Georgia Sports Hall of Fame
At 43,000 square feet, the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame and Museum is the nation's largest state sports hall of fame. The Hall of Fame serves to collect, preserve, and interpret the history of sports in Georgia. It honors those who, by their outstanding achievement or service, have made lasting contributions to the cause of sports in Georgia, the nation, and the world. It serves as a repository for thousands of artifacts from Georgia's sporting history, including photographs, uniforms, balls, a NASCAR racing car, and trophies that signify crowning achievements in sports. Further, the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame seeks to maintain the high ideals and traditions of sports as a positive influence on the youth of Georgia, emphasizing the sportsmanship, physical fitness, and leadership that sports teach.
In 1956 the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association established the Georgia Prep Sports Hall of Fame. Its mission was to promote and improve athletics in the state; to foster a high standard of ethics and sportsmanship; to encourage closer cooperation and better understanding among coaches, administrators, and the public; and to foster the professional development of coaches.
The Prep Hall of Fame honored school administrators, coaches, and players at the high school level until 1963, when the organization changed its name to the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame, Inc. Governor Carl Sanders, giving his support for the programs of the organization, delivered the keynote address at the annual awards banquet, and space was set aside at the state archives building in Atlanta for the public exhibition of the hall of fame and its inductees. The new name allowed for the inclusion of inductees from collegiate and professional athletics as well. Baseball player Ty Cobb, Georgia Institute of Technology football coach William Alexander, and golfer Bobby Jones were the first three inductees.
The organization continued to induct individuals in this fashion until 1978. In that year, Georgia House Speaker Tom Murphy introduced a bill to create an official Georgia Sports Hall of Fame Board (later, Georgia Sports Hall of Fame Authority). The bill was supported by Lieutenant Governor Zell Miller and signed by Governor George Busbee. The Georgia Sports Hall of Fame then became an official state entity.
A major goal from the beginning of the organization was the creation of a permanent home to honor the inductees and to tell the story of Georgia's sporting heritage. One of the most seriously considered sites was the top level of the parking deck at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta.
Harley Bowers, chairman of the Hall of Fame Authority, successfully organized an effort to place the Hall of Fame and Museum in Macon. In 1994 the state legislature selected the city because of its central location in the state and placed the hall of fame within the active museum district of downtown Macon. Groundbreaking took place in 1997, and construction was completed in 1999. The Georgia Sports Hall of Fame and Museum opened its doors on April 24, 1999.
The Hall of Fame and Museum exhibits the stories of Georgia's athletes, which demonstrate examples of triumph over adversity, the will to excel, and the wealth of talent and character that Georgia possesses. The revving of the engine, ducking of a right jab, making of the winning basket at the buzzer, peddling of a bicycle to the finish line, or pounding of the pavement in a 5K run—all these activities are celebrated at the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame.
The museum hosts several educational events throughout the year, including basketball clinics, ballroom dancing, summer camps, and the Peach State Pigskin Preview. At such events the public can learn about the inner workings of sports and how playing sports is part of a healthy lifestyle.
Membership in the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame is the highest honor that the state can bestow upon its athletes. Of the hundreds of nominations considered, only a handful are elected to the Hall of Fame. Each year, approximately 250 athletes, coaches, or contributors to the athletic community (such as administrators and sports officials) are nominated for induction. Once all the nomination information is verified and processed, the three-step selection process begins.
A consulting committee reviews the nominations in each sports category. Next the screening committee considers up to 120 nominees and narrows the field to no more than 35 nominees. Finally the "Honors Court," which comprises ten authority members along with eleven outside individuals from Georgia's sports community, considers thirty-five nominees and selects seven inductees. During the entire process, more than ninety individuals serving on twelve separate committees determine each year's slate of inductees.