It is time to vote.
No, not in the huge election next month, but the big one for the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame.
Ballots have been sent out and are due Oct. 31. Like always, it is not an easy vote because there are so many qualified candidates.
While reading the bios that accompany the ballot, several stood out.
Like Jesse Mason, who only hard-core sports fans would have heard about because he came along before African-Americans were playing at most of the larger schools, especially in the south.
Mason played for UAPB — then known as Arkansas Agriculture, Mechanical and Normal College — and was selected All-SWAC three times.
Those who remember him say he would have averaged at least 50% more points if there had been a three-point line in his day. They say his shooting range was where he stepped into the gym.
As a junior, he averaged 24.3 points per game. As a senior, he increased it ot 25.2 ppg.
He is one of a select few who had his number retired and has been inducted into the UAPB and SWAC halls of fame.
Mason is an Air Force veteran, former teacher and coach, and he has served as Little Rock’s vice mayor and on the airport commission.
Another should-be household name in the world of perspiring arts is Billy Joe Murray.
As a coach, Murray won seven state boys basketball championships and more than 1,100 games.
He coached for 38 years at Crawfordsville and Earle. Most years he coached both the junior and high school teams.
Murray also had an outstanding career as a player at Morrilton High for John Widner, then at Arkansas Tech University.
At 6-3, Murray played center in high school but switched to guard at Tech, where he ranks seventh in career scoring, fifth in career field goals, and third in field goal and free throw attempts.
In an era when the Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference was as respected as the Southwest Conference (prior to Eddie Sutton becoming the head coach for the Arkansas Razorbacks), Murray was a two-time All-AIC selection.
Both are on the senior list of the ASHOF ballot, which is loaded with viable candidates but none more so than these two guys who devoted their lives to making Arkansas a better place to live.
On the regular ballot there are dozens of qualified former athletes, coaches and administrators. One probably has been overlooked in years’ past, maybe because his last name starts with a “W” and his candidate bio falls in the back.
ASHOF Executive Director Terri Johnson decided this year to send the ballots out in reverse alphabetical order as a test to see whether some of those on the final pages were being overlooked.
So Jimmy Walker — who Dan Hampton claims was the best defensive tackle he ever played with — is first on the list.
He played for the Razorbacks from 1975-78, and he still ranks No. 4 in all-time career tackles for a loss. During his junior and senior seasons he totaled 34 tackles for loss, and he was named All-SWC both years.
As a senior, he was named first-team All-American and the outstanding defensive player of the Fiesta Bowl. He started for the Hogs in their win over Oklahoma in 1978.
Walker was selected to the 1970s Razorback All-Decade team. After college, he played for the Edmonton Eskimos in the Canadian Football League, where he helped them win the Grey Cup.
This column is not necessarily meant to promote one player over the others, but to point out what a great class the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame is destined to have in April.
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