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October 8, 2005

It's now Barney's house

From: Wilson Daily Times, NC - Oct 8, 2005

By Tom Ham

Sports Editor

Eastern N.C. School for the Deaf's main gymnasium was always Barney's house.

It becomes official this morning.

The facility will be dedicated and named for the late James "Barney" Williamson, a beloved coach and teacher for 30 years at ENCSD who, shortly after his retirement, died in April, 2004.

The ceremony is scheduled for 10 this morning in the Massey Activity Center on the ENCSD campus.

Acclaimed former ENCSD coach Gary Farmer will be the keynote speaker. Also addressing the turnout will be former students, colleagues, opposing coaches and family members.

Williamson, Farmer, Barry Pope, the late James Lamm, Jimmy Lamm and Robert Watson pioneered the Fighting Hornets' athletic program nearly 30 years ago.

Maybe the gym was not the house that Barney built. However, it's the venue where his spirit still prevails courtside.

Barney Williamson was a compassionate, perceptive, entertaining, dedicated, fiercely proud and untiring soul.

His hearing was impaired and he couldn't speak. But Williamson could utter sounds that could be understood by mainstream individuals and his communication skills were articulate, certainly seldom misunderstood.

Williamson's ability to overcome his physical limitations and to adapt as necessary was uncanny.

ENCSD, for years and years, was blessed with an individual who became a splendid testament to the hearing-impaired's propensity for overachieving.

The late and great Williamson was a prankster, a character, if you will; a source of illumination in dark circumstances, a delight to be around and a professional who approached his responsibilities with relentless passion.

He could even be described as a "ham' — especially when courtside and directing his ENCSD teams.

Williamson was animated and colorful. His expressions and gestures left no doubt about his message.

He so amused and reflected humor that basketball referees never "calmed" him with a technical when he would whip off his glasses and extend them in the direction of the official he questioned, or pinched his nose as if the official's call emitted an odor and waved his hand in disgust.

During his career, Williamson, himself a standout athlete, coached every ENCSD sport except wrestling and cheerleading. And Farmer assures Williamson was more than capable of instructing those two sports.

From a media viewpoint, Williamson was dependable and thorough. He was excited for every positive comment printed about his athletes and his endeavors to promote his programs, teams and young athletes were tireless and sometimes painstaking.

The annual big deal in ENCSD basketball is the Mason-Dixon Tournament. Participation in the big event was usually a week-long process because of excessive travel.

And when ENCSD was a member of the N.C. High School Athletic Association's 1-A Carolina Conference, participating in the Mason-Dixon usually resulted in conference games piling up.

The Hornets would play rescheduled games night after night and, the next morning, Williamson would always find his way to The Daily Times sports department and provide the scorebook and prepared notes.

Without failing, Williamson would evoke laughter by vividly portraying his weary, haggard phyiscal state. But he would always be back the next morning — and he would always be prepared.

Williamson loved to coach and, for him, life didn't get any better than being a head basketball coach. He didn't shy away from being the center of attention.

He cherished his teams' three Mason-Dixon championships. He'd go without sleep just to defeat North Carolina School for the Deaf. South Carolina School for the Deaf was next on his list of those he preferred to conquer — followed by Alabama School for the Deaf.

Williamson departed as a positive influence on countless lives.

And should he have been complimented as an ambassador for the hearing-impaired athletic community, his kind heart would have burst with pride.

Barney Williamson was indeed an ambassador, a role model for the deaf. He could cause those blessed with speech and hearing to feel comfortable in his world.

In dedicating and naming the gym for Williamson this morning, ENCSD, with the approval of the State of North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, is appropriately saluting the memory of a great guy — in anybody's world. | 265-7809

Copyright ©, The Wilson Daily Times, Wilson, North Carolina