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Watauga Academy Basketball Team of 1937-38 Season Beats Dobyns-Bennett in District Tournament

Do we sometimes underestimate the power of determination and persistence? There have been many instances of those two charac-teristics effecting an outcome of an event in a positive way, but, I think it was especially true when the Watauga Academy basketball team of Old Butler went up against Dobyns-Bennett High School in the district tournament and came away with a win — a win, even though the traveling team had no gym and relied on outdoor goals to practice. The final score was 20-14.
It is remarkable that a team that practiced on an outdoor court — a muddy one when it rained — could accomplished such a feat as to be successful against a team that had the up-to-date facilities that were available at Dobyns-Bennett High School. But, that’s just what happened in the 1937-38 season. I recently received a phone call and later a letter with some information about the team from former “Old Butler” native Linda (Tucker) Jewett who now lives in Ohio. She said she enjoys my column, especially when I write about the old times in Johnson County. Linda’s father, Ellis Tucker, was a player on that victorious team. Others on the team were Earl Lunceford, B. A. Lipford, Hyder Wolfe, Wallace Cable, R. H. Milhorn, Vaught Wagner, Edwin DeVault and Robert Fine. According to the information I have, at the time of the win, Paul Cates was at the helm for the Butler team. Cates coached five years at Watauga Academy.
Following the drawdown of Watauga Lake in 1983, a wooden bas-ketball backboard was removed and is now on display at the Butler Museum. One board was missing from the backboard. That water-logged backboard likely provoked many memories of the great times experienced on the dirt court as the players practiced. Wa-tauga Academy had girls basketball as well as boys basketball. Baseball was also a prominent sport at Watauga Academy. At one time the school fielded a six-man football team.
Predecessors to Watauga Academy include Aenon Seminary, which held its first session in the fall of 1871 in a two-story brick building in the forks of Watauga River and Roan Creek. A new building was built and Holly Springs College was founded with its first session on the first Monday of August in 1886. According to the late R. D. Fritts’ book; Development of Education in Johnson County Tennessee; Holly Springs College was purchased by the Home Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention and re-named Watauga Academy in 1901. In 1931-32, Watauga Academy was bought by Johnson County and then operated as a tax sup-ported high school until the close of the 1948 school year.
There are a number of Johnson County citizens who received their secondary education at Watauga Academy before it was closed when Watauga Lake was formed. After that students either went to Hampton High School or were bused to Johnson County High School. For many, athletics has been an important part of the high school experience. It was no less important for Watauga Academy. Many outstanding athletes were enrolled there. To name them all and their accomplishments would go beyond the scope of this col-umn. I’m sure many great wins were recorded, but the basketball team’s win over Dobyns-Bennett was perhaps the greatest triumph of them all.

NOTE: The headline for last week’s This ‘n’ That was incorrect. It should have read “Class of ’56 Marks 55th Year With Two-Day Reunion Activities.” The article was correct, but the headline was incorrect. The mistake was caught in time to correct the website article, but not the print edition. We apologize for any confusion this may have caused.