Every Inducted Member

Kennon Taylor – 2018


Kennon Taylor
Inducted 2018
Early during the decade of the 1970s, quarterback Kennon Taylor rewrote the passing records at Waycross High… and he did it again at Marion Military Institute… and then did the same at Arkansas State University.

Before graduating in 1975, Kennon led the Bulldogs of Waycross High to a 23-4 record while at the controls of Dale Williams’ offense. As of the third game in his sophomore season, he was the starting quarterback and the Dogs finished 9-1 with a subregion championship. Kennon returned for an 8-2 junior campaign and Waycross spoiled Valdosta’s homecoming with a Bulldog upset. His 12th grade season in 1974, Waycross went 9-1. His career totals included 115 completions in 230 attempts for 1,754 yards and 22 touchdowns.

A third baseman and pitcher on Coach Melton Callahan’s Bulldog nine, Kennon helped his ballclub win the in- augural Phillips 66 Tournament sponsored by Dan Stipe. He was the tourney’s Most Valuable Player.

Moving on for two years to Marion Military Institute in Marion, Ala., Kennon was signed to a baseball and football scholarship. But it was during football season that he dominated. He still holds six MMI records: season passing yards 1,597, career passing yards 2,645, completions for a season 102, completions for a career 178, TDs for a season 18 and TDs in a career 27. As a freshman he was a JUCO All-American and he made first team All-Alabama Small College. It was MMI’s best season since World War II. The following year, Kennon and his MMI mates finished 8-2 and No. 9 in the nation among junior colleges. He ranked second nationally in total offense and third in passing yards, numbers that got the attention of Playboy magazine, which tagged him for their top newcomers list in 1977 as he entered Arkansas State.

Kennon quarterbacked the Red Wolves of Jonesboro, Arkansas to back-to-back 7-4 records in 1977 and 78, but he left the school as its career passing yardage leader despite having played for just two years. He also was ranked No. 4 in career total offensive yards. Kennon’s two-year totals were 170-for-372 passing for 2,491 yards and nine TDs while rushing for 392 yards and 10 scores.

Kennon has been married to his high school sweetheart (and majorette) Kathyrn for 40 years. Daughter Nikki (Dr. Kristina Johnson) and husband Ryan have one child. Son Adam Taylor and wife Amanda have two children. Adam, a Waycross police officer, is a combat veteran with three combat tours under his belt.

Edie “Peanut” Spence Palmer – 2018


Edie “Peanut” Spence Palmer
Inducted 2018
Rarely in southeast Georgia has there been a long range sharp-shooting basket- ball legend the caliber of Peanut Spence, one of the stars of the 1964 Ware County High state champion Gatorettes. As a high school freshman in 1963-64, she joined three teammates on the All-State team.

Today Edie “Peanut” Spence Palmer lives in Jacksonville, FL with husband Roger. Peanut, the daughter of the late John and Josephine Spence of Waresboro, came from a family of athletes.

At Ware County High School, had there been a three-point line in the 1960s, she would have put the record book in a deeper orbit. Standing well beyond the top of the foul circle, she would cradle the ball as she took dead-eye aim. Then came her two-handed set shot followed usually by a “SWISH” of the net.

On the night of January 7, 1966 in Blackshear, the 11th-grader could hardly miss. Peanut scored 47 as Ware claimed a 86-59 win over the Blackshear Tigerettes. Thirteen months later and now a senior, Peanut led WCHS to a 56-43 tournament win over Waycross. She matched the Waycross team’s point total of 43 by herself. In the brand new Waycross High Central Avenue gym, Peanut was 17 of 19 from the field and 9 of 10 from the free throw stripe.

She furthered her education at Andrew Junior College, Jacksonville University and the University of North Florida, where she earned a Master’s Degree in Elementary Education. She has been a mission- ary, a teacher, a mentor and an advocate for children and adults alike. Living in Spain for six years, she taught English as a second language. She has taught students with learning disabilities in Yulee, FL and served as a tutor in intercity after-school programs in Jacksonville. She volunteers weekly at Baptist Medical Center in Jacksonville.

Roger and Edie Palmer worship at First Presbyterian Church while daughter Alicia lives in Vermont with her family and daughter. Carmen’s family resides in Atlanta. Says the honoree: “I have five ‘perfect’ grandchildren, who call me Peanut!”

James Edward “Bull” Mitchell – 2018


James Edward “Bull” Mitchell
Inducted 2018
Earning the respect of his coaches, teammates and opponents at every level of the game – high school, college and pro – James Edward Mitchell was a force on the football field.

Playing for Coach Dale Williams at Way- cross High in the late 1980s, the linebacker/defensive lineman was a head hunter with a far flung reputation. Often during practice sessions after school, his coaches had to remove him from the scrimmage for fear of him injuring his teammates. On two occasions Edward “Bull” Mitchell delivered hits that broke the iron bars of helmet face masks.

Edward was an All-Region star for two seasons at Waycross and achieved All-State honors as a senior (the 1990 sea- son). He was the Bulldog team MVP his final high school season and he was selected to compete in the Georgia High School Coaches All-Star North-South game.
He averaged 130 tackles a season during his high school career.

Coached by Leroy Herring on the Waycross High track team, Edward made All-Region in the 11th grade. He competed in many events: the 100 meters, 200 meters, mile relay, 440 relay, shot put, long jump and triple jump.

At the next level in football, his coaches at Itawamba Community College in Mississippi moved him to running back. As a freshman there he was his school’s Most Valuable Offensive Back. Back on defense as a linebacker the following season he earned All-Mississippi JUCO honors.
Moving on to Valdosta State University, Edward led the Blazers in tackles for two seasons and made the Gulf South All-Conference team during his senior campaign.

One of a handful of men from his home Waycross-Ware community to play professional football, Edward was a member of the Ottawa Rough Riders of the Canadian Football League.

Mike Cuneo – 2018


Mike Cuneo
Inducted 2018
Mike Cuneo, one of the elite tennis stars produced by Waycross -Ware County, was a well-rounded athlete at Waycross High School in the late 1970s. After a sensational high school career, he earned All-American status at two different colleges.

The student of Coach Ken Tate on the Waycross High tennis team, Mike earned All-Region honors all four years during high school. He was All- State as a junior and senior. In high school singles competition, he lost only two matches — in the state semifinals during his 11th grade season and in the state championship final round as a senior. Mike also went to state in doubles while playing for Tate’s Bulldogs.

At Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton, a two-year school, Mike was All-American as a freshman. Moving on to Northeast Missouri State (now Truman State), he was the team’s ace there as well and was All-American his senior year.

Mike was also an accomplished high school quarterback in football (1980 Jour- nal-Herald All-Okefenokee Area team) and a journeyman basketball point guard for the late Coach John Pike.

He led Coach Dale Williams’ Bulldogs to victories on the gridiron until a shoul- der injury sidelined him during a road game at Americus in 1980. The senior gave way to another talented quarterback, Todd Williams, the son of the head coach. Late in the game, Todd Williams kicked a long field goal to pull out the victory over the Americus squad. Mike Cuneo, despite his hurt shoulder, was the holder. After missing much of the season, the senior returned to provide an effective quarterback tandem with Williams, who was a junior. The silver-lined irony behind Mike’s injury: Williams earned much valuable experience and the following year quarter- backed Waycross to the 1981 state championship.

Both Williamses, Dale (1989) and Todd (1998), are already enshrined in the hall as is John Pike (2003). Mike is part of another hall of fame legacy, one that is even closer to his heart. His father, the late Andy Cuneo, was inducted into the Waycross-Ware County Sports Hall of Fame in 1990.
Mike and Robyn Cuneo, who worship at First Baptist Church in Blackshear, have three grown children, Andrew, Ansley and Abby.

Marian Fesperman Block – 2018


Marian Fesperman Block
Inducted 2018
When Marian Fesperman entered high school at Southwood School in 1979, the Lady Warriors varsity basketball program got the upgrade of its history. The multi-
talented athlete and her teammates joined the state GISA championship conversation … and had an annual say in the Final Four until she graduated.
As a freshman for Coach Ed Dowling, she helped lead her team to the state semifinal round. In the 10th grade, averaging 18.4 points a game, Marian and Southwood won the state crown beating Trinity Christian 45-36. Beefing up her points per game average to 26.7 as a junior, Marian and the Lady Warriors fell in the state championship
final to Twiggs Academy 26-23 (in three overtimes) as she fouled out. It was back to the throne room in Marian’s 12th grade season (1982-1983) as she capped her career with well over 1,200 points and a career 25.5 points a game average.

She was All-Region three years and All-State as a junior and senior. In three state championship games, she bucketed 94 points. Along the way, Marian eclipsed single game school scoring records held by Lucy Pittman and Kelly Scott as well as Holli Huggins’ career mark (875 points).

During the summer after her senior season, Marian was invited to play in the Georgia-South Carolina All Star Game (also known as the NORTH-SOUTH All Star game). The teams were chosen from all classes — Single A to Quint A — and the Georgia team (South team) won 96-89 as she scored 32 points.

After graduating from the University of Georgia, Marian was an American Airlines flight attendant for 12 years.

Marian has been married to Joe Block for 24 years. Residents of Athens for the past 15 years, they have three daughters. Caroline, 22, is a senior at Ole Miss, Larsen, 20, is an Ole Miss sophomore and Anna Marian is a senior at Athens Academy. She will be a scholarship freshman in the fall at UGA running track and field and cross country for the Dogs.

When her daughters were young, Marian was a stay-at-home mom. But she would resume her education later at Athens Technical College earning an Associate Degree of Nursing. She is now a registered nurse at Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center.

The family worships at Athens First United Methodist Church.

David Whitaker – 2017


David Whitaker
Inducted 2017
David Whitaker was an ace pitcher and a slugger for Coach James Conoly’s Ware County High Gators in the 1980s, batting over .400 three seasons straight, hitting a school record (at the time) seven home runs in the 11th grade, striking out 152 hitters over three years and compiling a 13-9 career record. His 0.90 earned run average as a senior drew double-takes from college recruiters. Three times he was Most Valuable Player (1984, 1985 and 1986).

In college, though, he turned into a home run-stroking machine. The first baseman at Middle Georgia College, he led the Warriors to national heights. In 1988, Whitaker blasted 23 homers to lead the nation as the Warriors finished 42-12 and No. 4 in the nation. The All-American had 75 RBI and hit .407 before signing with Troy State. After one injury-shortened season at Troy, Whitaker was back in his hometown. But he wasn’t finished with his bat. Between ages 22 and 38, Whitaker was the terror of the adult men’s rec softball leagues. He routinely would sock three, four or five homers per ballgame as he led his local softball teams to title after title.

Whitaker was a punting specialist in high school … one of the most effective punt- ers in Ware Gator program history. He boomed many 50-yard kicks, and he once launched one 73 yards (his career long) in a 1986 game.

He’s the son of Ruby Whitaker and the late John D. Whitaker and the husband of the former Mary Lauren Jowers of Blackshear. They have two children, Skylar who is four years old, and John David (“J.D.”) age two

Tony Tanner – 2017


Tony Tanner
Inducted 2017
Ware County High School rolled almost all the way through the state playoffs in 1978 behind the quarterbacking of Tony Tanner.

Tanner, a three-year starter who Coach Bruce Bennett would equate to being “like a coach on the field,” was at the controls as Ware set school records for scoring (341 points), touchdowns (51), yards rushing (3,343) and total yards (4,416). The Gators averaged 339.7 yards a game. Ware went 10-3, the best season in program history at that point, losing in the state semifinals to Westminster. A junior, Tanner had a great support cast that included All-American running back Tim McCray. Tanner’s passing game was the ideal complement to the McCray-led rush attack. In only 65 attempts, Tanner’s passing accrued 563 yards and 11 TDs. He also ran 91 times for 506 yards and four more scores. On defense at safety, Tanner piled up 30 tackles to go with a pass interception and a fumble recovery.

The following season there was a drop-off in talent, but Tanner nearly led Ware to the playoffs. In a 30-28 road win over Early County in Week 9, he came within two yards of David Moore’s school single game passing record (226 yards). Tanner and Travis Peavy did hook up to secure another Ware High program record, one that seems fairly secure for all time. Tanner’s pass play to Peavy covered 99 and 2/3 yards versus Bradwell Institute. The Region 1-AAA passing leader as a senior, Tanner was second team all-region. He played in the Georgia Coaches All- Star game as a defensive back.

Tanner was an accomplished athlete in Ware’s other sports, including basketball and baseball. He stood out on the mound and in the batter’s box. In his last three seasons, he hit .386, .371 and .312. Tanner became the first Gator to wrestle for a region championship in his weight class, making the state wrestling tournament field. He won the Most Improved Wrestler trophy. In the spring of 1980, the Ware senior won the David Earl Jeffords Award for athletic ability and character.

As a preferred walk-on at Chattanooga, Tanner played one year of football before transfer- ring to South Georgia College at Douglas where he was an effective baseball pitcher, both as a starter and in relief.

Taylor Smith – 2017


Taylor Smith
Inducted 2017
Taylor Smith (deceased) won his first junior tournament at the age of 6. From there, destiny beckoned. His love for golf and his God-given talents carried him all the way to the PGA Tour. He played in his first PGA event at age 20.

The highest achieving golfer ever to come from Waycross won the 1992 Permian Basin Open (on the Web.com Tour as it is now known) before qualifying 21st in the 1995 PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament. His high-water year on the Tour was 1996. He racked up multiple top 5 finishes including placing second and third. He was best known by his fellow touring pros for his easy manner and friendly ways. He befriended many, including caddies and young people. After scoring a hole-in-one in the New Orleans Open, his impromptu grace was on display. As the ace shot found the cup, Smith turned to the gallery surrounding the tee box and gave his club to a surprised young spectator.

Lettering four years at Southwood School in soccer, basketball and golf, Smith played at age 14 in the locally esteemed amateur event, the Okefenokee Invitational, finishing second. He played collegiality at Augusta State earning Big South Conference individual champion honors as a freshman. Smith competed in two U.S. Amateur Championships prior to turning pro in 1987 (and he won his first pro tournament that very week).

The father of two beautiful daughters, Patreece and Layton, Smith passed away unexpectedly in Houston, Texas July 21, 2007.

Dustin Hudson – 2017


Dustin Hudson
Inducted 2017
A versatile athlete, Dustin Hudson was good enough as a freshman to start in baseball and football. A ninth-grader during the final year of Waycross High, he started at line- backer in the fall and clubbed six homers in the spring. Moving to the consolidated Ware County High the following year, he continued to excel, smashing nine home runs to set a new Ware High record. Three times all-region, he hit .420, tossed a no-hitter and was the 1-AAAA Player of the Year as a sophomore, his best season. In his career he had 19 homers and 63 RBI.

He went on to sign scholarships with Florida Community College, then Valdosta State. He batted .375 to help his team win the Mid-Florida Conference title and was first team all-conference. The Mid-Florida Conference Scholar-Athlete Award is one of his most prized trophies. He was invited to participate in the Eastern Baseball Showcase in Chapel Hill, N.C., an invitee of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

A linebacker-fullback-kicker, Hudson led 1-AAAA in tackles with 100 as a senior. He made all-region three seasons.

Hudson was a Waycross-Ware County Sports Hall of Fame Scholar-Athlete of the year in 1997 and he now joins his father, Steve, and his grandfather Carroll Hudson, as hall of fame inductees.

A product of the Ware County Rec Department, he was a football, basketball and base- ball standout, making several state all-star teams. He earned the Andy Cuneo Scholastic Athlete Award as a three-sport star at Center Junior High where his football and baseball teams went unbeaten.

Today he’s a volunteer coach at the rec department where his son plays several sports.

Leroy Herring – 2017


Leeroy Herring
Inducted 2017
Waycross High track and field Coach Leroy Herring (deceased) had a knack for find- ing talent in his student-athletes and bringing out the best in them, his guidance leading them to college where many of them continued to prosper athletically.

Herring joined the staff at Waycross High (upon the closing of Center High) in 1969 and stayed until 1992 coaching offensive backs in football and serving as track and cross country coach. Following Manuel Rivas as head track coach, Herring built on the firm championship foundation that had been laid by Chuck McKinney and continued by Rivas.

Under Herring, the Bulldogs were undefeated at their home track for an amazing 16 years! His track teams won 10 region titles, cross country six. Eight of his standouts were individual state champs.

An outstanding motivator, he helped place his athletes in colleges and 26 of them enjoyed successful careers.

Herring earned a bachelor and two masters degrees at Florida A&M, where he played football and track alongside teammate Bob Hayes (“Bullet Bob, The World’s Fastest Human”), of Dallas Cowboys fame. He put in 36 years in public education, 28 at the high school level.

In retirement, he lived in Tallahassee, Fla. He died there March 5, 2003 after an ill- ness at the age of 63.