J. LENOX RAWLINGS, INDUCTION ACCEPTANCE INTO NC SPORTS HALL OF FAME (135)

Below is the text of the induction comments by Lenox Rawlings, upon his entrance as a member of THE NORTH CAROLINA SPORTS HALL OF FAME.
Lenox is a retired writer. This become obvious. What was equally impressive was the way he presented his insights.
lenox is a “homey” from Wilson,NC. A lot people were proud of Lenox, me certainly included. But none more than BROTHER RUSSELL

LENOX RAWLINGS
NC SPORTS HALL OF FAME
MAY 15, 2015

When I was a boy growing up in Wilson, my grandfather would pick me up on Sundays around lunchtime and drive downtown to the Cherry Hotel newsstand across the street from the train station. He would buy a New York newspaper, and then we’d ride over to Fleming Stadium and enjoy the lazy hour or so before a Carolina League baseball game. I’d lay across the back seat in his Buick Special and get lost in the sports pages of the Herald-Tribune or the Times. We’d ask each other questions and exchange opinions – none of which I remember specifically. But I do remember feeling completely at peace.

It’s impossible to say when my love of sports and my love of language met at the crossroads, but one thing led to another, and now that I’m my grandfather’s age, I’m somewhat astonished to find myself standing here tonight accepting this great honor. There are lots of people to thank, beginning with my family, who taught me the difference between right and wrong and encouraged me to be myself and to do whatever I wanted to do in life.

My parents read at the beginning and end of every day and took us to the library where my mother later worked. My father, Lenox Jr., was a masterful storyteller with a dancer’s fine sense of timing, and he could leave a room roaring with laughter. My mother, Gloria, had a dry wit and precise powers of observation and considerable insight into human character. When I was about 11, she handed me her new copy of “To Kill a Mockingbird” and said, maybe for the only time, “I think you should read this.” She was right, of course. My brothers John and Russell and my sister Ann supported whatever I did and read my columns even if they had little interest in the subject. My wife Janice was a bit more discriminating. She preferred the good ones or the unusual ones, like that one about the alleged intelligence of the elusive largemouth bass. Janice reinforced the importance of intellectual honesty in everyone around her. She carried on cheerfully whenever I took off across the country to cover another story, and she traveled with me far and wide, especially after Jennifer and Barak grew up.

All of them sacrificed something for my freedom of movement.

So did my editors and publishers at the Winston-Salem Journal and other newspapers. They gave me freedom of expression. They defended my freedom of speech whenever they had to, which required more spine than you find in fair-weather guardians of the First Amendment. Fortunately, most of my interview subjects were civilized and cooperative. Many of the people I’ve written about and many of the writers I’ve worked beside are loyal friends. I’ve been lucky that way – in so many ways, really.

From elementary school through college, certain teachers recognized my affinity for descriptive writing and reacted positively. This happens every day in every school around the state, so it galls me when I hear politicians lump all teachers together and criticize them for failing to fix every breakdown in our society.

I’ll admit to an inherent bias. My other grandfather was a high school teacher and football coach before he became the town manager of Wendell. And, for half a century, I have watched teachers and coaches help young folks change their lives for the better. I’ve seen the modest home where my high school teammate Carlester Crumpler lived, raised by his loving grandmother. I’ve seen the neighborhood where Rodney Rogers grew up. I’ve seen the backyard goal where Kay Yow and her sisters and brother learned to shoot, long before women had a tangible future in basketball.

The beauty of sports – the democratic essence of sports, really – is that everyone stands on his or her own merits. Success depends on talent and work and persistence and passion, not privilege. These are basic values that endure long after the cheering fades. I’m more impressed with Carlester as an adviser to college students than Carlester the teenage legend. I’m more impressed with how Rodney has handled personal tragedy than how he handled basketball glory. I’m more impressed with Kay’s legacy as a cancer pioneer than her record as a pioneering coach.

They represent the best among us, but they aren’t alone. This room is full of people whose formal educations began in North Carolina’s public schools, people who developed a love for fair competition and helping teammates reach their potential, people who can look back through the clutter and clatter of modern times and recognize the wisdom of these simple ideas. When I was young, North Carolina was a leader in public education, but we’ve slipped. We should vastly improve the public schools for a future beyond our time – not because it’s the liberal or conservative thing to do, or the black or white thing to do, but because it’s the right thing to do. And because out there tonight in North Carolina, other kids are sitting in cars reading their electronic devices – maybe even reading the New York papers – and wondering how their stories will turn out. They deserve a fair chance, too.

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