecutive free throws and made an unassisted triple play in the state softball tournament. Hazel went on to play for Hanes Hosiery AAU Basketball Team. She is one of four players that played on all three National Championship teams for Hanes Hosiery and was names as a member of the 1952 All-World Girls Basketball Team and won two consecutive National Free Throw Shooting Championships. She later had a long coaching career at Camp Pla-Mor and Griffith, Parkland and Carver High Schools, where her overall winning percentage at 85% for softball, speedball, volleyball and basketball. Hazel was inducted into the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County High School Sports Hall of Fame in 1985.

Joe Popp

Born in Johnstown, Pennsylvania; Coach Popp was a stellar athlete, quarterbacking his high school football program to its first undefeated season. He received numerous college athletic scholarship offers and chose to come to North Carolina on a football and basketball scholarship at Catawba College. He excelled and lettered in both sports. After graduating in 1952, he became the Head Football Coach at Jonesville High School (now Starmount) in North Carolina, where he coached for four seasons winning 35 of 39 games. He was then named the Head Coach at Southwest High School in Winston-Salem, and led the school to win Conference Championships both seasons. Thereafter, he became the Head Coach at Mooresville High School in Mooresville, where the school had endured a 32 game losing streak. In just two years, Coach Popp led the Mooresville Blue Devils to an undefeated regular season. The following year, in 1961, Coach Popp led the school to win its first and only State Football Championship title. The high school stadium bears his name, Coach Joe Popp Stadium. Coach Popp's college and professional coaching career was equally impressive and spanned four decades. He coached at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, George Washington University, Wake Forest University and Georgia Tech during the 1960s and 1970s. He was the Defensive Coordinator at Wake Forest and Georgia Tech and coached in several bowl games. He coached in the World Football League for the Chicago Winds in the 1970s, and joined the Cleveland Browns coaching staff in the 1980s. He retired with the Browns in the early 1990s. Honored for his numerous achievements, Coach Popp was named one of the Top 50 All-Time Athletes in Western Pennsylvania's history and honored by the State Legislature of Pennsylvania. In his sixth year of coaching, he was named Coach of the Year. He was also inducted into three Halls of Fame - the Catawba College Hall of Fame, Pennsylvania's Cambria County Sports Hall of Fame and the Mooresville Hall of Fame, where he was part of the first class of inductees. In 2009, Catawba College created an athletic scholarship in honor of Coach Popp.

David Rothwell

A graduate of Albemarle High School, David Rothwell began his coaching career at his alma mater, coaching football and wrestling from 1972-1978. At Albemarle, he coached three wrestlers to WNCHSAA individual championships. In 1978, David moved to Asheboro High School to coach football and wrestling. Then in 1981, he moved to Statesville High School to coach until 1992. While at Statesville High School, David led the Greyhounds to a compiled record of 156-10 with nine conference championships, three regional titles, the 3A State Tournament Championship, the 3A State Dual Team Runners-Up and four individual State Champions. David served as the Team Director to the Jr. National Team tournament in 1989 and 1990. In 1992, MAT NEWS named David as the 3A State Coach of the Year. He was named Conference Coach of the Year, eleven times with an overall coaching record of 231-42-3. When he retired from coaching, David served as the Official 3A Scorekeeper for the NCHSAA Wrestling Championships. He is a Lifetime Member of the NC Coaches Association, served on multiple state committees with NC DPI and NCHSAA. He served as County Athletic Director from 2001-2012 for Iredell-Statesville Schools. David received the Proclamation of Achievement Award in 1994 and the Award of Merit in 1995. He was also named the Region 7 Athletic Director of the Year in 2002 and severed as the NC Athletic Directors Association President in 2006 and in 2008, he received the NIAAA State Award of Merit. David has been inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame as well as the North Carolina Athletic Directors Hall of Fame. David was also awarded the Charlie Adams Distinguished Service Award for Region 7 and NCAAE Athletic Director of the year.

Donald Eugene Spencer

“The Colonel” Donald Eugene Spencer was a man of no-nonsense attitude, an ethic of hard work and a physical presence. The Colonel came to Iredell County after his service to our country in the United States Marine Corps. He was employed by Mitchell Community College as the Dean of Men. Not long after his love sports lead him to coach the baseball and basketball teams. He led the 1973-1974 team to the Western Carolina Junior College baseball title. From there it was on to the Eastern District Playoffs and a berth in the National Junior College Athletic Association World Series. The Colonel was a man that not only led on and off the field. He developed young men into what they are today. Donald was named Southern District Coach of the Year in 1974 by the Professional Baseball Writers Association.

Harold Johnson Community Partner Award

Jerry Josey

Jerry Josey came up from the ranks in true old school newspaper fashion beginning as a carrier for the Statesville Daily Record. In the fall of 1947, he began helping cover county basketball games and by another year the high school student was considered part of the sports staff. Jerry graduated from Statesville High School in 1949 and served in the U.S. Navy in the Pacific during the Korean conflict. Before his discharge he worked in the military newspaper office at Pearl Harbor. After the service he worked briefly for the Lenoir Topic before joining the newly-merged Statesville Record & Landmark in 1954 as its first full-time sports editor. In 1962, Jerry was promoted to city editor and by his retirement in 1998 had risen to Executive Editor. His by-line, however, continued to appear on the sports pages as he filled in as sports editor in the late 1960s and often contributed columns about sports in general and specific sporting events. Jerry was a decorated sportswriter. In 1961, he was honored at the North Carolina Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame banquet as the winner of their community service award for sportswriters. Jerry also won multiple North Carolina Press Association awards in the spot sports reporting category. A judge praised one of his winning entries as “Excellent entertaining writing in colorful style.”

Jerry is a perfect choice for the Hall of Fame Committee that exemplifies the spirit to grow and help athletics in Iredell County to receive the 2019 Harold Johnson Community Partner Award and induction into the Iredell County Sports Hall of Fame. 

Induction Ceremony:

The Hall of Fame induction ceremony will be held May 20 at the Statesville Country Club. The event will start at 6 p.m. Tickets to attend are $50 and a meal is included. Tables of eight can be purchased for $350.

Seniors from each of the high schools in Iredell County will be recognized and the Hall of Fame Committee will be naming an Athlete of the Year for both girls and boys. To purchase tickets or anyone with questions cam call Ryan Pegarsch, executive director at 704-307-3912 or email at director@iredellsportshalloffame.org.  

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