Former HHS track coach enters TSSAA Hall of Fame

By Jeff Birchfield

   Almost 50 years ago, Dan Crowe organized the first-ever track team at Hampton. Twenty-five years ago, he coached the last of his three state championship teams at Kingsport Dobyns-Bennett. Today, he is among the latest class of inductees in the TSSAA Sports Hall of Fame.
   "I was humbled," said Crowe about receiving the Hall of Fame induction. "There are other people who deserve it as much or more. I was a little embarrassed by it, but I appreciated it."
   Although comparisons could be drawn with late Hall of Fame coach Buck Van Huss, who also had stints at both Hampton and Dobyns-Bennett, Crowe's path to the TSSAA Hall had different twists and turns.
   Born and raised in Horseshoe Community of Carter County, Crowe attended the one-room Horseshoe School until the school was consolidated with Siam Elementary. His secondary education came at Elizabethton High School, where he graduated as part of the Class of 1950.
   A detour soon followed as Crowe served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War and saw combat action with the 1st Calvary, 45th Division. When returning stateside, he attended ETSU on G.I. Bill where he earned Bachelor's and Masters degrees. Graduate work came later at Stetson University and UNC-Greensboro.
   His career as a teacher began at the two-room Fairview School in 1955. To encourage the local boys to attend school, Crowe had a concrete basketball court poured on school grounds. The ploy worked and Crowe became the school's basketball coach."
   In the way life comes full circle, the night Crowe was honored by the TSSAA, he was in attendance to see Unaka win the 2004 Class A state basketball championship.
   "It meant a little more to me than most," stated Crowe. "My wife (the former Wilma Lewis) was the valedictorian at Unaka in 1952 and it brought me back to my first coaching experience. The team won a game or two. That was exciting."
   After Fairview, Crowe would move on to Valley Forge Elementary and later Hampton High. At Hampton, he served as the Bulldogs' first ever track coach from 1956-'63.
   "We were close to having a tremendous team," Crowe recalled. "Ronnie Heaton still holds the fastest one-mile mark of any runner I coached. There were some great athletes at Hampton with all the things they accomplished in basketball. If they had another year, the track team could have been outstanding."
   After leaving Hampton, he and his wife moved to Winston-Salem where he taught at East Forsyth for four years. The Tri-Cities area was still home and they moved back in 1966, when Dobyns-Bennett needed a math teacher and a track coach just happened to be part of the deal.
   It was one of the best deals, the Kingsport school ever made as Crowe would lead the team to three state championships in 1971, 1972 and 1979. He also coached cross-country, where the Indians twice attained state runner-up status. Over the course of his career, Crowe's teams won a total of 90-plus championships including 13 Big Ten titles.
   For three straight years (1970, '71, '72) he was selected East Tennessee Coach of the Year by the Knoxville Track Club.
   "You're fortunate to do that," said Crowe about winning the state title. "You have to have the people to do it. If I did anything good, it was to line up good competition. You can't be tough unless you run tough. I took the teams to the Florida Relays, the Duke-Durham Relays and all the top meets throughout the Southeast.
   "You try to achieve a winning tradition and have a training regime that prevents injury."
   The man for whom the Dan Crowe Relays are named also coached 50 all-state athletes with his top individual performer Darwin Bond undefeated in the 440 during a high school career that spanned 48 races. Bond, a three-time state champion and a two-time National Junior Olympic champion, won the prestigious Golden West race considered the ultimate for prep athletes.
   In the classroom Crowe was equally respected. He was named East Tennessee Teacher of the Year in 1985 and was one of only five teachers throughout America to be presented the Excellence in Teaching Award by the Carnegie Foundation in 1989.
   "It stemmed from a TV series, "War and Remembrance"," Crowe recalled about winning the Carnegie award. "We put on a display of World War II. We had banners, memorabilia and made it a fun thing. Most importantly the veterans who served knew they were appreciated."
   Among his major interests outside of teaching and coaching has been writing. Crowe has had several books and articles published, one in particular called "Whiz Wheels and A Cat Called Quick", combined his loves of track and poetry.
   "The writing started with a history of Siam Church on its 100th anniversary," said Crowe. "I took it one as a project and continued writing about the military, sports and poetry. There are millions of stories that need told. I deal mostly with oral history. "The Horseshoe People" is the favorite of my books."
   Crowe still has strong ties to this community as a member, teacher and deacon at Siam Baptist Church.
   "We still have property in Carter County," said Crowe. "We still call Siam our home church. It goes back to our parents being there, although they are now deceased, the early teaching in Carter County and how much I enjoyed it."