The New Year 2020 arrived with some cold brisk weather to motivate us after the holidays in our hometown with school back in session and the attention returning to school basketball.
We have been visiting and talking with John F. Frazier, the son of the late Robert and Juanita (Ramsey) Frazier of Newport, and especially his career as a coach. His real work included master plumber and vocational school instructor.
As young men, he and I had a connection that is rarely seen today. We both delivered the daily newspapers in our community. John, who just turned 83, is about 7 years older than me. As a youngster growing up in Northport he delivered the Knoxville Journal. I delivered the Miami Herald and sold the Miami News on street corners in heavy traffic.
Speaking about his route area along what is Highway 321, North Street, he said, “It was a fine area including many well known families such as McNabbs, Runnions, Walkers, Stokelys, Carl Mims, Buzz Kennedy.”
When he got older he would walk to Newport to attend Winston Baird’s Winston Theater and also the Park Theater. When he could play golf he often golfed with Hugh Taylor, who owned Taylor Grocery.
“The big event on Saturdays was to go into town and watch the steam trains arrive.” This was in the early 1940s. “I rode a train from Newport to Washington DC.”
As I mentioned last week, his father worked for A.C. Lawrence Leather Company and mother raised the children. She also worked part-time at Maddron’s restaurant located where Terry Hurst’s law office is at East Main. Hop Maddron operated it. Juanita also worked at the Coffee Pot.
Going to school at Northport, he liked basketball but was too small to play and preferred baseball. He grew up with Moose Clevenger, Ed Ray, and became lifelong friends with Scott McClure, who later coached basketball.
“I started Cocke County High School 1947-48, when Roy T. Campbell Sr. was principal and later H.G. Bray.” His coach was Joe Lester, who sold insurance in Morristown. Some of the other coaches he recalled were Bob Cummings, football coach, Dale Powell, and Herki Payne. At 5 feet and 9 inches weighing 120 pounds he didn’t appear to be much of an athlete but did excel at second base.
Teammates that you might have known were Richard Maloy, Moose and Clifford Clevenger, Bill Lewis, and Robert Pack.
Last week I recounted John enlisted in the Army from about 1954-1957 and then worked at Wall Tube & Metal for several years. He entered his lifelong career of plumbing thanks to his brother-in-law Jimmy Beason.
“We did a lot of the buildings and homes going up in the 1960s,” he said, naming homes in Indian Hills, the White Store, and state employment office contracts. Eventually John went out on his own and could make $600 plumbing out a house.
His knowledge of the trade carried him to the Ben Hooper Vocational School in the 1980s, a time when Ronnie Davis was director.
I plan to go into more detail about the coaching team of Frazier and McClure. During the 1973-75 seasons I spent plenty of time myself on the hardwood courts photographing and covering basketball for the Plain Talk. But for now let me jump to comments Wade Wester made about Frazier.
It was the 1985-86 CCHS team that went to the sub-state games played in Oak Ridge, as Wester recalls, then a sophomore. At 6 feet 8 inches, and looks like 7 feet to me, he held the center post for the Fighting Cocks. John F. was head coach.
“He was a players coach and gave you freedom. He understood what each player could do and made every body better,” said Wester.
Frazier was somewhat handicapped with the CCHS boys team during the mid to late 1980s, because the majority of them also played football and the Fighting Cocks under Coach Larry Williams were All Conference.
It wasn’t until after Christmas that the football players joined the basketball team. Wester was basketball only but glad to have the full bench going into the New Year. “Their basketball legs got under them.”
John was a true motivator and might have had a lot to do with inspiring assistant Scotty Dykes, who is current CCHS head coach, who “is a great guy,” said Wester.
To be continued...