The Chattahoochee Valley Sports Hall of Fame is pleased to announce its’ “Class of 2016”.
Athlete-turned businessman James (Jimmy) Blanchard paved a trail in the world of golf. As a member of several state championship golf teams at Valdosta High School, Blanchard went on to win the Country Club of Columbus Junior Championship in 1958. He also won the Region 1-AAA Championship, Individual, at the Country Club of Columbus.
Blanchard attended the University of Georgia, where he continued to contribute in golf. Blanchard made the first team as a freshman in 1959. He lettered in UGA Varsity Golf as a sophomore and junior. Later, Blanchard received the Eddie Sams Awards, bestowed to an outstanding former golf letterman at UGA.
By the 1990’s Blanchard had cemented himself as a formidable player both on the golf course and off of it. In 1995, he became a member of Augusta National Golf Club. You can now see him at the Masters Tournament on the 1st hole.
After his playing days, Blanchard served as Synovus CEO from 1971-2005. He also served as Chairman of the Board of the multi-billion dollar regional financial services company based in Columbus. After his tenure as CEO of Synovus, Blanchard formed a partnership with Columbus State University to create the Jim Blanchard Leadership Forum. The forum has attracted the top influential political, military and business leaders worldwide. Some notable leaders who have shared their expertise include President George W. Bush, First Lady Laura Bush, author John Maxwell, former U
S Senators Sam Nunn and Zell Miller, as well as multiple presidential cabinet members.
“One of the greatest gifts I can offer to our country is an investment in Leadership,” Blanchard said. “We want to provide a forum where leaders can be exposed to the best and brightest minds in the world today.”
Blanchard currently serves as Chairman of the Board of Advisors at Jordan-Blanchard capital, LLC, a firm that invests in small business manufacturing, distribution and business services.
Pam Carter has coached cheerleading for over 30 years. Carter founded the Georgia Cheerleading Coach Association and has served on the National Federation of High School’s Board and Spirit Rules Committee. She was also a cheer representative for the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association.
Carter is currently on the board of the Georgia Officials Association Organization. Her specialties range from coach, rules trainer and interpreter, to renowned judge locally, nationally and internationally. Carter’s teams have performed at college bowl games, super bowls and Olympic games in Barcelona (1992) and Atlanta (1996).
Carter has been with the Georgia High School Association for more than 20 years and now serves as the State Cheerleading Coordinator. She won numerous championships at Hardaway High School in Columbus and attended the Gator, Sugar and Hula Bowls.
Columbus native Cecil Cheves has done in the past 16 years what few people do in a lifetime. In 1994, when he was 45-years-old, Cheves ran his first race, the Country’s Midnight 5K. After that race, Cheves pursued running in a more serious fashion. By the end of the decade in 1999, Cheves ran in the Chicago Marathon. In 2001, he completed the New York city Marathon. Finally, two years later, Cheves achieved the ultimate marthoning experience when he ran his first Boston Marathon.
However, Cheves went a step further. He completed his first “Ironman” triathlon in Panama City in November of 2003. the “Ironman” Triathlon consists of a 2.4-mile (3.86 km) swim, a 112-mile (180.25 km) bicycle ride and a marathon 26.2-mile (42.2 km) run, without a break. In 2005, Cheves’ endurance persisted as he ran a full marathon every month for a year.
Since 1994, Cheves has ran and completed 60 full marathons, five Boston Marathons and 15 full “Ironman” events. At age 64, he qualified for and completed the “Ironman World Championship” in Hawaii. His performance at that event lead him to represent the United States in the ITU World Championships in China in 2014. To celebrate turning 60, Cheves ran 60 miles, biked 60 miles and swam a 60-lap course on Lake Oliver.
Cheves’ work has inspired many athletes in the Chattahoochee Valley. He was instrumental in the creation and sustaining of the “Y Kids Tri” program and the YMCA. He is also the founding and current Race Director of the annual Soldier Marathon, a community long distance event that has existed for six years.
Cheves is a member of the Columbus Sports Council and sponsors many sporting events at all levels.
Dual-sport athlete Speedy Gilstrap has etched himself in Chattahoochee lore over the years. The Dothan, Alabama native moved to Columbus and attended Columbus High School, where he excelled at tennis and basketball. Gilstrap captained the CHS basketball team and played in the first integrated game against Carver. As an upperclassman, Gilstrap teamed with fellow Chattahoochee Valley Sports Hall of Fame member Dan Kirkland, Jr. to score 90 points, the largest total by two players in Bi-City history. Gilstrap was also one of the top five scorers of all time in the William H. Shaw Christmas tournament.
At Columbus College, Gilstrap came into his own in tennis, becoming an All-American in the process. During the summer of 1973, Gilstrap transferred to the University of Alabama after leading Columbus College to three Top 10 finishes in the NAIA national tournament in Kansas City. At Alabama, Gilstrap was elected captain of the Crimson Tide tennis team. He also won the SEC championship in singles and doubles during his senior season in Tuscaloosa and made the all-SEC team.
Gilstrap’s post-collegiate career sent him throughout the Southeast. He won more than 35 professional tournaments in Atlanta, Birmingham, Raleigh, Vicksburg and Columbus among other places.
Gilstrap won the Georgia State Open title in both singles and doubles competition, becoming the only male player from Columbus to win the singles title. In 1979, Gilstrap stringed together eight consecutive tennis tournament wins, going 31 matches without a loss. Gilstrap was ranked No. 1 in doubles and No. 2 in singles after the ’79 season.
Gilstrap also found another passion in coaching boys basketball at Spencer and Brookstone High Schools. He was responsible for amassing the most wins in Brookstone history at one point from 1971-2009. He retired as Spencer basketball coach with the most wins in history, a record that has since been broken. However, Gilstrap does own the best winning percentage at Spencer (188-62) with 75%. Spencer was the only Columbus school that did not have a losing record during a 10-year period. Gilstrap was also selected as Region 5-A tennis coach of the year seven times at Brookstone.
What Tim Walton lacked in stature he made up in professionalism. The Columbus native played football for the Carver Tigers. The 1987 Georgia AAAA quarterfinals saw Walton captain Carver to its first playoff victory in a 21-7 upset.
Following high school, Walton signed with Ohio State University, where he played as a defensive back from 1990-1993. He started 25 games and became co-captain for the team in his senior year. Walton lettered four seasons and won a Big Ten championship.
Walton went into coaching after college, getting his start at Bowling Green State University. He was a graduate assistance and full-time running backs coach in the mid-90’s. After four years with the Falcons, Walton moved to the University of Memphis for the 2000-2001 seasons.
Walton also made a pit stop at Syracuse before joining an LSU staff lead by Nick Saban. Walton coached the secondary on an LSU team that won the BCS National Championship in 2003.
Walton continued his coaching career at the University of Miami and even made it to the next level with the Detroit Lions and the St. Louis Rams. In 14 years of coaching at the collegiate level, Walton coached 13 NFL draft picks, including five first round picks and four second round picks.
Each inductee will be inducted into the Chattahoochee Valley Hall of Fame on Saturday, February 20, 2016 at the Columbus Convention and Trade Center.