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Black Tie Affair

Black Tie Affair

On Friday, February 1, 2008, the African-American Heritage Society hosted the Seventh Annual Black Tie Affair at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Cool Springs (Franklin, TN).  The evening was complete with a night of celebrating, fine dinning and dancing.

Prominent athletes in Williamson County were honored and celebrated for the contributions that they made both locally and nationally.  The month kicked off celebrating Black History month.

Before attending the event, I had the privilege of sitting down with Thelma Battle.  She described Franklin in such a beautiful way.  As I listened to her talk about the small town that Franklin was years ago, and the way the athletics brought men and women together, I found myself thankful to be a native of such a special place.

Battle is an author and historian, and she described African-American athletes of Franklin with such regal memories.  She showed me black and white pictures from the past and talked about the players and coaches that impacted Williamson County.  Battle also did a great job of keeping it a secret as to who would be honored at the Black Tie Affair.

The Williamson Herald wrote an excellent write up of the emcee and the athletes honored at the Black Tie Affair.  According to the Williamson Herald:

“Serving as emcee for the evening was Barry Booker, former Battle Ground Academy and Vanderbilt University basketball player, with able assistance by legendary local coach Fred Lane Sr. and Lou Ella Harrison.

Athletes from prep, professional and Olympic arenas were recognized during the event, which was sponsored by Williamson Medical Center, The Factory,, Middle Tennessee Electric, Morton Concrete, N&L Construction, Regions Bank, Robert Blair & Citizens Corp., Tennessee Commerce Bank, Tennessee Valley Homes and Wal-Mart.

Honored as professional athletes were:

•  Alexander “Dee” Bright III, who played baseball for the San Francisco Giants in the 1960s, where he trained with baseball greats Willie Mays, Juan Marshell and Willie McCovey.

• Troy Fleming, a Battle Ground Academy graduate who is currently a free agent after playing at the University of Tennessee and then professionally for the Tennessee Titans and Denver Broncos. He remains the third all-time rushing leader in national high school football history.

• Fred Lane Jr., who died in 2000 after a standout career with the Carolina Panthers following his collegiate career at Lane College. Shortly before his death, Lane was traded to the Indianapolis Colts. His single-game rushing record for the Panthers of 147 yards remains unchallenged.

• Bubba Miller, a Brentwood Academy graduate who excelled as a wrestler but gained fame on the football gridiron. He played for the University of Tennessee and served as captain in 1995 before joining the Philadelphia Eagles before completing his NFL career with the NFL Saints. He is now president of Arrington Metals LLC.

• Marcelle “Mardy” Scales, a Centennial High School graduate who went on to Middle Tennessee State University on a full athletic track scholarship. A seven-time All American, Scales gave his hometown of Franklin its first ever NCAA champion in track in 2003. He is presently training and hopeful for the 2008 Olympic Games.

• William Cordell Witherspoon is the son of a Franklin native and while his father was in the military, the family moved around a lot. Witherspoon played his college ball at the University of Georgia and was drafted by the Carolina Panthers in 2002. During Super Bowl XXXVIII, he posted a career-high 16 tackles. He signed with the St. Louis Rams in 2006 and was the team MVP for 2007.

In the Hall of Fame category, 10 athletes and coaches were honored.

• Barry Booker still holds the all-time career three-point shooting percentage total in the SEC as part of his collegiate career on the Vanderbilt Commodores’ basketball team. After graduating from Battle Ground Academy, Booker went to Vandy where he was coached by C.M. Newton and part of the only back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances in the school’s history.

• Karen Booker, sister of Barry, graduated from Franklin High School before following her brother’s lead to Vanderbilt. While playing for the Lady Commodores, she was first team All-SEC and third team All-American as a senior. She was one of 80 players for the 1997 inaugural WNBA season playing for the Utah Starzz.

• O.J. Fleming excelled in both basketball and football during his time at BGA, where he was a four-year starter on the football team as well as on the basketball team and a member of the two-time state championship team his junior and senior years. He played his collegiate career at Vanderbilt.

• Martin Kelton was recognized as an outstanding basketball and football player at Franklin Training School in the early 1960s. He went on to play basketball at Mississippi Valley College and was inducted into the Franklin High School Hall of Fame in 2006.

• Fred Lane Sr. attended Natchez High School before heading for one year to Franklin High, where he lettered in football, basketball and track and served as captain of the football team in 1968. His football jersey and that of his late son were entered into the Franklin High Hall of Fame, making them the first father-and-son duo to have their jerseys retired. After coaching elsewhere, Lane returned to the Franklin Special School District in 1976 and became the first black head coach.

• Ostranda Lane was an outstanding football player for Franklin Training School and was a member of the 1956 championship team. He attended Mississippi Valley College where he was recognized as an All American.

• James Prince played football and basketball at Franklin Training School in the late 1940s and is considered one of the best running backs in Williamson County football history. “Football is not made of one player,” Prince said Friday, before reading a list of his teammates.

• William Ratcliffe played football and basketball at Franklin Training School and was a member of the 1956 championship team. He is a member of the Franklin High School Hall of Fame.

• William H. Reynolds was captain of the 1956 championship football team at Franklin Training School. He returned to the school as a teacher and coach and lead teams to regional and state championships. He was the first athletic coach from Natchez or Franklin Training School to play in a championship game on the Tennessee State University football field, in a Shrine Bowl Championship. He is a member of the Franklin High School Hall of Fame.

• Charles Patton played high school ball at Franklin Training School before attending Tennessee State University where he was recognized as a four-year letterman, third team NAIA, most valuable player, All Mid-Western and All-American.

• Olympic boxer William Clay Jenkins holds numerous records from his 20-year career, in which he boxed against such greats as Oscar De la Hoya and Floyd Mayweather. His career boxing record is 383 wins, 41 losses and 294 knockouts.

Community awards were also given during the Black Tie Affair. Those honored and their areas of service were Anthony McLemore, Cuts N Blessings, Business; Juanita Patton, SunTrust Bank, Civic; Maurice Patton, The Tennessean, Communications; Marian Elizabeth Tolliver Watkins, Education; Hard Bargain-Mount Hope Redevelopment, Organization; and Rev. Denny Denson, retired, Religion.”

The night was amazing and such a special event to be a part of in Franklin.  I walked away with a deeper appreciation for our community and the athletes that have made such a positive impact on our local society as well as the world.  Be sure to mark your calendars for next winter’s African-American Black Tie Affair hosted by the African-American Heritage Society.