Potter made impact in athletics, life

By Jeff Birchfield
STAR Staff
jbirchfield@starhq.com

   As an athlete, Bud Potter was recognized as one of the best in this region. As an administrator, he was chosen in 1987 as the best in the state of Tennessee. As a friend, Potter is remembered for being world class.
   Potter passed away on May 15 at the age of 72, but left a legacy on the athletic field, in the classroom and most importantly in the hearts of those who loved him.
   If there was one word to describe Bud Potter, it could be selfless. On separate occasions, this newspaper chronicled his exploits and his accomplishments. Each time when the reporter asked for quotes, Potter could have easily tooted his own horn. Instead he referred to those who helped him, the friends he made and good times he had playing the game.
   Looking at the native Carter Countian's background, Potter had plenty he could have boasted about. In high school, he was an all-conference tackle on Elizabethton's 1949 football team and was a star southpaw pitcher for the baseball team.
   After graduation, he entered college on a football scholarship at Tennessee Tech and became a valuable kicker. His fondest memories included sending two extra-point kicks through the uprights in a game against Tennessee.
   After two years in middle Tennessee, Potter transferred to ETSU, where he completed his studies, earning a Masters Degree in education. Also at ETSU, he completed ROTC training before serving for two years as a First Lieutenant with the U.S. Army Signal Corps at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey.
   Following college and his stint in the military, Potter found his niche on the baseball diamond. He was a first baseman and a pitcher, who had the rare gift of throwing left-handed and batting right, in the now defunct Burley Belt League and in the Class D Appalachian League for Elizabethton. Potter also played in the semi-professional Six-Star League for players from Hampton and Elizabethton.
   While Potter showed talent on the field of play, he really excelled in a distinguished career as an educator. He coached football for two years at the York Institute in Jamestown, Tenn. before moving back to this area again to take a job as the head football coach and athletic director at Lynn View High School in Kingsport.
   He remained in the Model City for the rest of his days, taking over as the athletic director and assistant principal at Sullivan South High School after the schools in Sullivan County consolidated in the early 80's. Potter was recognized by his peers by being named the Tennessee Athletic Director of the Year in 1987. Potter stayed an integral part of the Rebel athletic program until his retirement.
   For several years, Potter attended the First Baptist Church in Kingsport, teaching the Men's Sunday School class. He was a loyal member of the Masonic Lodge, the Moose and the Shriners. Survivors in his family include his wife Martha Nelms Potter, his mother Catherine Potter Hardin, a daughter Kim Petrea, two grandchildren Charlie Carroll and Marty Howington, and three sisters - Dot Oaks, Eula Mae Hodge and Leota Holsclaw.
   A letter written by former teammate and friend, Wright "Slug" Swanay, was kept by Potter up to the time of his passing, almost 23 years after it was penned.
   In the letter, Swanay thanked Potter for their friendship and his kind mention in a newspaper article. Swanay told of how he and a family member each felt about Potter's strong character, and in closing the letter stated, 'You ought to have been in the Big Leagues.'
   Potter may have never reached the big leagues in the game of baseball he so much enjoyed. But if the old saying is true that a man's measure of success is by the friends he had, then Bud Potter played the game of life like the best of them, as a true big leaguer.