Four of Galveston’s best athletes will be inducted in the Prairie View Interscholastic League Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
Bobby Hilton, Reginald Matthews, Jerry Waddles and Earley Holmes Jr., all graduates of Galveston’s Central High School, will be inducted into the hall of honor July 21 in San Antonio at the Hyatt Regency Hotel.
Central was the first African American high school in Texas when it was organized in 1885. It eventually merged with Ball High School in 1968.
The PVIL was the governing body of all extra-curricular activities for all-black schools from 1920 to 1969.
While Matthews and Holmes Jr. are both being inducted posthumously, their teammates and classmates had no shortage of stories about them during their high school and college days.
Waddles was an all-state fullback for Central High School, helping the team capture the 1963 state championship (the last school from Galveston to win state in football). After graduating from high school in 1965, Waddles attended Texas Western University (now UTEP) where he helped the Miners beat Ole Miss in the 1967 Sun Bowl.
For Waddles, being in the PVILCA Hall of Fame says a lot about not only what him and his teammates accomplished on the field, but off the field, as well.
“It means that we get a chance to demonstrate we were not just athletes but that we also went to school,” Waddles said. “Not only did we go to school, but we gave back. It takes me back. It gives us a chance to work with other kids that are less fortunate. ... You just have to commit yourself to go to school and learn.”
Waddles played a key part in helping the Miners get to the Sun Bowl, providing all the points for them with his foot in a 9-9 tie against Arizona, early in the season. His field goal in the closing minutes of the game kept the Miners’ bowl hopes alive.
“The only points scored were by me,” Waddles said of the Arizona game. “We were losing 9-6 with four seconds left on the clock. Coach calls me in to kick the field goal, and I had no idea that it was 48 yards.”
The Miners went on to win six of their next seven games including the 14-7 victory over the Rebels in the Sun Bowl, finishing the year with a 7-2-1 record.
Waddles earned his general business degree in 1969.
He worked as a director of risk management for the state of Colorado with an annual budget of $42 million, in charge of property, liability and workers compensation insurance before retiring.
For him, discipline is the key to success.
“I never would’ve thought I’d be where I’m at today,” Waddles said. “All of that started with good teachers, good coaches, and I have to admit that football was the engine. The direction was provided by my mother. The fuel was provided by teachers and the coaches who drove me higher than I can ever be.”
Matthews graduated from Central High School in 1965, helping the Bearcats win the 1963 state championship, and just like Waddles, he would play college football at Texas Western University, playing alongside Waddles on the 1967 Sun Bowl winning squad.
Matthews excelled as a two-sport athlete, playing as a starting halfback for Central in football under legendary head coach Ed Mitchell, despite playing at only 150 pounds.
He went on to become an all-state sprinter and a member of the 1964 4A state champion team coached by Kermit Courville.
In college, Matthews was utilized as a running back and a wide receiver. He averaged 6.1 yards per carry as a running back and 16.2 yards per reception as a wide receiver.
“Reginald, set the standard for athletes,” Waddles said about Matthews. “He went to the University of Texas at El Paso. He never missed a play, and he was very smart.”
Matthews would work for IBM for more than 20 years and ended his career at University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston.
EARLEY HOLMES JR.
Holmes, who will be inducted for baseball and graduated from high school in 1961, was another athlete who excelled at multiple sports.
He would make his mark as an all-state catcher and captain of the 1961 district champion baseball team that was coached by Ray T. Sheppard and Ray Dillon.
On the gridiron, Holmes was an all-district quarterback and captain of the 1960 football team.
In January 1963, Holmes enrolled at Wiley College in Waco. That spring, he helped Wiley win the baseball SWAC conference co-championship with Grambling State and was the starting catcher.
Ball High assistant principal Charles Brooks, who went to high school and college with Holmes and played baseball with him and is also a member of the PVILCA Hall of Fame, described Holmes as an “all-around guy.”
“He was always jolly,” Brooks said. “He was always striving to achieve. Size didn’t matter to him. he didn’t look at you because of size or anything. I’ve never seen a guy so small and so brave.”
Brooks also said Holmes had speed, and that’s what made him dangerous.
“He could squat down at the plate and get the ball off to first or second base in a heartbeat,” Brooks said. “He was also a great hitter. He had the speed.”
Hilton, who attended Central High School from 1949 to 1953, was a two-sport athlete for the Bearcats.
In 1951 and 1952, he earned all-state football, playing receiver, right end and defensive left cornerback and safety. He was also the captain for the 1951 and 1952 district championship teams and had all-district honors for both years.
Hilton would go on to become the first black to receive the Billy Hempel Memorial Award for the most outstanding football player on Galveston Island.
After high school, Hilton attended Texas Southern University after earning a scholarship.
After joining the Army and becoming a medic, he would play quarterback and wide receiver for the Army Rangers in Fairbanks, Alaska. As a team captain, he led the team to the regional championship where he was awarded the MVP in 1956.
Hilton works as an ambassador and historian for the Hotel Galvez Museum in Galveston. He gives tours with an abundance of history that includes Galveston, the Hotel Galvez, Central High School and the PVIL.