There are five new members of the Greater Wilmington Sports Hall of Fame. They include three men who became local coaching legends. One man who became part of major league baseball history. And a woman who blazed a trail for others.
All it takes is a trip to UNCW’s baseball stadium to see the impact Bill Brooks made on campus. After all, the ballpark bears his name. As does the Colonial Athletic Association’s baseball Player of the Year Award. Brooks led Seahawks sports into the CAA and NCAA after coaching the baseball team to National Junior College Championships in 1961 and 1963. In 1990, he was inducted into the National Junior College Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame and the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame in 1993.
Jap Davis was a member of Wallace Wade’s “Iron Dukes” that played in the 1939 Rose Bowl. He passed on a chance in the NFL to go into coaching. After serving in World War II, he came to New Hanover High in 1946, assisting his old high school coach Leon Brogden. He later coached the Cats football, wrestling, tennis and golf teams. The school named its field house after him in 1997.
Davis, Brooks and Brogden all coached a young man named Jack Holley over the years. He played on championship football, baseball and basketball teams at New Hanover High in the 1950s. But he’s perhaps best known for his state record 380 wins in 44 years on the high school gridiron, currently at Wallace-Rose Hill.
Tommy Greene played baseball at Whiteville High School and eventually made it to the Major Leagues. He was a throw-in in the deal that sent Braves legend Dale Murphy to Philadelphia in 1990. A season later he proved his worth, when he no-hit the Montreal Expos on May 23, 1991. He also helped lead the Phillies to the 1993 World Series, starting the year 8-0 with five straight complete games.
The late Althea Gibson not only made her mark on the sports world, but the world in general. She came to Wilmington in 1946 to work on her tennis game. She went on to be the first African-American to win titles at Wimbledon, the French Open, the Australian Doubles and the US Open. In 1957, she was the first black to be voted Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year. She won it again in 1958. She also played professional golf. Nearly four years after her death, the Althea Gibson Foundation continues her legacy helping urban youth develop their skills in tennis and golf.
All the living members of the new class are scheduled to be at the induction ceremony on Sunday, May 6.