AISD inducts 13 into Athletic Hall of Fame

Posted on 12/12/2022
AISD inducts 13 into Athletic Hall of Fame

‘A magical evening’

AISD inducts 13 into Athletic Hall of Fame


By Toni Garrard Clay

AISD Communications Coordinator


Thursday night was magical as Athens ISD held its first annual Athletic Hall of Fame induction banquet. Approximately 150 people were in attendance as the district honored 13 of its most accomplished living athletes. The members of the inaugural class are:


• Johnnie Henderson Byrd graduated in 1946 from Fisher High School in Athens during the time of segregation. She was an excellent athlete, playing just about any sport she could, and was an especially fine basketball player. She graduated from Fisher at the age of 16 and went on to Prairieview A&M University, where she competed in both basketball and track and field events. Byrd played forward on the basketball team and though they didn’t have three-pointers at that time, she excelled at shooting from outside. Her approach to defense, as she put it, was “I dare you to dribble the ball; I’ll take it away.” On the track team, she ran the 440 and mile relays and threw a baseball as her field event.


As she stood before the crowd Thursday night to accept her honor, Byrd led the room in singing the Fisher High School fight song.


• Emmet Augustus "Duke" Carlisle III graduated from Athens High School in 1960. He was an excellent student academically and excelled in multiple sports. He was named outstanding athlete in football and track his junior and senior years, as well as for basketball his senior year. Carlisle was an all-district team member in basketball, and in track won district in low hurdles two years — setting a district record his senior year and competing at the state finals. As the football quarterback, Carlisle led Athens to a district title his sophomore year, and his senior year, during a 10-win season, they clinched the bi-district title and advanced to the state quarterfinals. 


Upon his graduation, Carlisle enrolled at the University of Texas, where he joined an undefeated freshmen team. He was the starting safety and backup quarterback his sophomore season. By 1963, Carlisle was starting quarterback and led the Longhorns to an 11-0 record and their first national championship under legendary Coach Darrell Royal.


After graduating from UT, Carlisle briefly played for the Green Bay Packers and the Dallas Cowboys. He has been inducted into The University of Texas Athletic Hall of Fame and the Cotton Bowl Hall of Fame.


• Tommy Bowman attended Fisher High School from 7-11 grades, where he was a strong student and excellent athlete, playing football, basketball and pole vaulting. Athens schools integrated in 1966, which meant Bowman’s senior year was at Athens High School, where he played football and basketball.


One wintry night that year, Baylor University assistant men’s basketball coach, Carroll Dawson, stopped in Athens to fuel up. He began to visit with the gas station attendant, and the conversation quickly turned to basketball. Coach Dawson told the attendant he would be hitting the recruiting trails the next day. The attendant told Dawson he need look no further than Tommy Bowman. Dawson took directions to the Bowman home, where he met a 6-foot-4 phenom who could do anything he was called on to do with a basketball. Bowman became Baylor University’s first ever African-American scholarship student-athlete. Coach Dawson was present at Thursday night’s induction, along with two of Bowman’s Baylor teammates: David Sibley and Tom Stanton.


Bowman played three varsity seasons at Baylor as a starting forward— at that time freshmen had to play on the freshman team. He led the Bears in scoring once and in rebounding twice, and twice earned first-team All-Southwest Conference honors. He still ranks among Baylor’s top-10 in career rebounds per game and career double-doubles. Bowman has been inducted into the Baylor Athletics Hall of Fame and the Southwest Conference Hall of Fame.


In 1956 four young men from Athens High School claimed the UIL 1A State Championship Golf Team title. They were Gene Robinson, Frank Duphorne, John Lively and Billy Lively. Gene Robinson was the state medalist. He recalls that Athens already had a good team, but when the Lively brothers arrived, their accomplishments on the golf course multiplied. 


This excerpt from an Athens Daily Review sports column describes the team: “The powerful Athens Hornet golfers, leading their nearest opponents by 24 strokes, rolled to victory in the regional tournament in Dallas, winning the right to play in the state tournament at Austin. The Hornets shot 36 holes of golf, scoring 307 in the first round and tallying 303 in the second. Gene Robinson, shooting 72-72 was medalist for Class A.”


All four of the linksters went on to play golf collegiately. In addition, the Lively brothers toured with the PGA for a number of years and opened a golf course in Lake Tawakoni.


• In 1974, 18 years after the first state win, five young men from Athens High School claimed the UIL 3A State Championship Golf Team title. They were Steve Grant, Kip Estep, Billy Pierot, Mike Pierot and Phillip Pierot.


The team put together a string of five consecutive first-place finishes that season, ending with the state championship. Notably, they won the district championship with a 43-stroke lead over second place. Billy Pierot was the district and regional medalist. Steve Grant was the state medalist.


There are a number of parallels between the ’56 team and the ’74 team. Not only did each team have brothers, but just as the Livelys’ father, John Lively Sr., was a golf pro at Athens Country Club, so, too, was the Pierots’ father, Bill Pierot Sr., who was also club manager.


After graduating high school, Grant played golf at Henderson County Junior College. Billy Pierot also played for HCJC, where he was a Junior College All-American, then he was a linkster for Louisiana Tech University. Billy played in Europe and Asia for a few years before touring for several years with the PGA.


• Patricia “Prissy” Vines Corley was a coach and teacher at Athens High School from 1975 to 1985. As a girl, she was a standout basketball player at Brownsboro High School. After graduating there in 1968, she played ball at HCJC. Coaching the Lady Cardinals at that time was Connie Russell, who started the team. From there, Corley went to Sam Houston State University, where she played under revered girls basketball coach Jodie Conrad.


When Corley graduated from college, she planned to be a classroom teacher only, but was recruited by Mabank ISD to coach as well. In 1975, after losing only one or two games while at Mabank, Athens ISD decided it was time to start a girls basketball program of its own — and they knew just the person to do it. 


Corley built the program in Athens from the ground up. Their first season, the Hornettes, as they were called then, were 12-13; the second, they were 20-3; then 27-2 and made the playoffs. The fourth year, they were 28-2 and state semi-finalists. Several of those original players were present at the induction ceremony. Among them was Jana Tidmore Hughes, who said of Corley: “She was more than a coach to us. We were a group of country girls who had never played basketball at all; we didn’t have a clue. She taught us everything. … She made us better people.”

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