It's not every day one gets to rub elbows with a true legend.
But readers get that chance every Wednesday in the pages of the Independent Herald, whose reporter, Dave Morrison, was recently honored with the inaugural George Springer Media Award at the 11th annual West Virginia Sports Legends Reunion on July 6 at the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center.
"It's an honor to be given this award," Morrison told the crowd of about 1,000 people, which included legends in their own right, organizer Tex Williams, Don Nehlen and Bobby Pruett. "I'm not sure I belong on stage with these true sports legends. I consider myself more a chronicler of the events that made them legends. I was fortunate enough to cover coach Nehlen's teams and coach Pruett's teams. I was lucky enough to cover so many great games here in the Beckley Raleigh County Armory. Today I am humbled for telling just a small part of the great history of this group."
The award memorializes late Beckley Newspapers sports editor George Springer. Morrison is the first recipient.
"Sportswriters are necessary and just as big a part of the success of the kids and connect to the community as anybody else," Williams said.
Morrison's long career includes serving as sports editor at the Beckley Register-Herald from 1996 until 2012. He was also a sportswriter at the Intelligencer/Wheeling News Herald and the Martinsburg Journal.
"We are beyond lucky to have Dave covering both sports and news in Wyoming County," Independent Herald editor Cassandra Parsons said. "Newspapers continue to attempt to evolve as we compete with readers' changing preferences for accessing news and with falling ad revenue lost to online platforms. But one thing that doesn't change is good journalism, and that is what Dave continues delivering to our readers. He is most deserving of this recognition."
The WV Sports Legends Reunion is, of course, also about the athletes and coaches who have put West Virginia on the national sports map.
Morrison said the first event in 2009 had about 25 people in attendance and it was held at Shoney's in Beckley. He said it was overwhelming to find himself speaking to about 1,000 people when he accepted his award, and gratifying to see how the event has grown. More than 60 new members were inducted this year.
The original idea for the program came from local legends Jack Lilly and Dwayne Wingler, who conveyed the idea to legendary St. Albans great Tex Williams. Williams agreed to spearhead a program that he describes as "a labor of love."
"This is about reaching out to others. Instead of people thinking it is centered around individuals, we like to do everything from the team concept," said Williams, who heads the induction process. "Our West Virginia people is our team. Somebody needs to take care of them and keep our traditions alive. Pride starts with your home."
The keynote speaker for the event was Rod Thorn, who was born in Princeton and was a scoring machine in high school, where he was a three-time all-state selection. After high school he went on to a stellar career at West Virginia University, averaging over 20 points per game in his career. He also went on to play in the NBA, where he later served as an executive.
Former Mount Hope great and Minnesota Vikings star Lonnie Warwick announced he is donating 15 acres of land near Beckley for the construction of a museum to further honor the legendary athletes throughout West Virginia.
To aid in the museum's construction, mail donations to: Summersville Youth Athletic Inc., 208 Uplands Lane, Daniels, WV 25832.