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UCHOF to induct class of five next week

by News-Times Staff | July 24, 2021 at 6:04 p.m.

The 10th annual Union County Sports Hall of Fame Induction Banquet will be held Saturday, July 31 at the El Dorado Conference Center.

Festivities begin at 5 p.m. with a Meet the Inductees with the banquet starting at 6 p.m. The 2019 inductees will also be recognized since the banquet wasn’t held last year.

The 2020-2021 class includes Jim Atwell, David Carpenter, Kevin Payne, Gary Don Smith and meritorious selection Jimmy Sullivan.

A two-sport athlete in basketball and baseball at Henderson State University, Atwell began his coaching career at Sparkman, where he led the team to the 1962 basketball state championship with a 35-1 record.

He then led the El Dorado Wildcats for the next 18 years as head basketball coach and followed that with nine years as the school district director of student services. At EHS, his 1964 team won the conference title and was followed with his 1972 team being state runner-up. All of this was topped by his state championship team of 1976.

While at El Dorado, Atwell had two players named All-American - Bill Rainer in 1964 and Isaac Greer in 1976. In 22 years of coaching, he won 365 games and was high school Coach of the Year in 1976. Atwell is a member of the Dallas County Sports Hall of Fame, The Ft. Smith Boys/Girls Club Hall of Fame and the Henderson State Sports Hall of Fame.

At Henderson State University Carpenter was a member of the football team coached by his father Ralph “Sporty” Carpenter. In 1977, he helped lead his team to the AIC football championship. Following college he began a 37-year career as a football coach and finished with a record of 242 wins, 93 losses and 1 tie. He coached at two other schools before becoming the head coach at Junction City where he built the football program into an Arkansas high school powerhouse. Carpenter’s career record at Junction City was 226 wins with six football state championships, two track state championships and 13 state weightlifting titles.

Carpenter was 6-time 2A coach of the year. His career record of 242 wins ranks him as the 10th winningest coach in Arkansas football high school history. Carpenter is a member of the Dragon Wall of Honor, Henderson State Sports Hall of Fame and the Arkansas High School Coaches Hall of Fame.

A 2002 graduate of Junction City High School, Payne excelled in all three sports he played. In football he rushed for over 1,700 yards, averaged 18 points per game in basketball and on the diamond he compiled a .463 batting average. He played college football at Louisiana-Monroe and in his first season rushed for 976 yards and was named Sun Belt Conference Freshmen of the Year. His junior and senior year he moved to strong safety where he was All-Conference both years.

In 2007 the Chicago Bears made Payne their 5th pick in the NFL draft. By the fourth game of his rookie season, he became a starter until injuries set in. In 2008 he was the starting safety in all 16 games. In his NFL career, he played with the Chicago Bears, St. Louis Rams and the Carolina Panthers. He now works with the Kevin Payne Foundation whose purpose is developing meaningful programs to build and improve outcomes for youth.

After graduating from SAU in 1977, Smith began coaching in a career that lasted 42 years. He has over 700 wins in senior high girls basketball and over 400 wins in junior high girls basketball. He first coached at Village High and then took over at Union High in 1980 where he led the Cyclones for 25 years. At Union he led the girls teams to a regional championship, seven district championships, 13 conference championships, eight county championships and three Dual State crowns. At one point his junior girls had a 35-game win streak. His senior girls brought home the Class B State Championship in 1986 and were state runner-up in 2003.

Smith’s most well-known player, Rose Avery, was on the 1986 team. Avery later became a 2-time 1st team All-American at UAM. Following Union, Smith coached at El Dorado and Hot Springs Lakeside. At Lakeside he led his boys and girls golf teams to 24 conference championships and 13 state championships. Smith was inducted into the Arkansas High School Coaches Hall of Fame this year.

Meritorious selection Sullivan has been involved with the sport of softball beginning as a player on a fast pitch team in 1958. In the early 1960s he formed a slow pitch team and later the first slow pitch league in the area. He was also instrumental in the construction of the El Dorado-Union County Recreation Complex. Sullivan has been a positive influence to thousands of players whether they were a teammate of his, an opposing team or came in contact with him during his career of 37 years being an umpire. Sullivan has been District Commissioner for umpires since 2002 and is still assigning umpires for many local leagues in South Arkansas. He was inducted into the El Dorado/Union County Sports Complex Wall of Fame in2006.

The two 2019 inductees are the late Napoleon Gulley from Huttig and the late Sammy Furo from Smackover.

Tickets for the event are $25 and are solid at United Insurance Agency, Smackover State Bank locations and Generations Bank/Junction City. No tickets will be sold at the door.

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