(With Park View High School slated to merge with Bluestone HS to form the new Mecklenburg County HS in 2022, the South Hill Enterprise is running an ongoing series that looks back at some of the outstanding athletes, coaches and contributors and their stories through the years. This is story No. 27 in the series.)
Longtime Mecklenburg County sportswriter Bob Howerton started covering Bluestone High School athletics in 1968 and has covered nearly every “King of the County” contest since.
“I did miss two games in 1984-85 when I got married,” he said. “I was on my honeymoon.”
Howerton who also covered Park View HS for several seasons after returning to his sports beat in 1986, spent the majority of his 51-year career covering his beloved Barons in addition to Middle School, Dixie Youth, summer leagues and area golf. He retired from his Sports Editor position with The News-Progress in 2019.
“I hen pecked for a lot of years,” he joked. “I had some long nights.”
Howerton said however it was a labor of love.
“When I got the job, I was happy to do it,” he said. “I always rooted for the local team but I tried to be fair. I have made a lot of friends along the way.”
Howerton, who retired from his full-time job as a Supervisor of Machine Parts and Office Supplies at Burlington Industries in 1999 after 46 years of service, said he was having a conversation with Doug Loftis at a social event commemorating Clarksville’s 150th birthday in 1968 when he decided to begin his second career as a sportswriter.
“We got to talking and I told him I wanted to be a writer and he told me to come join them,” said Howerton.
He said he enjoyed covering all sports through the years whether it was golf, baseball, football, softball or volleyball.
“I have always loved sports,” he said. “I didn’t care what season it was, I enjoyed it.”
Howerton, who played baseball and football at Clarksville HS and graduated in 1947, also coached Connie Mack and Babe Ruth baseball in his younger days and said he has always had a passion for baseball.
“Baseball has always been my favorite,” he said. “I love the game.”
Howerton began his coverage at Bluestone HS when Herman Allen took over as head coach of the Barons’ football team in 1968.
“He was here several years and Bluestone had some good teams in those years,” Howerton said.
The Barons went 4-6 in Herman’s first year before rebounding to go 7-3 in 1969 and 6-3-1 in 1970, topping Park View in two of his first three seasons.
Howerton said he also enjoyed covering the careers of Bluestone HS greats Michael Tucker and Jerome Kersey who both enjoyed long careers in the professional ranks.
Tucker starred at Bluestone HS before going on to a sensational career at Longwood University. He was drafted by the Kanas City Royals in 1992 and spent 11 seasons in Major League Baseball, playing for seven teams. Tucker had his most productive season with the Atlanta Braves in 1997, batting .283 while rapping out 141 hits and scoring 80 runs. Tucker hit the first homerun at Turner Field for the Braves on April 4, 1997.
“Michael was self-made,” said Howerton. “His father and brother were both very good athletes. Michael was fast and had a big bat.”
Howerton said Kersey was a big man whose size was built for success on the hardwood throughout his career at Bluestone, Longwood and in the NBA.
“Kersey did it all on his own,” said Howerton. “He had an open field across the street from his Grandmother’s and he played over there all the time growing up.”
Howerton said Kersey worked hard for what he earned.
“Nobody gave him anything,” said Howerton. “He was a great player at Longwood and then Portland drafted him in the NBA. He was big and thick. The game was built for him.”
Kersey was drafted by the Trailblazers in the second round of the 1984 NBA draft and spent 17 years in the league, winning a NBA championship with the San Antonio Spurs in 1999.
Kersey’s best season came in 1987-88 when as a starter for Portland, he averaged 19.2 points and 8.3 rebounds per game.
Howerton said the annual “King of the County” football game between Park View and Bluestone has always been important to both teams.
“I think it meant a lot to them,” he said.
While Park View has dominated the series of late with a current 17-game winning streak, Howerton said the Barons have been competitive through the years.
“We’ve had some good kids at times,” he said. “Park View had some good coaches and a few more players to draw from.”
Howerton said several games in recent years could have gone either way in the cross-county rivalry.
“For three or four years in a row, we had the game taken away on the last play or two of the game,” he said. “They had some won and they had some taken away.”
Bob, 90, lives in Clarksville with his wife Myrna. He has three daughters, a step son, six grandchildren and 13 great grandchildren.