Halliburton column: There was only one George Hawkins

Published 4:22 pm Thursday, December 5, 2013

 Too many helpers in our business go unappreciated. Too many assist us without compensation. And too many fall into a dark category of being totally forgotten.

  There are never enough of us scribblers to go around, especially in sports with fewer spectators and limited public interest.

  Ever since the mid-80s, your ol’ Bubba here has carried his own stopwatch and tape measure to track and field and cross country events. Frankly, these are sports which have grown on me over the years.

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  My interest in football and baseball naturally was far greater than these lonely individual disciplines.

  Yet track and cross country often produced stories just as anguishing and compelling as those of more popular team games.

  There are those who definitely have appreciated my efforts to write about these sports. A guy who died on Monday assisted enormously in our ability to present information on both track and cross country.

  George Lynn Hawkins, Jr., made it to 80 years and he knew his time ran short last February when a golf cart and breathing assistance made it possible for him to attend the Bulldog Relays at Nederland one last time.

  Hawkins knew that he was not expected to make it to the 2014 track season. He was battling chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and his breaths were becoming more precious by the day.

  It deeply saddened me to see his health issues then, but George wanted to attend last year’s Bulldog Relays or he would have stayed away.

  Hawkins served and assisted my ability to gather running results over the last 30 years just the same way he served and assisted youths throughout the Golden Triangle as a coach, a teacher, a trainer, a school board member, a public servant in any doggone possible way that he could.

  George loved the competition, simple as that. He loved his alma mater, the University of Texas, too. Since I sneaked through UT in the early 70s, perhaps the common Longhorn ties helped considerably for his big old nose to take an extremely special fondness toward me.

  That fondness definitely was reciprocated because it was obvious from my vantage point what a totally wonderful sportsman that George always was…. whether he worked in Beaumont, at Port Arthur Jefferson or Nederland.

  Hawkins was too big of a man to drag himself down and wallow in small neighborhood rivalries. He was glad to see a Port Neches runner excel or a West Orange-Stark relay team. If Marlon Ramsey of Beaumont West Brook roared around the track, Hawkins knew Marlon was one of our area’s guys.

  Therefore, George did his best to avoid showing any partiality…. uhh, most of the time. There’s one noteworthy exception to that professional Hawkins approach. George happened to have a grandson named Jeff Cutrer, a superb distance runner who maintained his grandfather’s enthusiasm for distance running long after George’s retirement.

  Not only would Hawkins vigorously work with his grandson, George remained the announcer for the Bulldog Relays until recent years. George made sure to check if Cutrer’s District 20-4A meet records remained intact over the years and many of them did.

  Hawkins always had a story. He always kept a sense of humor. His daughter Katie has typed track and cross country results into computers at athletic events through all of George’s retirement years.

  To make a long story short, Hawkins or his daughter generally had everything about track or cross country at their finger tips. If they didn’t, they could connect you with another person, a website, or some means of finding out the information.

  This is certainly too solemn an occasion to provide any jokes which George would blurt out. Besides I couldn’t print most of them anyway in a family newspaper. But the Southeast Texas Coaches Association’s Hall of Honor added this public servant to their roster in 1998. The selection committee made a most deserving call to include him.

  Our southeast Texas sports community has sustained a major loss. Heck, so have I. More importantly, so has George’s family. Whether he worked with student athletes in Port Arthur, Nederland or Beaumont. Whether he helped this scribe to assemble names and numbers. Whether he listened to appeals at school board meetings. George Hawkins was one classy and dynamic public servant who will be greatly missed.

  The likes of George we may never, ever see again at any area outpost.

  Tom Halliburton is a Port Arthur News sports columnist