2012 is turning into a great year for Evelyn “Eckie” Jordan

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Evelyn "Eckie" Jordan with the plaque and Blue Jacket present to inductees in the SC Hall of Fame Monday.

SC Hall of Fame Inductee

By David Meade – The South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame 2012 Class induction ceremony was held Monday in Columbia. Among the eight individuals to receive the state’s highest athletic honor was AAU and Pelzer basketball legend Evelyn “Eckie” Jordan. Jordan, who now resides in Williamston, was born and raised in Pelzer where she honed her basketball skills in the Pelzer gym. Those skills led to three national championships, a gold medal and Hall of Fame recognition in two states.

The SC Athletic Hall of Fame ceremony program describes Jordan as: “A diminutive guard, Jordan led the undefeated Pelzer High team in 1942 and dominated the women’s amateur basketball league in North Carolina, leading the Hanes Hosiery team of the Southern Textile league to 102 consecutive victories. The streak included three National AAU Championships between 1951-1953.

She received the Teague Award in 1953 as the Carolinas’ most outstanding athlete.

The five-time AAU All-American starred for the U.S. Gold Medal team at the 1955 Pan-Am Games. She also shined in softball and tennis in the Winston-Salem area.

Jordan has been inducted into the National AAU Basketball Hall of Fame, the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame and the NC Softball Hall of Fame. Her jersey rotates with those of George Mikan and Bob Cousy in the Smithsonian Museum.

Earlier this year she was inducted into the S. C. Textile Hall of Fame and the Greenville Textile Heritage Hall of Fame.

The SC Athletic Hall of Fame is the latest to recognize her.

Family members, including 14 nieces and nephews attended the ceremony held at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center.

“We are so proud of her and her many accomplishments,” said Jordan’s niece, Kathy Hood.

“It was such a wonderful night and the Jordan family was so very proud of our “Aunt Eckie”! Most of the people there just fell in love with her as she never meets a stranger. In their words, “she stole the show”!!”

In addition to Jordan, the 2012 HOF class includes legendary baseball coach Bill Wilhelm; Augusta National Club Chairman Hootie Johnson, University of South Carolina football great Duce Staley; former USC baseball coach June Raines; Clemson basketball standout Dale Davis; Spartanburg High’s Stephen Davis and NASCAR executive Jim Hunter.

Wilhelm and Hunter were recognized posthumously.

Legendary South Carolina State coach and 2008 SCAHOF President Willie Jeffries presided over the banquet as master of ceremonies along with Executive Director Ephraim Ulmer and this year’s president, Charles R. Thompson, Jr. of Charleston.

Inductees were presented a plaque and symbolic blue jacket as part of the ceremony. The jacket has the SC Hall of Fame badge embroidered on the front and a “private label” stating it was tailored for the inductee and the inductee’s name sewn inside.

Jordan said, “It was very rewarding to have come back to South Carolina and then receive this award. I thanked them for electing me to the Hall of Fame.”

Jordan, 86, returned to the Pelzer area in 2007. A year earlier she had broken her neck , “and realized that all of my friends were either in nursing homes or had died out,” Jordan said. That’s when she told herself, “Well, it’s time to come home. And that’s what I did.”

The move brought her back home to where her amazing life story began.

“The Lord led me down roads I never thought I would take,” she said. But even with all her travels and years in Winston Salem, Pelzer remained in her heart.

“I loved Pelzer. I wouldn’t trade my growing up in Pelzer with anybody else,” she said.

She grew up in Pelzer, playing high school sports and in the textile leagues during the 1940s and ’50s.

She fininshed Pelzer High School in 1943. The high school team she played on won the state championship in the 1942-43 school year.

During an interview with The Journal before the Pelzer Reunion in 2010, Jordan recounted how the team had played together from 5th grade through 11th grade.

“From the fifth grade on our team was together,” she said. “We were undefeated and won the state championship for Pelzer in 1942.” At the time they only played half court, she said.

After high school she moved up to the textile leagues and received her first trophy, the first of many, at the Piedmont Area Basketball Tournament in 1947. She was playing on an All Star Team with Dunean Mills in Greenville.

A bookcase at her home in Williamston is now filled with trophies and other memorabilia from her career in sports on the national and international level.

Jordan played in the textile tournaments until she went to Winston Salem in 1948 and became a member of one of the greatest Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) basketball teams ever.

The Hanes Hosiery Mills Girls Team traveled across the South east to play AAU ball in 1949 and 1950, playing as many as 30 games in a season.

In 1951, the team won the AAU title. Jordan was selected MVP and named to the All American Team

The Hanes Hosiery team went on a 102 game winning streak, winning every game they played in 1952 including the national tournament which they won 53-52 win. In 1953 they won 60 games and their third consecutive national title.

“We had a good team,” she said.

While playing with the Hanes Hosiery team, Jordan said many of her teammates wanted to come with her to Pelzer, and when they did, always wanted to come back.

“They loved to come down here,” Jordan said. “The camaraderie was unbelievable.”

Her last year with Hanes Hosiery was 1954. After that the team was disbanded.

In 1955, Jordan was chosen, along with two teammates from the Hanes Hosiery team, to participate in the Pan American games in Mexico City.

The women’s basketball team went 8-0 winning gold. Her Pan American basektball jersey hangs in the Smithsonian Museum.

After that, she traveled to South America, Toyko, Taiwan and Switzerland. Seven countries in all.

She retired as a player and in 1957 became the coach for the Hanes Hosiery city league team. The first team they played was Pelzer. Jordan retired from Hanes in 1986.

Her honors included being named a five time All American in basketball and named to three halls of fame (prior to 2012) including the NC Sports Hall of Fame, the NC Softball Hall of Fame and the National AAU Basketball Hall of Fame.

Jordan has five sisters and two brothers; six of them played sports. Her sister Sarah is in the SC Textile Hall of Fame, an honor Eckie now shares with her sister.

In 2012, Jordan has been inducted into the SC Textile Hall of Fame, the Greenville Textile Heritage Hall of Fame and most recently the SC Athletic Hall of Fame.

The latest induction also put her in good company, along with another local sports legend, Earl Wooten. It is an honor she obviously enjoyed.

Wooten, known for his skill and antics in basketball and baseball, had nothing on Jordan.

She recounted working on her basketball skills while in school, playing one on one in the Pelzer gym with Wooten.

One particular time Wooten wouldn’t let her go home late one evening. “He just kept wanting to play because I was winning,” she said.