Jonesville Historical Society Chair Dr. Judy Wolfe and society member Charles Mathis spoke recently of the importance of establishing the John Wesley Mathis Jonesville High School Collection, one of the first in the Jonesville History Center.
They called it a reminder of how much school spirit often means to small communities and a reflection of the talent found in the area. The largest portion of the high school collection relates to athletics.
In a small room of the center are trophies, memorabilia and newspaper clippings numerously lining the walls, shelves and tables. A sign above the hallway and just before the rooms’ entrance, signifies its dedication to legendary coach, John Wesley Mathis.
There are many notable collections that are complete, while some remain works in progress.
Mathis’ brother, Charles Mathis, said his brother was an inspiration for him to create several of the display boards in the room.
“He coached for 38 years — forever — and his secret to having a winning team — he knew who would be on his team.”
Charles Mathis said his brother always had the gym open for anyone who wanted to play ball and was and still is referred to as a “legend” in the community.
During his senior year at Jonesville High School, Charles said his brother played football for Elkin. That was two years before he went into army and before Jonesville had a team in 1943-44. John Wesley Mathis later went on to play football at Appalachian State University.
There was a Jonesville school built originally in 1925 that first served as both an elementary and high school for students in grades 1-11. In 1940, Jonesville High School was built. In 1967, Jonesville High School was consolidated into Starmount High School. The Jonesville High School building was demolished in the early 1970’s.
Some of the old trophies and awards on display at the center were salvaged thanks mostly to Coach Mathis, said Wolfe and his brother, Charles. Still, many were destroyed.
Wolfe said the late Jackie Brown was the first African-American to play on the Jonesville High School varsity athletic team. Brown later attended Starmount High School lettering in football, baseball, basketball, and track, graduating in 1969.
Brown later attended the University of South Carolina, then was drafted in 1973 by the Baltimore Colts to play football. He later became an evangelist in Winston-Salem.
Mathis said well-known basketball player Dickie Hemric basically put Jonesville on the map “so to speak.” He said,”Dickie Hemric was never ashamed to call Jonesville his home.” Hemric is a two-time Wake Forest All-American basketball player who later played for the Boston Celtics. Hemric still holds NCAA college records.
Some other works and collections on sports and athletics in the Jonesville High School Collection are:
• Carlos King, who went to North Carolina State and later went on to play football with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
• Danielle Vestal, from Jonesville High, who played in the Braves farm system.
• Howard Pardue, who played college basketball at Virginia Tech. An All-State player at Jonesville, Pardue was a high school coach and athletic director in Winston-Salem after graduation from Virginia Tech. He was an All-American at Virginia Tech. In 1984, Pardue was elected to Virginia Tech’s All-Time First Team. He was inducted into the Virginia Tech Sports Hall of Fame in 1992.
• Paul Reynolds, who played college basketball at Appalachian State University.
• Dick Vestal, who played college ball at Wingate College and later became district attorney in the area.
• John Shaw, who played baseball at the University of North Carolina and received the Patterson Medal in 1966.
• Joe Popp, who played football at Catawba College and was a college All-American. Popp also coached at Jonesville, Carolina the Canadian Football League, the Chicago Fire of the World Football League and as assistant coach for the Cleveland Browns. He holds the record for the most wins in Mooresville High School history.
• Doris Shugart, who graduated in the 1940s and went on to play semi-pro basketball with the Chatham Industrial Team.
• Kay Price from Jonesville who played professional tennis and also played basketball with the Chatham Industrial team.
• Reece Shugart who played baseball at Appalachian State University and with the Chatham baseball team.
• James Holleman, who was recently inducted into the Surry County Hall of Fame.
• Barney Hall, former NASCAR commentator and known as the “voice of NASCAR.”
• Billy Joe Gentry, whom Wolfe and Mathis called one of Jonesvilles’ finest athletes. Though, Gentry did not play in college, he was known as one of the hardest football players to catch, who ever came out of Jonesville, they said.
• Dr. Judy Wolfe, who was recruited by the Texas Redheads. Coach Mathis coached Wolfe. Charles Mathis said his brother would tell Judy not to let a girl from the other team make a point and she would not. Wolfe was 1960-61 Tri-County Player of the Year and All-State in basketball.
• Betty Price Keenan, was a cheerleader who stands out, said Wolfe and Mathis. Keenan Memorial Stadium was named in honor of her husband, William Keenan in Chapel Hill.
• Coach Ron Bray graduated from Jonesville in the 1960’s and is a record holding coach at Hunter Huss High in Gastonia, He has also coached a winning team in East-West All Star basketball. At Jonesville High, he played football, baseball, and was named All-Conference, All-Tournament, and Journal-Sentinel All-Northwest in basketball.
• Roy Boles, who played baseball and basketball at Guilford and was leading basketball scorer in the 1930’s. Boles later played professional baseball.
• Letha Jo Evans, a race car driver and athlete and known as the first woman to drive at the Jonesville Speedway. She was also a national champion equestrian and the first lifeguard in Yadkin County.
Charles Mathis made the first display board for Old Jonesville Day (now Jonesville Jubilee) in early 2000 collecting work from 1953.
Charles said “I was proud I resurrected Jonesville High School.”
Tanya Chilton may be reached at 336-835-1513 or on Twitter @TanyaTDC.