It would have been human for USATF Georgia Association President Ian Dube to have concerns about any support his 2009 idea would receive. However, doubt never entered Dube’s mind.
Dube was proud of the tradition surrounding the sport of track and field in the state of Georgia and inside the Georgia Association and wished to bring added exposure to its rich tradition. But would the idea catch on?
Now, three years later, the proof shows in the numbers.
When the Georgia Association inducted its second hall of fame class in August at the Hyatt Re
gency in downtown Atlanta, the 300 guests in attendance put to rest any concerns of the idea catching on. The evening, which honored inductees Edith McGuire-Duvall, Antonio McKay Sr., Douglas Fowlkes, Paul Koshewa, Jimmy Carnes and Edward Barton Hamm, also featured appearances from 1968 Olympic legends John Carlos and Tommie Smith, 1960 Olympic gold medalist Ralph Boston and reigning Olympic bronze medalist Reese Hoffa.
It didn’t take long for Dube’s idea to come to fruition.
“We have a plethora of accomplished athletes coming from Georgia,” Dube said. “This has become one of the things we are very proud of. Over the last couple of years tons and tons of people have shown support. As an organization to maximize our coverage we have to make stars out of our stars.”
Dube initially paraphrased the baseball movie Field of Dreams when talking about the initial idea for the hall of fame.
“If you build it they will come,” he said.
The concept was to create an inaugural class full of superstars and look to build the interest in subsequent classes. In 2011 the association inducted legends Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Edwin Mosses, LeRoy Walker, Alice Coachman, Wyomia Tyus and Gwen Torrence, among others. With both initial classes being inducted with overwhelming success, planning for the 2013 class will begin earlier than ever.
But Dube was quick to point out the intentions of the hall of fame, which includes a thorough three-round selection process, were to do more than just honor the tradition of the sport, which it does admirably. It creates a platform to engage names such as Smith, Carlos, Boston and Hoffa and showcase current legends still involved with the Georgia Association.
A prime example occurred in 2011 when Smith and Carlos accepted the Georgia Association
Hall of Fame award on behalf of Coachman. Considering the importance to the civil rights protest of Smith and Carlos at the 1968 Olympic Games and the significance of Coachman being recognized as the first African American woman to win an Olympic gold medal, it becomes difficult to believe more history in the sport of track and field could be present on a single stage. And it all took place surrounding the Georgia Association Hall of Fame.
The possibility for future loaded classes for the hall of fame seems evident for the Georgia Association, which features more than 4,000 members and 120 youth and adult clubs. As many as nine athletes with ties to Georgia were present on Team USA for the recent London Olympics. Most notably, Olympic 110-meter hurdles gold medalist and world record holder Aries Merritt, Olympic triple jump champion Christian Taylor, two-time Olympic 400m hurdles gold medalist Angelo Taylor, reigning Olympic 400m bronze medalist and two-time 4x400m gold medalist DeeDee Trotter and Hoffa.
“It speaks high to the tradition,” Dube said about both those being inducted into the hall of fame as well as the strength of current athletes. “Statistically it bodes well for us. We have a history of doing well. It’s a strong statement that we make as an association. We have a lot of support in our grassroots efforts and in masters as well.”
Just like the National Track & Field Hall of Fame, which will induct its 38th annual class later this year, the USATF Georgia Association Hall of Fame began with a single concept. While Dube has been pleased with the fast success the hall of fame has received, he has plans for even bigger numbers in the future.
“We make sure we get the best athletes possible,” he concluded. “It’s not a popularity contest. We go through too many rounds (before committees) and no one there will have common interests.”