School board considers honoring former Tryon basketball legend

Published 8:00 am Wednesday, June 6, 2018

COLUMBUS — A group of former Tryon High School basketball players want a name for the Tryon Elementary School Gym.

The group made a presentation during the Monday Polk County School Board meeting, where they asked the elementary school gym to be named for Harthorne Wingo.

In 1964, Wingo was one of the first African American students to attend Tryon High School, who played for the basketball team for the 1964–1965 season. From 1972 to 1976, he played four seasons in the National Basketball Association as a member of the New York Knicks.

After moving to Italy in 1976, Wingo won the European Cup.

“I think his story is a great story for students to know,” said Wingo’s former teammate Bill Metcalf. “From what we know, he comes from one of the smallest schools to ever have an NBA player.”

Along with Metcalf, Tom Kell, Rick Gosnell, Bill Brock and Tommy Burrell attended the meeting to address the school board. Metcalf said Wingo came from a poor family with 15 children, worked odd jobs and played in the textile league.

“He was totally poor,” Metcalf said. “But he made our team.”

Metcalf said the former members of the 1964 – 1965 team had already designed a sign for the gym and would handle all the finances. He added that the group was working on other ideas to help Wingo, who has apparently fallen on hard times and needs some medical help.

The school board agreed to take the proposal under consideration.

In other business, the board heard a report on efforts to help students better transition from middle school to high school presented by Polk Schools Transition Coordinator Marie Mason-Freeman. Mason said they are working to help students understand what is needed to be prepared for college and adulthood.

The board approved the beginning teacher support program plan to assist new teachers in being successful. The program includes providing optimum working conditions, limiting extra duties and providing mentors.

Other agenda items approved included a 9-cent increase in school lunches, food service bids for produce and non-sugary soft drinks, budget amendments to receive federal and state funds, the second reading of the student wellness policy and the Henderson/Polk agreement for inter–county transfers.

Polk County Schools Superintendent Aaron Greene announced that the state had approved the state lottery funds to cover the $283,000 for the Polk Central Elementary School roof project. 

Greene and the board also expressed concern regarding those affected by the mudslides. He said the administrative staff is doing what they can to work with students from the area.

The next school board meeting will be held June 25 in the Stearns Board Room.