Two of Martin Methodist’s standout basketball players and one of its greatest teams were honored with induction Feb. 18 into the college’s Sports Hall of Fame.
The late Jimmie Watson Bearden, Class of 1952, and the late Thomas Mabry Barnes, Class of 1965, were inducted posthumously following outstanding individual basketball careers. Also inducted was the 1953 women’s basketball team, perhaps the best women’s team in the school’s long history, said Director of Athletics Jeff Bain.
The event was a bittersweet occasion, however, because of the absence of legendary Coach Kermit Smith, who had passed away seven days earlier at the age of 90. It was the first Sports Hall of Fame ceremony ever held without him, and Jimmy Earle, who played and coached under the man he called "Coach Smith," pointed out that all the inductees this year were also products of Kermit Smith’s tutelage.
Jimmie Watson Bearden stayed at home in Pulaski to attend college, and she came to Martin as one of her hometown’s true pioneers in women’s basketball. She was co-captain of the 1952, which posted a 15-4 record. An education major, she was involved in all facets of campus life, including serving on the yearbook staff and being crowed Homecoming Queen. She married her college sweetheart, Finis Bearden, and they had two sons, a daughter and three grandchildren. She was employed for years by Ascend Federal Credit Union, where she retired in 2004 as president and chief executive officer. She died in 2010 and was represented at the induction by her son, Richard Bearden, and her daughter, Diane Bearden.
Tommy Barnes came to Martin from Murfreesboro, where he was an all-state athlete in both football and basketball. He served as co-captain and starting center of the Martin basketball team for both of his years, averaging 13.7 points and 13.1 rebounds per game, helping to lead his team to the Dixie Conference championship both seasons. He went on to Florence State College (now the University of North Alabama), where he was that school’s leading scorer and rebounder for two seasons. In 1967, he was drafted into the U.S. Army and served in Korea. He died in November of 1988 while living in Florida. He was represented at the induction by his sister, Crystal Barnes Brandon and her daughter, Alyssa.
The 1953 women’s basketball team posted a 14-3 record under Coach Kermit Smith. In attendance were Katherine Washington of Murfreesboro, Shirley Thompson Napier of Columbia, Tenn., and Mary Jo Worley of Knoxville, Tenn., all individual members of the Sports Hall of Fame, as well as teammates Billie Ruth Durham Gossage of Nashville, Pat Lynn Dyer Tuley of Hattiesburg, Miss., Lurline Meador Elliot of Columbia, Tenn., and Mary Roger Watkins of Athens, Tenn. The late Mary Sue Farmer Dodd was represented by her husband, Robert, and the late Beryl Bratton Beaumont was represented by her husband, Duncan. Two members of the team, Donna Hancock Garnett of Corpus Christi, Texas, and Naomi Thompson Lee of Smyrna, Tenn., were unable to attend the induction, and a final member of the team, the late Jane Alford Howard, was honored posthumously.
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