Six former standout athletes from their years at Hoke County High School were inducted into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame over the weekend. Two others, Robert Blue, an Upchurch High School graduate, and Benny McLeod, a Hoke County High School graduate, were honored with Legacy Awards for their athletic accomplishments in the days before Hoke High was integrated. Athletic Director Gary Brigman says a Hawkeye High School graduate will be honored next year.
Brigman inducted athletes Paul Jackson, Tondea Jackson, Timothy Dial, Sharon McMillan and Frank Williamson Saturday afternoon in a ceremony attended only by a few family members of the recipients. He says a more fitting event will be held in the fall after COVID-19 concerns diminish. Profiles of the athletes follow:
Robert Alexander Blue, a Legacy Award winner, was in the Class of 1963 at Upchurch High School, graduating with honors. He was recognized for his ability on and off the field, and was awarded a full scholarship for academics as well as athletics.
Blue attended North Carolina Central, but was a sought after basketball player, receiving athletic offers from Johnson C. Smith and Fayetteville State. During his high school career, spanning 1960-1963, Blue was a vital member of Upchurch High School’s basketball team. His team brought home the championship in 1961, 1962, and 1963. He led Upchurch High School in scoring, averaging 30 points a game during his senior year.
Blue dedicated his adult life to Hoke County Schools, coaching basketball in Hoke County for decades. He finished his career in education as a basketball coach at West Hoke Middle School.
Blue died February 9, 2020.
Benny McLeod, the second Legacy Award winner, was a two-sport star for Hoke High School, excelling at football and baseball from 1950-1954. He was an all-star running back for the Bucks Football team and was relied on by his baseball team as an Outfielder. During his senior season, the football team went 5 and 5. The baseball team beat Massey Hill High School in a memorable game as Massey Hill was one of the better schools in the area.
After graduation McLeod went to a prep school to play football and sharpened his skills. He then went to UNC and received an official invitation to walk on as a non-scholarship player. He made the team and played in several games. He was instrumental in helping the Hoke County School district purchase the land to build the McLeod Tennis Courts.
Paul Jackson attended Hoke County High School from the fall of 1974 until the spring of 1978. He was an outstanding athlete and school leader. In athletics he played on the football team and wrestled on the wrestling team. He was a team leader in practice, in matches and in school, providing leadership for all of his teammates and fellow students.
As a freshman in high school he played on the J.V. football team, mostly on the defensive line. He was one of the younger wrestlers on the wrestling team and wrestled in the upper weight classes against much older wrestlers gaining valuable experience and growing in strength.
When he was a sophomore in high school he made the varsity football team. He played on the defensive line against older opponents and held his own. He lettered in both football and wrestling. His record in wrestling was good enough as a sophomore that he qualified for the Sectional Tournament.
In his junior year Jackson again lettered in football and wrestling and played on the tennis team. On the football team he started on defense in each of the 10 games, earned a Coaches Award Plaque, was a Co-Captain of the team and earned membership to the Southern 4A Athletic Conference football All Conference Team. He had a 10-4 record in wrestling which qualified him for the District Tournament. He finished in the top four wrestlers in the Sectional Tournament to qualify for the District Tournament.
His senior year, he received a plaque for a Coaches Award in football, was a Co-Captain of the football team and lettered in football. Not many stats were kept for high school football defensive linemen when he played but he was a team leader. He also wrestled on the Southeastern 4A Conference Championship wrestling team. He won the Conference 198 lb weigh class championship and qualified the Sectional, District and North Carolina High School Athletic Association State Wrestling Tournament.
In Veterans Park in Fayetteville, there is a Wall of Oath (to represent the oath each veteran took when entering the service). It displays a bronze hand taken from casts of 500 veterans from North Carolina. Five veterans from each of the 100 counties of North Carolina were selected to have a cast made, and Jackson is one selected. It is on display on the Hoke County column in the park.
Tondea Jackson lettered in three sports for each of the four years she attended Hoke County High School, fall of 1972 through spring of 1976. This was the maximum number of letters an athlete could earn and thus she was an Antler Award winner each year of her high school career.
She earned two letters in tennis, one in her freshman year and one in her sophomore year when she was selected for the Southeastern 4A Athletic Conference, All Conference Tennis team. In her junior and senior years she lettered in basketball where she was a co-captain, all conference, team leading scorer, and selected by coaches for the team Most Valuable Player for each of the two years.
She was on the Girls Golf team and lettered each of her four years in high school. She made the cut for the North Carolina High School Athletic Association Girls Golf State Tournament her sophomore and junior years. She was selected for the Southeastern 4A All Conference Girls Golf Team her freshman, sophomore, and junior years in high school.
In girls’ track and field, Jackson lettered all four of her years in high school. She ran the 100-yard dash, threw the discus and competed on two relay teams. She ran on five different North Carolina High School Athletic Association State Championship relay teams. As a freshman she was on the state champion 4 X 110 yard relay team and the second place 4 x 220 yard relay team. In her sophomore and junior years she ran on each of the state champion 4 x 220 yard relay teams. In her senior year she ran on the state champion 4 x 110 yard and the state champion 4 x 220 yard relay teams. She was also on the Southeastern 4A Athletic Conference All Conference Team each of her four years in high school.
After graduating from high school, she attended East Carolina University and graduated in 1981 with a BSP degree in Political Science.
She is currently a territory account manager in pharmaceutical sales , and has received numerous awards and recognition for achievement.
Timothy Dial attended Hoke County High School from the fall of 1970 to the spring of 1974. He became a member of the wrestling team as a freshman and wrestled three of his four years in high school. He wrestled in the 107 pound and 112 pound weight classes and finished his freshman season with a 3-6-0 record.
As a sophomore he continued to improve in the 121- pound weight class finishing with a 7-1-0 record. He placed in the top 3 in the Southeastern 4A Athletic Conference Wrestling Tournament and qualified for the North Carolina High School Athletic Association Sectional Wrestling Tournament.
In his senior year, he wrestled in the 121- pound weight class. He placed 1st in that weight class in the Southeastern 4A Athletic Conference Wrestling Tournament. He qualified for the North Carolina High School Athletic Association District Wrestling Tournament and placed first in the 121 pound weight class. He thus qualified for the North Carolina High School Athletic Association State Wrestling Tournament. He wrestled to the state finals before finishing in second place. Dial became the first Hoke County High School wrestler to compete in the state finals in any weight class. His season record was 22-1-1 his only loss coming in the state finials. He was selected as the Hoke County High School “Most Outstanding Wrestler” for 1974. After the season he received a wrestling scholarship to Pembroke State University.
Dial had a successful career at Pembroke State University. He wrestled in the 118-pound weight class. He qualified for the National Wrestling Championships in 1975 and 1976. He was runner up-All American wrestler in 1977-78. He graduated in 1978.
He has worked for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), retiring after 32 years of service. His final assignment was overseeing half of the (USDA) inspectors across the U.S.
He currently resides in Chicago, Illinois and volunteers transporting veterans to doctor’s appointments.
Sharon McMillan graduated from Hoke County High in 1980. She lettered in three sports in each of her four years she attended Hoke County High school.
In her freshman year she lettered in volleyball, basketball, and girls track and field. She averaged 14 points and 12 rebounds per game in basketball. She was awarded the Coaches Award in girls’ track and field.
She again lettered in volleyball, basketball and girls’ track and field during her sophomore year in high school. In basketball she averaged 17 points and 9 rebounds per game. She was selected to the Southeastern 4A All Conference team, and The News & Observer 4A All East Girls’ Honorable Mention basketball team.
As a junior she again lettered in volleyball, basketball and girls’ track and field. In basketball she averaged 17.1 points, 12 rebounds and 6 steals per game. She was again selected for the Southeastern 4A All Conference basketball team. She was Most Valuable Player of the girls’ track and field team. She was a member of the Southeastern 4A Conference Champion 880 yard relay team and the North Carolina State Champion Mile Relay team.
McMillan had another outstanding athletic season as a senior. She lettered in volleyball, basketball, and girls’ track and field. She was also the Most Valuable Player on each of these teams. And she was selected by the Southeastern 4A All Conference teams for volleyball and basketball.
McMillan is one of a very few athletes to earn varsity letters in three sports during each of her four year at Hoke County High School. Thus she was awarded the Antler Award for each of these years.
McMillan was also an outstanding athlete at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, where she was the 2nd player in school history to score more than 1000 point in her career.
Bill Upchurch attended Hoke County High School from the fall of 1986 through the spring of 1990. He played on the J.V. football team as a freshman and on the varsity team during his sophomore, junior and senior years in high school. He earned a letter in each of the seasons he played on the varsity teams.
He played on the J.V. basketball team during his sophomore year at Hoke County High School and ran on the Indoor Track and Field team during his senior year.
Bill also played on the J.V. baseball team during his freshman year at Hoke County High School and on the varsity baseball teams for his sophomore, junior and senior seasons. He lettered in all three seasons that he played on the varsity team. In his senior year the varsity baseball team won the 1990 North Carolina High School Athletic Association State 4A Championship.
On the 1990 State Championship baseball team, Upchurch was a team captain and was selected to receive a Most Valuable Player Award by the coaches of the team. He also was selected to membership to the Southeastern 4A Athletic All Conference baseball team for his play in center field on the State Championship team for the 1990 season.
After high school, Upchurch played on the East Carolina University baseball team and lettered for two seasons. He graduated with a degree in science and has spent the last 19 years at Smithfield Pork Productions currently as Production Manager.
Frank Williamson entered Hoke County High School in the fall of 1968. He became a member of the 9th Grade football team, which was to become one of the best teams to represent Hoke County. This team was kept together the four years he attended Hoke County High School. Over a four-year period this team was to lose fewer than five games. Willimason played on the offensive line, which was to be the position he played throughout his football career, high school and college. During this freshman year in High School, he also lettered in wrestling and threw the shot and discus on the track and field team.
In his sophomore year he played with the same group of team mates as he did in his freshman year. They again had an outstanding season in the Southeastern 4A Athletic J.V. Football Conference. He lettered in wrestling with a 4-8-0 record while wrestling in a weight class above his own weight and being younger than most of his opponents. He threw the shot and discus on the track and field team.
His junior year in high school saw the football team finish the regular season with a 9-0-1 regular season record. The team lost in the first round of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association State Football Play-offs after winning the Southeastern 4A Athletic Conference Football Championship. Williamson was awarded the Coaches Award for offensive linemen. He had a 5-9-0 record and finished 3rd in the Southeastern 4A Athletic Conference Wrestling Tournament. He also threw the shot far enough to qualify for the North Carolina High School Athletic Association District Track Meet.
The senior year for Williamson’s class saw another outstanding football team. He was selected Most Valuable Lineman for Offense and Defense for the team that played to the second round of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association State Football Play-offs. This is the deepest any Hoke County High School football team has ever gone in the play-offs. Williamson also qualified for the District Meet in the NCHSAA State Track and Field Meet.
He attended Elon College and played on the football team that was Carolina Conference champions three of the four years he attended. The 1973-74 Elon team finished second in the NAIA National Championship game. The team finished 10th in the nation. While in college Williamson was awarded All NAIA Carolina Conference Offensive lineman, Best Blocker Award, and lettered all four years. In 1976 he graduated with a BS degree in Physical Education.
He currently works in construction and renovations, and is the owner of Phoenix Coastal Properties, LLC and Barnes Paving Company.