Monday, June 29, 2009

Area Black Athletes Flash Back

Phil Hoard


Bill Lane is a Times-News sports writer. E-mail him at

Born: Aug. 22, 1946 Where: Kingsport High Schools/College:
Swift, Church Hill/East Tennessee State University


Any concerns Phil Hoard had about breaking the color barrier at Church Hill in 1963 when integration brought changes to the high school level were eased by the friendly reception he got from students. He was the Panthers’ first black athlete.

“It was just a formality,’’ Hoard said. “Everybody was very nice. I always figured the Lord had a thing for me to be a go-between. The cheerleaders greeted me wanting to know which sport I played.’’ His reply: “Baseball, basketball and football.’’ The bus route to Swift in Rogersville from Hoard’s home in Hawkins County’s Rotherwood community was 35 miles long. The transfer to Church Hill cut his travel to 10 miles. Hoard, a 6-foot, 180-pound guard, averaged 33 points a game as a sophomore basketball player at Swift, going against the likes of Johnson City Langston standouts Kenny Hamilton and Johnny Russaw. This came on the heels of his 17 per game clip as a freshman. His shooting range was 22 to 25 feet. He blazed in 54 points in a game against Dante, Va., and twice hit 45 against Newport Tanner. Five times he scored more than 30.
“We didn’t win many games, but we could run with anybody,’’ Hoard said. “Our team was comparatively small, averaging just 5-11 in height.’’
His scoring was reduced considerably at Church Hill, which had a more deliberate offense. But Hoard was a nice fit with teammates Carl Seaver, Roger Montgomery, Bobby Tranbarger, Bill Christian, Onzie Woods, David Morton, Jerry Stubblefield, Jerry Lifford, Larry Thurman and Johnny Adams.
Hoard sat on the bench a lot in the first 11 games before coach Oran Blackburn decided it was time for him to play. The Panthers lost their first seven contests, won the next seven and finished with a respectable record.
The team scoring was more balanced than it had been at Swift. Hoard, also a dominant rebounder, averaged 12 points as a junior and 13 as a senior.
“Coach Blackburn took me under his wing and was a father figure to me,’’ Hoard said. “He’d go out of his way to give me a ride home when I needed one after practice.’’
He rates Sullivan’s John Shelton, Lynn View’s Tom Roach and Ketron’s Dale Burns as the best players he faced.
Hoard was a utility player on the football squad. “Coach (Jay) Salley and I had an understanding that my playing time would be limited,’’ he said. “I came in as a junior and there were players who’d been there a while.’’
He kicked off and played sparingly at fullback, offensive end and linebacker.
“I was assigned to carry the ball in a thirdand-1 situation against Ketron,’’ he said. “I received bite marks on my leg and lost some blood. I didn’t get the first down.’’
Football was nothing new to Hoard. He had been a backfield starter on the Swift varsity as an eighth-grader.
“We played in a league where some of the opponents’ players were 23 or 24 years old,’’ he said. “Our program was dropped in November 1960 after a Jefferson City player died as the result of an injury suffered playing against us. They tried to start the program back up in 1962 but never got it off the ground. Nobody had the will to play again.’’
Baseball turned out to be his best sport. Hoard had been a terror in the youth leagues, sometimes pitching doubleheaders. At age 14, he appeared in three games on the same day during a tournament at Morristown, winning two and saving another. Spectators came from miles around to see Hoard, referred to as “the pitcher from the country,’’ throw the ball.
Blackburn was Church Hill’s baseball coach as well. He played Hoard at eight different positions. In a 22-7 win over Rogersville, Hoard drove in eight runs despite a disputed call on a home run that was ruled foul.
Pitching was his forte. Accurate radar guns were still a thing of the future but it was estimated that his fastball occasionally reached 90 mph.
Hoard twice outdueled Sullivan’s Alvin Sells, who became a No. 2 draft choice of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Church Hill won those games 4-1 and 4-3. Hoard’s win-loss records were 7-3 and 7-3, with earned run averages of 2.10 and 2.05 and eight strikeouts per game.
“One batter who gave me plenty of trouble was Lynn View’s Roy Waye,’’ Hoard said. “He hit one ball that I don’t think they ever found.’’
Morehead State offered him an academic scholarship but Hoard walked on to play basketball and baseball at ETSU. He managed to shoot a few rounds with Hamilton, Russaw, Tommy Woods and Bill Wilson before his plans changed abruptly. He received a broken ankle and a hand injury in pickup games at Kingsport’s Douglass gym.
“I thought I would have a career,’’ he said, “but sometimes it doesn’t happen.’’
He did get to play on a championship team at the Air Force base in Tucson, Ariz. During a 10-month tour of duty in Vietnam, Hoard was exposed to Agent Orange and still has health issues because of it.


Hoard, who completed an apprenticeship in maintenance at Eastman Chemical Co., retired at age 54 after 32 years of service. He is married to the former Linda Lyons of Church Hill. They have three grown children — Lynda, Sherman and Walter. Sherman played on a state-ranked basketball team at Dobyns-Bennett. Walter is serving in the military. The Hoards’ have five grandchildren. Phil is a cousin of former Tennessee High and University of Kentucky basketball star Derrick Hord, whose last name is spelled differe n t l y.

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