Watertown High School paid tribute to the past as it inducted three community members, each with a connection to the high school, into the Watertown High School Hall of Fame.
Inductees in the class of 2018 included Debbie Loftis, John Donald Johnson and Bill Robinson.
Loftis, a 1974 Watertown graduate, played in 103 games throughout high school and scored 2,648 points during her four-year basketball career. Her overall average was 25.709 points per game.
She averaged 11 points her freshman year, 26 points her sophomore year, 30 points per game as a junior and 33 points per game as a senior.
“During her career, she scored in double figures 87 straight times,” said Watertown Mayor Mike Jennings, who emceed the event.
During her sophomore year, she scored 40 or more points in two games. In her junior year, she scored 45 points in one game and 55 points in another. She scored 40 points or more in four games her senior year. She also claimed 50 points in another.
She was the team’s captain her senior year and was named and All-Midstate, All-District Tournament and All Region in 1973.
“It’s really an honor to be inducted with Bill Robinson and Coach Johnson,” Loftis said. “[The Hall of Fame] is a great thing you’re doing here in Watertown, and I really appreciate it. Watertown gave me some great times and some wonderful friends.
“Basketball was wonderful to me. When I was about 10 years old, daddy took me aside and said, ‘those hands are meant to hold a basketball.’ Not long after that, a basketball goal went up in our backyard…and daddy taught us how to shoot.”
Johnson is a graduate of Watertown, where he played football and basketball. He was president of his sophomore class and vice-president of his senior class. In addition, he was a teacher and served as principal at for 27 years. He also coached boys’ basketball and was an assistant football coach.
“I’ve learned from him over the years, and if he tells you something, you’d better listen,” Jennings said. “He’s been that kind a leader, and he’s been a leader for the community and this school.”
After he received his plaque, Johnson said he was excited because, “my years spent here were rewarded. I love Watertown High School. I’ve associated with it for 35 years. I graduated from here, and so did my kids and grandkids. It’s part of my life.”
Robinson, a 1966 graduate of Watertown High School, played football and basketball for Watertown. He also spent 32 years as a coach and teacher at his alma mater.
Robinson was the head football coach three different times for a total of 23 years, Jennings said. Through the years, his record was 145-103. The teams also went to six bowl games and had 10 TSSAA playoff appearances.
He also coached girls’ softball and boys’ baseball teams and served as the junior high football and girls’ basketball coach.
In addition to coaching, he was also a teacher for 32 years. He taught wellness, world history, geography, economics and Bible classes.
“I can’t tell you enough how much my family appreciates this honor,” Robinson said. “I’ve always been honored to be a part of Watertown High School. The real recipients [of the award] are my wife and children, because we’ve had to build our lives around this school. My wife and children made a lot of sacrifices, and I’ll always appreciate that.
“I appreciate you entrusting me with the lives of your children. Watertown High School has always been important to me. It’s always been a part of my life and it’s something I wanted to do well. You wanted your school to thrive, your students to thrive and the people you worked with thrive.”
He said that, “until I die, I’ll always be a Purple Tiger, and that’s important to me.”
Robinson is currently a member of the Wilson County Board of Education.
Current principal Jeff Luttrell said, “It’s good to hear the impact this school has had on people.”
Through the years, Luttrell, whose father was a preacher, attended nine schools.
“When I came to Watertown High School, I noticed something different,” he said. “How the teachers were, how [the coaches] were, how the students were. I was fortunate enough to come back later and be a part of the faculty.”
Luttrell said he hears the stories of the community and the schools, “and I can tell you that this is not the norm in America. This is a special place. That’s because of the people. You inductees are just a representation of what this place is about and what we want to keep it about.”