Part IV: San Bernardino Black Athletes Hall of Fame, 1983 to 1985
In its eleventh year, the San Bernardino Black Athletes Hall of Fame Committee officially established the Tom Hester Female Athlete of the Year Award – eleven years after the passage of Title IX, an Education Amendment to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. While the amendment made no mention of sports, it had a wide-ranging effect on high school and college athletics as it ended discrimination based on sex by all entities that receive federal funds. Before Title IX, fewer than 300,000 girls participated in high school sports, and only 1% of collegiate athletic budgets funded female sports. Academic scholarships for female athletes did not exist. In this context, the young women who were honored at the San Bernardino Black Athletes Hall of Fame were trail blazers, deserving of every honor and opportunity bestowed onto them.
1983: A New Day Begun!
The theme for the Eleventh Annual San Bernardino Hall of Fame Dinner and Dance was “A New Day Begun!” 1983 marked the official establishment of a female division in both the Athlete of the Year Award and Hall of Fame Award categories. Noted were the achievements of many female athletes, including the Howard sisters of track and field fame and Bridget Blackburn. They received honorary awards in 1980 and 1981 respectively.
1983 was also significant as it marked the second time that Marvin Gaye attended the event. Gaye had appeared in 1979, and, as the story goes, was supposed to attend in 1982, but injured himself playing basketball. His “people” said that he would be there the following year. No one believed it. After all, he was riding the success of his blockbuster album, Midnight Love, and the hit song, “Sexual Healing.” But he showed up, was gracious enough to sing and electrify the crowd. Gaye was joined by co-Masters of Ceremonies, Larry Carroll, ABC News anchorman/reporter, and actress Vonetta McGee. David “Deacon” Jones, vocalist Willie Hutch, Nichelle Nicols of Star Trek fame, pro-footballer Ron Lott, Fred Dean and Dick Bass were also in attendance.
1983 Hall of Fame inductees were:
- Clifford Bradley. San Bernardino H.S. and San Bernardino Valley College (1961-62), track and field. Bradley was a premier sprinter, high jumper and shot-putter at San Bernardino High and at SBVC. He also excelled at basketball (high school). Bradley was also an outreach coordinator, Home of Neighborly Service.
- Ron Bush Brewington, San Bernardino H.S. and San Bernardino Valley College (1972), football. He was one of the area’s premiere high school running backs and a top sprinter for San Bernardino’s track team. Ron developed into a defensive specialist while playing for SBVC and USC.
- Douglas Howard, Pacific H.S. and San Bernardino Valley College (1970-72), basketball. While in high school, Howard was a two-year letterman, playing both baseball and basketball. He was a leading rebounder, scorer, and Most Valuable Player on Pacific’s basketball team. Howard made All-League while attending SBVC before transferring to California Baptist College where he attained a B.A. in 1975. Howard became a social worker for the County of San Bernardino, and returned to SBVC as an assistant coach (1983-84).
- Rodney Hunn, Pacific H.S., California State San Jose, Santa Clara University; basketball. Hunn was an All-League quarterback, starting third baseman, and All-League basketball player at Pacific, and was a starter on both San Jose and Santa Clara’s basketball teams. Hunn was also a Tom Hester Memorial Award winner (1972).
- Sherman Sweeney, San Bernardino H.S. and San Bernardino Valley College (1965-67), basketball. Sweeney was a letterman in football, baseball, and basketball, and earned All-League honors as a center/forward on his high school team. He became a star player on the SBVC team.
Tom Hester Memorial Award Nominees: Orlando Houston (Cajon), Mark Collins (Pacific), Keith Lester and Gerry Wright (San Gorgonio), and Andrew Pearson (San Bernardino High School).
- Mark Anthony Collins (Pacific H.S.) won the Tom Hester Memorial Award for the 1981-1982 school year. After Pacific, Collins continued at Cal State Fullerton. Collins played 13 seasons in the NFL as a defensive back for the New York Giants (1986-93), Kansas City Chiefs (1994-96), Green Bay Packers (1997) and Seattle Seahawks (1998). Collins won two Super Bowl rings with the Giants. He is also a member of the Titan Hall of Fame (2007).
Female Athlete of the Year Award Nominees: Jacqueline Sheffield (Eisenhower), Jackie Cunningham and Jackie Riley (San Bernardino High School).
- Jacqueline Sheffield (Eisenhower H.S.) won the Tom Hester Female Athlete of the Year Award for the 1981-1982 school year. Sheffield was the first to receive an official Female Athlete of the Year Award. Sheffield was a track and field star who was also skilled at volleyball, basketball and softball. Sheffield won a scholarship to Louisiana State University where she broke the school’s shot put record.
1984: An Olympic Year, A Celebration of Women Continues…
The Twelfth Annual San Bernardino Black Athletes Hall of Fame dinner and dance was held at the San Bernardino Convention Center on Saturday March 3, 1984. This was the first year that the event was not held in February.
Local female track and field record holders Sherri and Dereen Howard (San Gorgonio High) made an appearance. The sisters were honored to return home to support other youths. Reynaldo Nehimiah, track star turned wide receiver for the San Francisco 49ers, and fellow teammates Wendell Tyler and Ron Lott attended, as did actor and former footballer Woody Strode, actress Esther Rolle, Shirley Washington, and Heavyweight Boxing Champ Mike Weaver. Special recognition was given to Chuck Lewis and Al Jury for Community Service.
1984 Hall of Fame inductees were:
- Neal Carroll, Pacific H.S., San Bernardino Valley College (1955-56), basketball. According to the 1985 commemorative program, Moments to Remember: The Thirteenth Annual San Bernardino Black Athletes Hall of Fame (p. 35), Carrol was one of Pacific’s first athletic stars. He excelled in several sports, but shined at basketball. He continued to play the game at SBVC. Carroll became an electrician for Kaiser Steel, Fontana.
- Michael Davis, San Bernardino H.S., football. Davis was prep All-American in football while at San Bernardino, where he also starred in track and field. The running back earned a scholarship to USC where he was a member of the Rose Bowl Championship team.
- Leon Jordan, Jr., San Gorgonio H.S., Oregon State University, basketball. Jordan set scoring records while at San Gorgonio, earning Most Valuable Player, All-League and All CIF team honors. Jordan earned his J.D. at University of Oregon’s School of Law, 1982. He became a sports agent, lawyer, and accountant. Owner, Jordan Enterprises, Ltd., Portland, Oregon.
- Christopher Smallwood, Jr., San Bernardino H.S. Smallwood was an outstanding track and football player, winning several honors while attending San Bernardino H.S. (deceased)
- Rodney Soward, San Bernardino H.S., Cal Poly Pomona. Soward earned Varsity letters in football, track, and baseball in high school, and was a standout while playing football for Cal Poly Pomona.
Tom Hester Memorial Award Nominees: Darren Brainley (Cajon), Marvin Cash (san Gorgonio), Ronald Harris (Eisenhower), Le Vanne Pennington (Pacific), Cedric Summons (San Bernardino High).
- Ronald Harris (Eisenhower H.S.) won the Tom Hester Memorial Award for the 1982-1983 school year. Harris was attending Annapolis Naval Academy at the time of the ceremony. His mother accepted the award in his stead.
Female Athlete of the Year Award Nominees: Linda Sutton (Eisenhower), Heidi Cunningham (San Bernardino), Celeste Gates (Pacific), Tracy Webber (San Gorgonio).
- Celeste Gates (Pacific H.S.) and Heidi Cunningham (San Bernardino H.S.) shared the Tom Hester Female Athlete of the Year Award for the 1982-1983 school year. Gates played basketball for Pacific and Cal State San Bernardino.
1985: Moments to Remember
The Thirteenth Annual San Bernardino Black Athletes Hall of Fame Dinner and Dance was held on Saturday, May 18, 1985. Athletes and entertainers were in abundance, all present to celebrate past and contemporary athletes from the Inland Empire. They included: Eric Dickerson, L.A. Raider Henry Lawrence, Pittsburg Steeler L.C. Greenwood, and former Dodger Lou Johnson. Legendary female Olympians Evelyn Ashford and Florence Griffith Joyner joined them. Heavyweight boxing champion Ken Norton was Honorary Chairperson.
1985 Hall of Fame inductees were:
- Gregory Darnell Bunch, Pacific H.S., basketball. Bunch was a two-year All Leaguer and 1st team all CIF basketball player while at Pacific, where he surpassed previous scoring and rebound records. Bunch made all conference four years straight while attending Cal State University Fullerton, and was crowned Athlete of the Year his Senior year. In 1978, Bunch was the New York Knicks’ 2nd round draft pick in 1978. He played for the team before joining the European Professional Basketball circuit.
- Louis Earthman, San Bernardino H.S., San Bernardino Valley College (1969-70), track and field, football and baseball. While in high school, Earthman was Captain of the football team and made All-League. He was also an outstanding hurdler. It was at SBVC that Earthman returned to his first love of baseball. He was drafted by a major-league team, but declined the offer, choosing to work with the Postal Service where he became a Supervisor.
- Gary Ellison, San Gorgonio H.S., football and track. Ellison was a sprinter and running back, earning Most Valuable Player for both teams. He won league championships in track and field, and was selected Outstanding Male Athlete (track). He was also selected to the All-League football team in his Junior and Senior years. Ellison earned a scholarship to Sacramento State University where he attained his B.A. in Criminology and Theater Arts, followed by Howard University Law School. Ellison was interim Executive Director of the San Bernardino Boys and Girls Club. He is the first Kutania People intern to be inducted into the Black Athletes Hall of Fame, and is also a recipient of the Tom Hester Memorial Award (1975).
- Victor W. Holloway, San Bernardino H.S., San Bernardino Valley College (1967-69), football, wrestling, track and field. Halloway was voted san Bernardino High School Athlete of the Year in his Senior year. Halloway was a wrestling star and was a member of the record setting relay team while at SBVC,
- Howard G. Lee, San Bernardino H.S., San Bernardino Valley College (1968-69), basketball. While at UC Riverside, Lee was voted Southern California College Basketball Athlete of the Year (1969-70 school year). He earned his B.A. from UC Riverside in 1972. Lee became a teacher and principal for the Youth Authority, California Department of Corrections. He was also inducted into the UC Riverside Athletics Hall of Fame, 1986.
- Harry Louder, Jr., San Bernardino H.S. Louder was a three-year letterman in football and track and field. After high school, Louder went into the Air Force and became a starring half-back on the Mitchell Air Force Base football team (Long Island, NY). He attended Hofstra University (New York), and became a computer analyst, team leader and supervisor, County of San Bernardino. His younger brother, Clifford Culbreath, is also a Hall of Fame member (inducted 1981).
- Oscar Weldon Overstreet, San Bernardino H.S., San Bernardino Valley College (A.A. 1956), football and track. Overstreet attended high school in the early 1950s when it was difficult for Black athletes to achieve recognition for their efforts. Overstreet became a mechanic for the City of San Bernardino.
Tom Hester Memorial Award Nominees: James DeBow, III (san Gorgonio), Michael Wooten (Eisenhower), James LaMar Simmons (San Bernardino), and Michael Moore (Cajon).
- James DeBow III (San Gorgonio H.S.) won the Tom Hester Memorial Award for the 1983-1984 school year. DeBow started in football and basketball at San Gorgonio. He was both first team All-League and first team All CIF before attending the University of Arizona, where Debow’s defense of his team’s 1 yard line against rival Arizona State is ranked as a top 5 moment in Wildcat football history. (Retrieved February 18, 2017 from https://uanews.arizona.edu/blog/top-5-university-arizona-plays-duel-history).
Female Athlete of the Year Award: Catherine Y. Shepherd (Eisenhower), June Cheryl Celestine (San Bernardino), Sayori Noah Thomas (San Gorgonio), and Karen LaDawn Brawley (Cajon).
- Karen LaDawn Brawley (Cajon H.S.) won the Tom Hester Female Athlete of the Year Award for the 1983-1984 school year. Brawley was a four-sporty athlete at Cajon, lettering in varsity track her freshman year. For the next three years, she focused on softball, volleyball, and basketball, and was selected Sophomore, Junior and Senior Athlete of the Year along with earning All-League and Most Valuable nods in all three sports. She went on to play softball at San Bernardino Valley College (1983-84).
*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.