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Part III: San Bernardino Black Athletes Hall of Fame, 1979-1982

Parts I and II outlined the beginnings of the San Bernardino Black Athletes Hall of Fame, co-sponsored by Kutania People and The Sportsmen Athletic Club, Inc., and traced the growing popularity of an event that honored outstanding athletes from the San Bernardino area, and raised scholarship funds for college-bound athletes.

1979: Torch for the Future

On Saturday, February 24, 1979, the Kutania People and the Sportsmen Athletic Club presented the Seventh Annual San Bernardino Black Athletes Hall of Fame dinner and dance. The Hall of Fame hit its stride that year as Black San Bernardino and Riversiders alike came out to celebrate the contributions of local African-Americans to sports, and to support the next generation of scholar-athletes. They were joined by entertainers of the day, including: actor Don Mitchell, actress Judy Pace, singer-musician-actress Abbey Lincoln, actress Madge Sinclair and world-famous Motown singer Marvin Gaye.

 

1979 Black Athletes Hall of Fame
commemorative program, front cover.

 

Left to Right: Ken Norton, Wilmer Carter, David “Deacon” Jones, Madge Sinclair, Marvin Gaye, Stephanie Seebring and Johnny Rodgers [Duplicate image appears in the 1980 Black Athletes Hall of Fame commemorative program, page 14.]

1979 Hall of Fame inductees were:

  • Walter Brown, Jr., San Bernardino H.S. and San Bernardino Valley College, where he was a three sport letterman (football, basketball, track and field). He was MVP on the SBVC track team, setting records in the high jump and decathlon, and was world ranked in the decathlon while at Cal State Los Angeles. Brown worked as a California youth Authority counselor at the Chino Institute for men. (deceased)
  • Wilbert Larkin, Thomas Aquinas H.S. and San Bernardino Valley College, CSU Los Angeles. While Larkin excelled at both football and baseball, he was also a scholar who served as Associated Student Body President while in high school. Larkin is involved in real estate and development.
  • Ernest “Ernie” Powell, Jr., San Bernardino H.S. and San Bernardino Valley College, lettered in football and basketball in high school where he was All League, and earned “Most Valuable Player” and “All CIF” in basketball. Powell was the SBVC all-time leading scorer for a single season (1960) and a career (1,537). The USC grad also won the Tom Hester Memorial Award for 1964 (retroactive). (deceased)
  • George D. Tribble, Pacific H.S. and San Bernardino Valley College, football and wrestling. Tribble was All-League while at Pacific and became a state wrestling champion while at SBVC. He excelled as a running back, winning All-League, State and All-American honors at SBVC. Tribble attended Utah State, earning a B.A. and M.B.A. and owns Tribble Enterprises (financial planning services).
  • James Elder Wright, San Bernardino H.S. and San Bernardino Valley College, basketball. Wright was a two-year letterman, All-Leaguer and Most Valuable Player on his high school team. He continued to shine at SBVC and Pepperdine University. Wright is pastor of Living Water Church of God in Christ, and is founder of ACE Christian School and James Elders American Youth Foundation (Riverside).

 

Gary Dawson (San Bernardino H.S.) won the Tom Hester Memorial Award for the 1977-1978 school year.

 

 

1980: Spotlight on Champions

 

1980 Black Athletes Hall of Fame
commemorative program, front cover.

The Eighth Annual San Bernardino Black Athletes Hall of Fame dinner and dance was held at the San Bernardino Convention Center on Saturday February 23, 1980.  A capacity crowd gathered to acknowledge the 1980 Hall of Fame inductees and Hester Awardees.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

David “Deacon” Jones and the Howard Sisters

 

 

That year, the Howard sisters, Arti, Sherri, Tina and Deneen, were recognized for setting a National record in the mile relay, as well as for their individual athletic achievements, while students at San Gorgonio High. This was the first year that female athletes were honored by the Hall of Fame Committee.

The night’s entertainment was provided by an array of celebrities, including long-time supporter Heavyweight Boxing Champion Ken Norton, actress Bern Nadette Stanis, singers Freda Payne and her sister, Scherrie Payne (lead singer of the Supremes from 1973-1977). Baseball greats Bobbie Bonds and Jimmy Wynn represented the sports world, along with footballers James Harris and Kenny Easley. Co-emcees for the evening were legendary defensive end David “Deacon” Jones (1938-2013) and the phenomenal pop icon Pam Grier.

 

 

1980 Hall of Fame inductees were:

  • Samuel “Sam” Houston Chapple, Pacific H.S., San Bernardino Valley College (1959-60), football. Chapple was a powerful blocker and full back while at Pacific and SBVC. He also played baseball and basketball. According to the 1985 Hall of Fame booklet, Chapple was last employed with the Department of Corrections.
  • Charles Crawford, Pacific H.S., San Bernardino Valley College, baseball. Crawford started off as a track star before turning to baseball. He was All-League at both Pacific and SBVC where he was an infielder. Crawford attended Cal State University, Long Beach and became an auditor at Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena.
  • Elliot Fowler, Pacific H.S., San Bernardino Valley College (1964-65), wrestling. Fowler was a three-sport athlete in high school (track, football and wrestling), but focused on wrestling at SBVC where he became a key member of the state’s best wrestling team at the time.
  • Jerry Herdon, Cajon H.S., track and field; record at Cajon set in 1973 (25.4.5). While attending UCLA, Herndon was the NCAA Division I Long Jump Champion (26-6.25). His personal best was 26-7. He was also team captain (1977). Herdon’s commitment to the community is reflected in his roles as an Upward Bound counselor (CSU San Bernardino), as President of San Bernardino’s Westside Action Group, and as Executive Director of the Boys and Girls Club of San Bernardino.
  • Herbert “Herb” Sims, Pacific H.S., football and basketball. According to the 1985 Hall of Fame booklet, Sims became a self-employed plumber.

 

 

Demetrius Cook (San Bernardino H.S., Cal Poly Pomona) and Freddie Toliver (San Gorgonio H.S.) shared the Tom Hester Memorial Award for the 1978-1979 school year. While at Cal Poly Pomona, Demetrius Cook set a school record in the 800 meter, clocking 1:48.99 (1984), and was Track All American 1983 and 1984. Right-handed pitcher Freddie Toliver played pro baseball from 1979-1993. Toliver signed with the New York Yankees in 1979. He played several seasons in the minors, reaching AAA, and 7 seasons in the Major Leagues where he played for the Cincinnati Reds, Philadelphia Phillies, Minnesota Twins, and San Diego Padres. After the Majors, he became Los Angeles City College’s pitching coach.

 

 

1981: A Salute to Bob Howard

1981 Black Athletes Hall of Fame
commemorative program, front cover.

 

 

The San Bernardino Convention Center was the location for the Ninth Annual San Bernardino Black Athletes Hall of Fame dinner and dance, held Saturday, February 28, 1981. The emcees for the evening were Shelia Frazier and Bernie Casey. They were joined by former NFL player David “Deacon” Jones, who returned for the third time along with perineal supporter, Heavyweight Champion Ken Norton. Former Pro football player turned actor, Fred Williamson and actor Jermaine Johnson also attended, along with actresses Dwan Smith, Sheila Frazier, and BernNadette Stanis. They joined the 2,000 people who came to mix with celebrities and celebrate Inland Empire athletes. Hundreds were reported to have been turned away at the door.

The members of Kutania People and the Sportsmen Athletic Club dedicated their event to Robert “Bob” Howard, who was also inducted that year. Bob Howard overcame great odds to become one of Pro-football’s outstanding defensive backs. Howard had a thirteen-year career in the NFL, and later became a businessman, real estate broker and investment counselor in San Diego. Howard was a member of many civic and community projects. He was also the only professional athlete present at the first Black Athletes Hall of Fame Dinner, held at the Kola Shana in February of 1973. His brothers, John L. Howard and Horace Howard, Jr. were past Hall of Fame inductees.

 

1981 Hall of Fame inductees were:

  • Kenneth Calvin, Cajon H.S. Calvin was a two-sport star, playing football and dominating at baseball. Per the 1985 Hall of Fame booklet, Calvin became a business owner.
  • Clifford A. Culbreath, Pacific H.S., football, baseball and wrestling. Culbreath won just about every honor in high school, including being all CIF. Culbreath attended USC on scholarship. His team were National Champions and 1973 Rose Bowl Champions. Culbreath earned his B.A. in 1973 and his M.S.W. in 1975 from USC. He is a licensed social worker. In addition, Culbreath is a Tom Hester Awardee (1968, retroactive).
  • Shelton Keith Diggs, San Bernardino H.S., USC, basketball, track, football. Diggs won numerous honors in all three sports before attending USC, where he was a member of the 1974 National Championship team and the 1975 Rose Bowl Championship team. He was also a Mike Garrett awardee. Diggs signed on with the New York Jets in 1977 and later joined the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
  • Terry Hall, San Bernardino H.S., San Bernardino Valley College (1966-68). Hall was a two-time Division II All American Greco-Roman wrestler, was an alternate on the 1968 U.S. Olympic wrestling team, and competed in both the 1972 and 1976 Olympic trials. Hall also received the Tom Hester Memorial Award for 1966 (retroactive).
  • Robert “Bob” Lee Howard (1944-2008), San Bernardino H.S., San Bernardino Valley College (1963-65), football, track and field. Howard was voted “Most Outstanding Athlete,” 1964-65. At San Diego State, Howard became a state champion in the triple jump and played defensive back for the Aztecs. Howard would play 13 seasons in the National football league, playing with the San Diego Chargers, New England Patriots, and Philadelphia Eagles. Howard had 37 career interceptions. Howard was also inducted into the San Bernardino Valley College Athletic Hall of Fame and received the Tom Hester Memorial Award for 1963 (retroactive).

 

 

Darnell Coles (Eisenhower H.S.) won the Tom Hester Memorial Award for the 1979-1980 school year. The pro-infielder and outfielder signed to the MLB in 1980, playing 14 seasons for the Seattle Mariners, Detroit Tigers, Pittsburgh Pirates, San Francisco Giants, Cincinnati Reds, St. Louis Cardinals, and Colorado Rockies. Coles also played professionally in Japan, served as a minor-league manager and a major league hitting coach for the Detroit Tigers and Milwaukee Brewers.

 

Bridget Blackburn (Cajon High) won an honorary Female Athlete of the Year Award, following fellow track and field stars, the Howard sisters (San Gorgonio H.S.), who were honored in 1980. A permanent Female Athlete of the Year Award (equivalent to the Tom Hester Memorial Award) would not be established until 1983.

 

 

1982: Decade of Champions

 

1982 Black Athletes Hall of Fame
commemorative program, front cover.

On Saturday, February 27, 1982 the Kutania People and the Sportsmen Athletic Club presented the Tenth Annual Black Athletes Hall of Fame Dinner and Dance. The 1982 event mourned the loss of John L. Howard who tragically lost his life in 1981 at the age of 39. John was a three-sport letterman for San Bernardino High School. He set numerous records in track and field and was consistently one of the top sprinters and long jumpers in the State of California. Howard continued to excel at football while attending San Bernardino Valley College. Howard went into the military after college, turning down a number of athletic scholarship offers. He also turned down a chance to try out for professional ball, choosing instead to stay in the San Bernardino area where he became involved in the community. As a leader in the Magic Wheels Motorcycle Club, Howard provided Thanksgiving baskets to needy families and delivered gifts to Juvenile Hall among other good deeds. His brothers, Robert “Bob” Lee Howard and Horace Howard, Jr. were also Hall of Fame inductees.

 

 

 

 

 

1982 Hall of Fame inductees were:

  • Willie Beamon, San Bernardino H.S.; UCLA football, member of the 1976 Rose Bowl Championship team; Boise State University, All Big Sky 1977. Beamon was the 8th round draft pick for the New York Jets in 1979. His sports career includes a stint as head coach for Missoula Phoenix Football, Greater Northwest Football Association (2007). He is also a sports official.
  • John C. (Carlton) Blakely, Jr., Aquinas H.S., San Bernardino Valley College (1957-59), football and track. Blakely played three sports while at Aquinas where he was one of the first Black parochial school athletes. Blakely earned his B.A. from Cal State San Bernardino and became Regional Vice President for All State Insurance, Northern California.
  • Eric Johnson, Sr., San Bernardino H.S. Johnson was a three-sport letterman. According to a write-up published in the 1985 commemorative program, Moments to Remember: Thirteenth Annual San Bernardino Black Athletes Hall of Fame (p. 34), Johnson was “a durable running back, a hard hitting baseball player, and a ball handling guard who could score in basketball.” Eric Johnson was also a member of the Sportsmen Athletic Club.
  • John Lacy, Pacific H.S. / Fontana H.S. Lacy ended his athletic career at Fontana High School. He is purported to have been one of the “fastest and most exciting sprinters in [California].” (Moments to Remember: Thirteenth Annual San Bernardino Black Athletes Hall of Fame commemorative program, p. 30, 1985)
  • Austin Richard Pulliams, Jr., San Bernardino H.S. Pulliams was a three-year Varsity letterman in football and track and field. The sprinter and running back was All League in football and Most Valuable Player on the track team.

 

Bradford “Brad” Miller (San Gorgonio H.S.) won the Tom Hester Memorial Award for the 1980-1981 school year. The footballer went on to play for Oregon State University.

 

 

*All photos, clippings and ephemera appearing in this blog post were selected from the Wilmer Amina Carter Collection unless otherwise noted.

**Information on Hall of Fame Inductees and Hester Awardees derived from Moments to Remember: the Thirteenth Annual San Bernardino Black Athletes Hall of Fame commemorative program (1985). Special thanks to Professor Roger Schmidt who generously contributed his research to the archiving project.  Professor Schmidt’s gleeful love of sports and fascination with Inland Empire athletic history inspired his book, San Bernardino Valley College Sports, 1926-1996, co-authored with Harry Carson Frye.

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