Where's Bumpy?

By John Ring

(We've always thought that Bumpy Nixon would be a great interview. He's one of the best Silver Streak players of all time, he played for John Thiel, he was ruled ineligible by the IHSA when he turned 19 and he was one of the most controversial "transfer students" of all time in Illinois basketball history.

But to interview Bumpy, we have to find him. If you have any information on the whereabouts of Lawrence 'Bumpy' Nixon (GHS Class of 1960), give us a call or an email <zephyr@misslink.net>.)

As part of our special Silver Streak 98-99 preview, I did an informal poll of 27 longtime Silver Streak fans to select an All-time Streaks team.

25 of 27 voters picked Bumpy Nixon for their first team. Based on the returns, Bumpy was clearly one of the three best basketball players of all time at GHS.

Nixon, a 6'6" center, played for the Streaks two seasons­­ 1959 and 1960.

In 1959, the Streaks finished 3rd in the State. In 1960, they were the prohibitive favorites until Bumpy turned 19 and was ruled ineligible by the Illinois High School Association.

After he graduated, things never worked out for Nixon. He got in trouble, served some jail time and never fulfilled his dreams.

Why bring up Bumpy, you ask?

This Saturday will be the 10th annual induction into the GHS Athletic Hall of Fame.

Ten years have passed and Bumpy Nixon still isn't a member.

The Hall of Fame committee is comprised of 11 upstanding Galesburg citizens who have athletic connections with GHS­­ some longer than others.

To be eligible for the Hall of Fame, an athlete must have earned a letter in a particular sport (or sports) for at least two years and, in addition, received All-Conference-District, Sectional or State honors.That's just one of five categories deemed as qualifications for the Hall­­ and that one fits Nixon.

It takes nine votes out of 11, once a name is nominated, to get into the Hall.

Bumpy's never gotten those nine votes.


It's a question I asked several members of the committee.

"I don't give a damn what he did after he left here," said Ray Pickrel."His name comes up every year and he should be in the Hall of Fame."

"This has turned into nothing but a popularity contest. It's real frustrating. It's not just Bumpy;There are plenty of other athletes who should be in that routinely get ignored."

Margie Renfroe was named to the committee after her aunt,Jeanette Burgland, passed away. Like Pickrel, she's in Nixon's corner.

"I don't know why he isn't in the Hall of Fame," said Renfroe."Bumpy Nixon made Silver Streak basketball what it is today. I won't pass judgment on him for what he did or didn't do after he left here.We all have our bad days."

Others on the committee weren't so adamant in their support of Bumpy.

"1 think the last time his name came up was two years ago,"said Jim Gillenwater.Asked what was discussed when Nixon's name came up at the time, Gillenwater replied "Sometimes there's a discussion and sometimes there isn't."

"Personally, I feel that an applicant for the Hall of Fame should represent the community and the high school in a positive manner after he or she graduates."Committee member Robb Strack, when asked about Nixon's status for Hall of Fame admission, simply answered "No comment."

"One of the biggest supporters for Bumpy on the committee was Mike Hellenthal," said former committee member George Lundeen. Hellenthal was GHS Athletic Director at the time."But the reason why he isn't in the Hall is because of the prison time, I think. Some on the committee feel it's not just what you do in your sport. It's what you do afterwards, the support you give back to the community and to the school."

Athletic Director Mike Robson and GHS Principal John Browning, by virtual of their respective positions, are automatically on the committee. Robson then appoints three coaches from GHS to serve and they are currently Gene Fischer, Dave Peck and Bill Allison.

Three other members come from the GHS Boosters Club (Pickrel, Renfroe and

Gillenwater) and then those eight vote on three "at-large" members who currently are

Jay Redfern (sportswriter for the Register-Mail) Robb Strack (broadcaster for WAlK) and

Joe Morrissey (former Sports Editor of the Register-Mail).

According to Robson, this committee meets on an "as needed" basis. Nominations for the Hall can be made by any member but must be seconded.Voting is done in secret and can be done by mail if the committee member cannot be present for the meeting when the voting is done.

Lundeen estimates that 10,000 former athletes earned letters at GHS. The current members of the Hall of Fame represent about a quarter of 1 percent of those eligible.

Renfroe said that the committee is in the process of being restructured. Peck replaced baseball Coach Gary Bruington. Pickrel also said that a new system may be in the works for voting based on a point scale.

"We're looking at what other schools are doing,"said Robson."We'd like the process to be better. We were criticized last year for just having one inductee and we're looking at some possibilities of changing some things."

Still, Pickrel is frustrated. "I bring up names year after year that are shot down and it gets frustrating. I go back to the 1940s and 1950s and there were some quality athletes that deserve some attention."

"I'd like to see some changes made on this committee because they're certainly needed.~

Fans to committee:

Let Bumpy in

"Bumpy was fabulous. He should be admitted to the Hall of Fame based on what he did on the basketball court."­­ State Senator Carl Hawkinson, longtime Streak fan.

"There's no doubt of Bumpy Nixon's impact on Silver Streak basketball. This matter should be corrected and he should be admitted."­­ Jimmie Carr, WAlK broadcaster and former Silver Streak.

"Any young man who had skills ahead of his time deserves to be in the Hall of Fame and that was Bumpy Nixon."­­ John Ring, WGIL broadcaster.

It's very easy to sit from the outside and criticize a working committee, a government agency or the Galesburg City Council.

So I get little satisfaction from taking to task the Hall of Fame committee. Their intentions, however misguided, are supposed to be for the ultimate benefit of Galesburg High School athletics.

Without impugning the integrity or the talents of the 10th annual Hall of Fame class­­ or others before it­­ the selection process seems to be in need of a major overhaul.The basic problem with this committee is that many serving on it are unfamiliar with the history of Silver Streak sports. What's needed are seasoned, veteran folks who have spent decades watching Galesburg High School sports. Several people come immediately to mind: Art Fish; Jimmie Carr; Ray Hendricks are a few.

And if younger or newer members of the committee are unsure of the contributions of former Streaks, you'd think they would do a little research­­ a trip to the library, maybe a few phone calls.

There have been some grumblings that the committee is dominated by males and there are no minorities represented. I've never been one for quotas; I could care less what the racial or gender makeup of the group is but all the members should take their job seriously. It deserves nothing less.

Ray Pickrel expressed frustration at the working of this committee, of which he is a member. l don't blame him. The omission of Bumpy Nixon is neglectful at best, a bad joke at worst. I've talked to several fans who just assumed Nixon was already in it. They were amazed he wasn't.

The "two sport" theory often used by the anti Bumpy crowd is a convenient excuse to keep selected former athletes out. But will that be done to Molly Watson when she's eligible? Watson played freshman volleyball but Just for that one season. is that enough?

The "life after GHS"excuse is another that's equally flimsy.The GHS Athletic Hall of Fame should be based on what the athlete did on the field of play.

It's never too late to right a wrong, to correct an injustice.

The Hall of Fame committee should admit its mistake, swallow its pride and do the right thing. HIstory demands It.

Talk to veteran, knowledgeable Silver Streak fans. They agree Bumpy Nixon deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.

The big question Is this: will the Hall of Fame?

Posted to Zephyr Online December 19, 1998
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