By Gary Gray
Nearly two decades ago, a group of former Science Hill High School football players gathered in the lower floor of Johnson City’s historic Shamrock Beverage & Tobacco Shop to chew the fat.
The men, who played under the school’s legendary football coach Kermit Tipton during his tenure at the school from 1956-1966, began reminiscing. Tipton’s well-known attributes and abilities as a motivator and leader led to a conversation and resulting decision to honor the coach.
On Friday, July 27, the 18th Annual Kermit Tipton Football Scholarship Fund Golf Tournament will take place at the Johnson City Country Club. All proceeds support the Coach Tipton Scholarship Fund.
A $5,000 scholarship is awarded each year to a senior Science Hill High School football player who exemplifies the characteristics stressed by Tipton. The scholarship is meant to further the recipients’ education.
“We were at the Shamrock in the back room in 2000, and Ken Lyon (former Washington County commissioner) had the idea,” said C.B. Kinch, one of the event’s organizers. “We all jumped on it, and a group of us started selling hole sponsors. That’s really where the funds come from. We’ve been very lucky to gather sponsors.”
The general characteristics continually stressed by Tipton were the exhibition of desire that would lead players to future success, not only on the football field, but also in life. A sampling of the characteristics players are expected to possess to receive the scholarship funds include, sincerity, reliability, discipline, loyalty, skill and perseverance.
“Kermit Tipton was very well respected,” Kinch said. “He played at Science Hill, Milligan and ETSU. He got his degree from the University of Mississippi. He was raised in the Keystone area, and he didn’t care what part of town you came from. Without him, a lot of boys would not have made it in life.”
Harry Gibson, also a tournament organizer and former player under Tipton, said the event had been held at the former Buffalo Valley Golf Course, but it has taken place now for several years at the Johnson City Country Club.
Each spring, Science Hill’s coaching staff presents three candidates for consideration, based on grade-point average, family need, participation in the football program, as well as other pertinent information. A committee composed of Tipton’s former players then select the honorees. The scholarships, derived from funds raised at this year’s tournament, will be awarded in May 2019.
Tipton, a Carter County native, lived in Johnson City most of his life. He played quarterback for the Hilltoppers in the 1940s. Kermit Tipton Stadium was built in his honor on the Science Hill campus to replace the aging Memorial Stadium.
Tipton was an All-Big Five quarterback for the Hilltoppers in 1939-40, and helped the team go 20-1-1 during those seasons. Johnson City Press-Chronicle sports writer Doug Bean wrote, “Not only is he the smartest field general Science Hill ever had, but he also takes his place as one of the two best blockers …”
He died in 2012.
A pre-round meal will be served at 10:45 the day of the tournament. A slap drill will precede the noon shotgun start. The scholarship is ongoing and funded primarily through the annual golf tournament and generous donations from sponsors. Additional contributions from individuals and organizations also are welcome. Companies donating at least $100 will have their signs placed on a tee box during the tournament for all to see.
Gibson said registration forms have been mailed to former tournament attendees, contributors, donors and all former Science Hill football players. Registration forms also are currently available at the country club.
Forms should be completed and returned to Tipton Scholarship Fund, 1008 Lester Harris Road, Johnson City TN 37601. Cost for a foursome is $360; individual, $90; tee sponsor, $100.
About $75,000 has been awarded to athletes since the fund was created. The recipients receiving funds from last year’s tournament were Denzel Medina, Trey Gasteiger and T.J. Patton.
This year’s main sponsor is Ballad Health. Other sponsors include: Champion Chevrolet/Cadillac Johnson City, Johnson City Wofford Bros. Insurance Agency Inc., Citizens Bank, Axis Incorporated, Rustic Ridge Landscaping, Ernest Campbell Development LLC and BullsEye.
For more information, contact Harry Gibson, (423) 483-8000; C.B. Kinch, (423) 335-6708 or Bob Cooper, (404) 808-6040.