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‘Big Jim’ leaves fond memories for athletes young and old

By: John Clayton - Game Day Youth Sports Magazine - July 6, 2011

INMAN – If you grew up here, in the shadow of Inman Mills or even in the surrounding countryside, you also became accustomed to Jim Everhart’s shadow.

His was a Hitchcock-esque profile, and it was always there if a ball was hit, pitched, kicked, thrown, bowled or if a game of any sort was somehow contested, “Big Jim” was there. You played for him or you played against him, but you knew him.

And that’s why, when he died in the early morning hours of May 14 of this year at the age of 87, the entire town, who had lost its mill long before, mourned. I grew up in the Holly Springs community and graduated from Chapman High School and do not recall the auditorium in either the new school or the old one to be needed to host a funeral.

But it was a fitting place – to both hold the large crowd and to serve as the backdrop for Jim’s good-byes. He loved Chapman. The kids he coached – the Blue Angels and Red Devils in elementary school football leagues he ran – grew up to be Panthers.

Before there were travel teams going far and wide every summer, the traveling teams did was from mill hill to mill hill in Spartanburg County – from Una to Startex to Inman to Arcadia.

My old friend and classmate Todd Johnson recalled one such game during baseball season and a wisecracking Everhart at his best.

“He said, ‘Johnson, get out to right field – that way you won’t have far to run when I take you out,’” Johnson said.
Classic Jim.

Everhart went to work for the Inman Mills Recreation Program in 1954. The job was supposed to be temporary, but ended up lasting for the better part of half a century.

He watched the Upstate’s once famous textile leagues flourish and then die. When the mill decided to put money elsewhere, he kept the rec program going. He wrote on the website that his nephew created as Jim’s and Inman’s online history book for its community sports, that he stayed on for “unknown reasons.”

The rule, he wrote, was that if everyone behaved, everyone could participate.
And that was true. I know because I was once one of those kids that showed up at the mills’ two-lane bowling alley asking to participate, despite the fact that I wasn’t exactly from Inman proper and my folks didn’t work there. But my friends were in the bowling league, so he said looked me over and said, OK – and told me to behave.

In 2008, Inman Mills Ballpark, which so many of us had played in so often from little league to high school to American Legion, was renamed Jim Everhart Field.

Putting his name on that field was a fitting tribute, but truth be told, it had been his long before that.