RALEIGH — Before the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame inducted his aunt as part of the Class of 2023, Charles Griffin took a one-hour drive.
“Yesterday, I went to Snow Camp, where Ellen has resided for the last 36 years in the Friends Cemetery, to tell her about her award,” he said.
His aunt, Ellen Griffin, was a women’s golf pioneer. She founded the Women’s Professional Golf Association, which was a forerunner of the LPGA, and taught golf at UNC Greensboro for 28 years, earning the 1962 LPGA Teacher of the Year Award. Her teaching and coaching career earned her a spot as one of the 15 members of the 2023 induction class.
The class included Kinston native and Tar Heels basketball standout Jerry Stackhouse, who was a UNC All-American before his 18-year NBA career. Since retiring as a player, Stackhouse has embarked on a coaching career, first in the NBA G League and currently with the Vanderbilt Commodores, where he earned SEC Coach of the Year honors this season.
Stackhouse wasn’t the only college coach in Tennessee that was honored by his home state. Hickory native Rick Barnes, who has won a combined 779 games and counting at Providence, George Mason, Clemson, Texas and Tennessee, was also on hand to accept the honor.
As might be expected, the Hall of Fame class was heavy on basketball. Also inducted was NC State women’s player Trudi Lacey, who scored 1,957 points with the Wolfpack from 1977-81 and won two regular season titles and an ACC Tournament championship. She’s gone on to a career as a coach and administrator in college and the WNBA, and she is currently the athletic director for Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte.
“This is a time of celebration,” Lacey said. “I don’t see it as a time to celebrate myself but a time to thank all the people that supported me.” That included late former NC State coach Kay Yow, herself a member of the NC Sports Hall.
East Carolina was represented by Rosie Thompson, the school’s all-time scoring leader. She’s also the women’s program’s all-time leader in rebounding.
“What an awesome group,” Thompson said of the induction class. “I cannot believe how much these people have done. I never thought 40 years ago when I arrived at East Carolina University that I would be standing before you to be honored for doing something I love — simply running up and down the basketball court, having a good time. I feel blessed to have had that opportunity to be a part of such a fine group of women when I played. I feel honored and privileged to have played for the East Carolina Pirates.”
Leicester’s Ronald Rogers was also inducted. He scored 1,960 points for Western Carolina and was All-Conference and NAIA All-American three straight years.
“My dad passed nine years ago,” said his daughter, Connie, who represented him at the ceremony. “He would have loved to have been here. I’m wearing his high school ring and my mom’s wedding ring, as well as Dad’s Western Carolina pins.”
Griffin was joined by two other golf legends with roots in the state. Curtis Strange, who led Wake Forest to a 1974 national title while also winning the individual championship before going on to star in the PGA, was also inducted. Strange won a pair of U.S. Opens and claimed 17 PGA Tour championships.
Tom Fazio, who has designed more than 200 golf courses, including 46 of Golf Digest’s top 200 courses in the country, rounded out the golf contingent in the class. His golf course design company has an office in Hendersonville and has added to the state’s golf offerings by designing Pinehurst 6 and 8 and Charlotte’s Quail Hollow.
Five football players were in the class, including Duke’s Clarkston Hines, who set ACC records for touchdown catches and 100-yard games. Former UNC offensive lineman Jason Brown, who played for the Baltimore Ravens before retiring to run a farm in Louisburg, and Clemson linebacker Jeff Davis, a Greensboro native and Dudley alum who helped lead the Tigers to the 1981 national title, were also honored.
The final two football players in the class were HBCU standouts — Winston-Salem State linebacker Donald Evans, who went on to play for the Rams, Steelers and Jets in the NFL, and Bob “Stonewall” Jackson, who was a four-time all-CIAA linebacker at NC A&T before becoming the first African American player from an HBCU to be drafted.
The final two members of the class were longtime NASCAR beat writer Tom Higgins and NC State tennis All-American John Sadri.
The 11 living members in the class were all in attendance, as were family members representing the four deceased Hall of Famers, including Griffin, who prepared for the evening with the graveside conversation with his aunt.
“She said, ‘Make sure to tell everyone I’m the world’s greatest friend,’” he said. “So, I’ve done it.”