The 10-person induction class for the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame in May is loaded with men who earned acclaim on a national scale, and four of those have Chattanooga ties.
Zan Guerry, who has won national tennis titles in five decades, and retired PGA Tour golfer C.L. "Gibby" Gilbert II will be joined in the May 19 induction ceremony at the Renaissance Hotel in Nashville by fellow Chattanooga native Austin Conner Shofner. Shofner grew up in Bedford County, lettered in wrestling and football at the University of Tennessee and became a U.S. Marines brigadier general.
He led the only successful American team escape from a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp, according to the Hall of Fame release, and first let the world know about the infamous Bataan Death March of 1942. He received the Distinguished Service Cross from Gen. Douglas MacArthur.
Another inductee will be Tim Jackson, one of the nation's top amateur golfers. He lives in Germantown, Tenn., but is a member at The Honors Course and says Chattanooga "is a second home for me."
Also going into the hall are Gene Bartow, whose many achievements as a college basketball coach include taking the 1973 Memphis State team to the national title game; bass fishing icon Bill Dance from Lynchburg; Middle Tennessee State women's basketball coach Rick Insell, whose long run of success at Shelbyville Central High School earned an invitation to the White House; former Tennessee State and NFL star defensive back Jim Marsalis; 45-year East Tennessee State track and cross country coach David Walker; and the late Jeff Byrd, whose NASCAR management career culminated with the presidency of Bristol Motor Speedway.
"This year we have one of the most diverse classes of all time," said Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame president Bill Emendorfer, a Cleveland High School football and wrestling star who went on to be an All-SEC guard at the University of Tennessee. "It is not a typical class dominated by football players and basketball players, but this year we have professionals from NASCAR, fishing, tennis and golf. Plus we have a true American war hero who has a Tennessee football background."
Gilbert, soon to turn 71, said "this hall of fame is the tops. It's about as far as you can go, or at least I'll go. I'm very pleased and honored and I'm in there with some good names. It's going to make it easier going in with Zan and guys that you know and have read about and know their careers.
"It's exciting and it's something I've wanted for quite a while."
After attending the University of Chattanooga, Gilbert turned pro in 1965 and joined the PGA Tour in 1967. He had three wins and "dozens of top-10 finishes" on that tour, according to the Hall release, including a tie for second in the 1980 Masters. He won six times on the Senior Tour, now called the Champions Tour.
Guerry, 62, was a nationally No. 1-ranked junior tennis player and three-time All-American at Rice University. Before immersing himself in business with Chattem, where he followed his father as president and chairman, he won matches at the French Open and Wimbledon and won two singles matches at the 1977 U.S. Open before losing to Jimmy Connors.
Guerry has more than 25 national singles and doubles championships and is in the Tennessee and Collegiate tennis halls of fame.
"We're very proud and pleased that he's going in," Guerry's uncle, John Guerry, said Saturday night. "I know Zan feels the same way."
Jackson, a certified public accountant and real estate developer, has played in more than 35 USGA national championship events and won the 1994 and 2001 U.S. Mid-Amateurs. He said the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame selection was "really a surprise."
"Just to be in the same class as Gibby and what he's done ... it couldn't have been better," Jackson said. "Time is flying by, but I'm young enough to enjoy it and it's pretty special."
He couldn't talk about the honor without talking about The Honors.
"The Honors Course has a real warm spot in my heart. It is the home of Tennessee golf, particularly what's special to me as an amateur," he said.
Staff writer David Uchiyama contributed to this report.