By Tamas Mondovics
“Ralph was the best, and I wanted to learn from the best,” said The Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association (TSSAA), referee Larry Hutchinson while asked to say a few words about his friend, the late Ralph Stout, one of the greatest basketball and football officials to ever put on a striped shirt.
Hutchinson was just one four people interviewed in Mountain City, TN by Rick Waggner a National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) documentary film producer last month ahead of Stout’s, upcoming induction into the National High School Hall of Fame.
Stout will become the twelfth person and third official from the state of Tennessee to be inducted.
The event, which in itself will be a special time for all associated with NFHS as hosting its 37th Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony and the 100th NFHS Annual Summer Meeting is scheduled for Sunday, June 30 at the JW Marriott Indianapolis in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Stout, passed away on August 18, 2017, at the age of 96, and was a loving husband to Margie for 75 years and a wonderful father to Sonny, Mary Beth, Linda, Carole, and Jeff. He will be inducted posthumously.
Of course, there is no shortage of stories and fine memories connected to Ralph’s career, thanks to his famed and one-of-a-kind officiating high school football and basketball from 1946 until 1992.
“Ralph was a special person and highly committed, to his work,” Hutchinson said, adding, “He knew the rules. Everyone was well aware that if Ralph did not have or know the answer to an officiating question, nobody knew.”
During his 65 years with the TSSAA, he served as an official, a supervisor, and commissioner. He officiated in conferences including Southern, OVC, SEC, ACC, VSAC, and NBA.
He refereed eighteen district tournaments and twelve regional tournaments for the association. He served as the official’s supervisor for Region 1 football and basketball from 1990 until 2000.
Ralph boast of a plethora of awards and accolades including (in order) being inducted into the Naismath Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame (1968), TSSAA Hall of Fame (1984), Northeast Hall of Fame (1989), Lincoln Memorial University Hall of Fame (1989), and Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame (1992) just to name a few.
In a statement to the media, Bernard Childress, Executive Director of TSSAA, spoke highly of Stout and was proud of him representing the state.
“We are extremely happy for Ralph’s family. He was such a well-known and respected official in Tennessee, and not just at the high school level, but at all levels. Ralph Stout made so many contributions in both basketball and football throughout his officiating career. We are honored to have him represent our state as an inductee into the National High School Hall of Fame. This is a very proud moment for the state of Tennessee and TSSAA, but most of all, it’s a proud moment for Ralph’s family. We appreciate all of his years of service to TSSAA, it’s member schools, and the student-athletes that he had an impact on. He is greatly missed.”
Ralph worked in his family jewelry business for over forty-five years. He was elected mayor of Mountain City in 1947 and served with distinction for nineteen years but that he gave his all to officiating there is little doubt. For this, he holds a place of honor in the proud history of Tennessee sports.
Hutchinson recalled that his friend “passed on a Friday night, while teams around the state were playing the game.”
TSSAA supervisor and friend Jim Cradic agreed, adding that Ralph was reading the ruled book the night he died.
“He studied that book until the end, and he knew it inside out, that’s for sure,” Cradic said. I will miss him and his knowledge of the game.”
At the end of June 2019, Ralph will take his rightful place among the previous Tennessee inductees such as Rick Insell, Catherine Neely, the late Jim Smiddy, the late Buck Van Huss, and the late Boyce Smith, all coaches. The late Bill Pack was inducted into the Hall of Fame as an official, as well as the late Billy Schrivner of Jackson. Ronnie Carter, former Executive Director of TSSAA, was inducted as an administrator. Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway, Nikki McCray-Penson, and Steve Spurrier have all been inducted as athletes from Tennessee.
The National High School Hall of Fame was started in 1982 by the NFHS to honor high school athletes, coaches, contest officials, administrators, performing arts coaches/directors and others for their extraordinary achievements and accomplishments in high school sports and performing arts programs. This year’s class increases the number of individuals in the Hall of Fame to 482.