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Newest Class to the Purcell Sports Hall of Fame

Class includes 13 new members


Chaired by Matt Haley, the Purcell Sports Hall of Fame nominating committee has announced the newest class to the Hall.

Also on the committee were Kelly Nemecek, Dick Gray, Tommy Smith, Candy (McCurdy) Clark, Randy Belicek and Mike Wilson.

Included in the class are coaches Bruce James, Richard Lemler and Peck Martin.

Athletes include Vernon Bass T/FB, James Bell FB, Herman Cheadle BB, Connie Wells and Rose Mantooth, Tennis, Tom Smith Sr. FB, Harold Simeroth WR, Bill “Trojan” Simeroth FB/TR at OU and OSU. Auxiliary members are Joe and Marilyn Ellis.

Herman Cheadle
Herman Cheadle
Herman Cheadle attended classes at Purcell Booker T. Washington until racial segregation ended in the 1955-56 school year when he started attending Purcell Schools.

He was a four-year letterman and four-year starter on the high school football team from 1957-1960.

Cheadle was a starting offensive and defensive tackle on the 1960 PHS State Semifinalist team that went 11-1-1. That set a new standard for wins in a season. The season ended in the semifinals to eventual Class B State Champion Choctaw.

He was named to the All-District (B5) team and to the All-Arbuckle Conference team in 1960.

That same year he was named Honorable Mention All-State in football.

He was named to the All-Arbuckle Conference Basketball team as a forward in 1961. He was selected as an alternate to both The Daily Oklahoman and Tulsa World High School All-State Basketball teams as a forward in 1961.

He started and lettered all four years when Boney Matthews’ teams went 100-17.

Cheadle was the starting forward on the 1959-60 basketball team that went 23-3.

He was the starting forward on the 1960-61 Class B State Champion team that finished the year 28-1, losing only to 5A Dallas, W.W. Samuel High School in the finals of the annual Lawton Bi-State High School Basketball Tournament.

He scored 11 points in the 1961 State Quarterfinal game against Stigler when Purcell won 48-41.

He poured in 20 points in the Semifinals when Purcell topped Cordell, 57-46.

In the finals that year, Cheadle again pumped in 20 points when Purcell topped previously undefeated Lawton Douglas, 69-59.

A tenacious defensive player and rebounder, Cheadle was also able to average almost 10 points a game over his four-year basketball career as a starting forward for the Dragons.

Herman was a two-year letterman on the Purcell High School track team in 1960 and 1961.

Not only was Cheadle an outstanding athlete at PHS, but he was also a four-year member of the Purcell High School FFA organization from 1957-61.

Cheadle will always be remembered for his great physical strength and power, coupled with the unique finesse he had as an athlete. His teammates still say he had the strongest hands of anyone to ever play for the Dragons in any sport.

He was named as a defensive lineman on the 1960’s PHS All-Decade football team by Purcell Football Alumni.

James Bell graduated from PHS in the Class of 1922.

He lettered in football from 1918-1921. Bell lettered in basketball from 1918-1922 and lettered in baseball from 1919-1922. He also lettered in track from 1919-1922.

James was known for many years as the fastest person in Purcell as he would race anyone who came to town and challenge him. This included a sprinter from back East who was traveling the country from town-to-town by train and would race the fastest person in each community. Bell was one of the few to defeat him.

As a junior, Bell was a star running back on Coach Gene Ward’s 1920 PHS football team that scored an amazing 49.43 points per game during their 6-1 season.

In the 145-7 PHS victory over Sulphur in 1920, which is the most points ever scored by a Dragon Football Team in a single game, James drop-kicked a phenomenal 19 out of 21 PATs. That is still a PHS school record for most extra points kicked (and attempted) in one game by either a drop-kick or placekick.

Recognized even years later by his peers and the Purcell citizens of that time period for his great speed and his overall superior athletic ability in any sport but especially in football and baseball.

Bell was named as a running back on the 1895-1934 All-Decade(s) football team, selected by Purcell High School Alumni.

Vernon Bass
Vernon Bass
Vernon Bass graduated from PHS in 1925. He lettered in football from 1921-1924 and basketball from 1921-1925. He lettered in baseball and track from 1922-1925.

Up to the 1922-23 school year, all of the PHS athletic teams had played games as an independent. Bass was a member of the 1922 football team that was a Charter Member of the Southern Association, which became the Southern Oklahoma High School Conference in 1923. PHS athletic teams would remain members of the Southern Oklahoma High School Conference until 1928 before joining an early version of the old Arbuckle Conference.

Bass was a senior on the first PHS football team to use the nickname “Dragons” in 1924. In his later life, Vernon worked 42 years for the Santa Fe Railroad as an Engineer Foreman before retiring in 1972.

Bass was a faithful member of the Purcell First Baptist Church where he served as Sunday School General Secretary for at least 15-20 years. His wife, Ruth, was the FBC organist for many years.

Vernon’s son, Bill Bass (PHS Class of 1967) spent some time as the sports editor of The Purcell Register.

Vernon was recognized by his PHS football peers and Purcell citizens of that time period as an outstanding athlete who brought great size and strength, fantastic speed and a natural athletic ability to any sport he participated in, but especially football and track where he excelled.

He was named as a defensive back on the 1895-1934) All-Decade(s) football team selected by Purcell High School Alumni.

Big Tom Smith
Big Tom Smith
Thomas G. Smith

Longtime attorney Thomas G. Smith practiced law and was involved in civic affairs and politics most of his adult life. He served as Purcell City Attorney, McClain County Attorney and as Administrative Assistant for Congressman John Jarman.

As a graduate of the University of Oklahoma, and the University of Oklahoma Law School, he was awarded Phi Beta Kappa as well as Order of the Coif. Tom became an avid Sooner fan, as well as a Dragon fan.

Smith came to Purcell from Santa Barbara, CA. Both of his parents were originally from this area. After his father had died, he returned with his mother, Dilce, and younger brother, Norman.

Having been a standout soccer player in California, Tom turned his interest to football when he moved to Oklahoma. He was over 6’1” and 135 pounds and with sprinters speed he became a breakaway threat running back from anywhere on the field.

By the time he was a junior, playing with other great talents such as Joe Al Cunningham and Vernon Turner, Purcell became a threat to win it all on Boney Matthews’ first PHS football team.

In a game against Comanche, he ran for 194 yards and three touchdowns. In the 1946 Class B State Semifinals against Poteau, he ran for 107 yards, including a 79-yard dash.

Tom played on both sides of the ball with great impact, as he was also a defensive back on the 1946 PHS Football Team that registered six shutouts over a seven-game period during the regular season. For his outstanding efforts on the football field, Tom was named to the 1940’s PHS All-Decade Team as a defensive back.

The real impact Tom, or as most knew him as ‘Big Tom’, was on the kids and people in the town. After graduating from law school, Tom came back to practice law in Purcell. He married a girl from Chickasha, Barbara Jean Smith, and they raised five children through the Purcell School system.

Tom genuinely cared about the people in the town, always willing to help those in need, and support his fellow Dragons.

He was an avid supporter of the PHS sports teams, even long after his own children graduated from Purcell High School. Big Tom was legendary for driving across the state to watch the Dragon Track teams compete in meets. He even received a plaque from PHS Head Track Coach Bob Haley and the entire Boys Track Team called the “Rubdown Award” for his participation and support.

Big Tom was an inspiration to many, and a friend to more. He loved young people and they loved his wit and sense of humor. He loved Purcell and made Purcell a better place to be.

“Big Tom” Smith really was a Dragon forever.

Joe & Marilyn Ellis

Joe and Marilyn Ellis moved to Purcell in the winter of 1961 and that was the year that began the streak of the Ellis’ attending 319 straight Purcell High School Football games as a couple.

Joe remembers many times with his job at the Santa Fe Railroad, that if he needed to lay off to see the Dragons play, he would come down with “Dragon Fever.” 

When asked what stood out the most, they both replied, “They all do.”

They remember each season to be completely different than the one before.

They vividly remember watching Hubba Green in the mid-1960’s and Joe McReynolds in the early 1970’s Joe and Marilyn remember watching Cliff Thrift play every game in high school and from their recliner in 1985 when his Chicago Bears team captured a Super Bowl World Title. 

Their memories are such as going to the 1972 Class A State Finals Football Game at Stillwater’s Hamilton Field and seeing the Dragons bring home a State Championship.

They also remembered going back to Stillwater’s Hamilton Field two years later in 1974 when the Dragons lost to Skiatook in the Class 2A State Finals.

But their memories are mostly watching their son Ronnie playing for the Dragons in the mid 1980’s. They watched him helping the 1985 PHS Track Team win another State Title for Coach Bob Haley.

“To All of the PHS players, the PHS Coaches, the PHS parents, and the Purcell Businesses, you are all of what made High School Sports in Purcell an unbelievable experience. We are so proud to be Dragons!”

Go Dragons!!

Harold Simeroth OSU Track Team
Harold Simeroth OSU Track Team
Harold Simeroth

Harold Simeroth was born in Purcell in 1922 where he grew up on a farm with 7 other siblings. Harold was of large stature, especially for the 1940’s, and grew eventually to 6’ 6” and 260 pounds.

He graduated from Purcell High School in 1941, where he was a star athlete in football, wrestling and track. He received All-State honors in all three sports.

Simeroth received an athletic scholarship to The University of Oklahoma where he continued to participate in all three of those sports. Harold lettered as a tackle for the Sooners football team in 1942.

Harold Simeroth OU Football
Harold Simeroth OU Football
His time at University of Oklahoma was cut short due to World War II and Harold joined the Army Corp of Engineers. He had almost completed his courses when they shut down the classes and sent him and his classmates to the front line in Europe.

Harold was in three major battles during the war including The Battle of the Bulge, The Bridge at Ramage and the Plain of Cologne. Among other accomplishments in the Army, he received three Bronze Stars and the Medal of Valor and he served under General Omar Bradley, and later under General George Patton.

After the war, Harold remained in Europe for six months as he was invited to be a part of an Armed Forces Wrestling Clinic Team. The team traveled through most of the European countries and Harold wrestled the heavy weight champion of each country. We are told that he won every match.

When Harold returned home, he attended Oklahoma A&M University where he completed his bachelor’s degree in engineering. He also participated on the Oklahoma A&M wrestling team where he lettered in 1947. He also lettered on the A&M track and field team in 1943 and in 1946-1947.

Harold spent the next few years in Oklahoma but moved to California in 1951 where he worked as an engineer for Northrup. Later he was an engineer and worked on radar systems for Hughes Aircraft in Fullerton, CA. During his career at Hughes, he completed his MBA degree at Pepperdine and eventually retired from Hughes Aircraft in 1980.

In 1982, Harold was inducted into the Oklahoma State University Track Program Hall of Honors. Recently, Harold has also been selected by Purcell Football Alumni to the 1940’s PHS All-Decade Football Team as a defensive tackle. He was also chosen as a member of the All-Time PHS Football Team (1895 – present day) as a defensive tackle.

Harold married Ann Castleman in June 1942 after they had both completed their freshman year at The University of Oklahoma. They had six children including Harold (Bo), John L., Marilyn, Debbie, Danny and Rosann.

Harold and Ann were married 64 years when Ann died in 2006.

At 98 1/2 years old, Harold is still alive and just recently moved from his home, where he was living independently, into an assisted living place in Hemet, CA where he lives in his own apartment.

Bill Simeroth
Bill Simeroth
Bill Simeroth

Bill Simeroth grew up in Purcell and graduated from Purcell High School in 1945, where he was a star athlete in football, wrestling and track.

A multi-talented athlete, Bill received All-State Honors from The Daily Oklahoman in football in 1944 as an offensive tackle even after playing fullback the entire season.

After high school graduation, which was right at the end of World War II, Bill joined the Army Air Corps, where he served for two years and then was Honorably Discharged.

He then attended Oklahoma A&M University in Stillwater for two years, where he majored in economics and played on the football team and participated on the track and field team where he lettered in 1950. 

After graduation, Bill joined the United States Air Force where he trained as an Aircraft Electronic Countermeasures Technician. He traveled to various special assignment locations around the world while in the Air Force including those in Alaska, Brazil, Guam and Hawaii.

It wasn’t until late in Bill’s life, that his family discovered that he had a “Top-Secret Clearance” from the U.S Government and that many of his Temporary Duty (TDY) assignments were classified. One of those assignments was at Shemya Air Force Base (now known as Eareckson, Air Station) on Shemya Island, AK, which is at the far western tip of the Aleutian Islands in the Northwest Pacific Ocean.

“Project Rivet Ball” was a Top-Secret Program that was initiated with a single RC-135S (serial 59–1491, formerly a JKC-135A) on Dec. 31, 1961. The aircraft operated from Shemya AFB. This specialized RC-135S had an elongated nose radome housing an “S band” receiving antenna. The aircraft first operated under the “Nancy Rae Project” as an asset of Air Force Systems Command and later as an RC-135S reconnaissance platform with Strategic Air Command under “Project Wanda Belle.” The project name “Rivet Ball” was later assigned to the mission in January of 1967.

When Bill was first deployed to Shemya Island, he was part of the original 41 men assigned to the “Nancy Rae Project” and the men who flew and maintained this reconnaissance aircraft were known as “Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves”. Bill was one of the “40 Thieves”.

Throughout his career, Bill was also based at several locations including Texas, Mississippi, Florida, Ohio, Germany and in New Mexico during his 20-year Air Force career. He received The Air Force Commendation Medal for outstanding initiative and for professional competence and devotion to duty. He contributed significantly to the successful completion of a project of national importance.

Bill has been recently selected by Purcell Football Alumni to the 1940’s PHS All-Decade Football Team as a defensive tackle. He was also chosen as a member of the All-Time PHS Football Team (1895 – present day) as a defensive tackle.

He married Irma Ochner in 1954. She came with a built-in family, two daughters, Sandi and Rynna. They had a son together, Craig. Bill died in March of 2007.

Charles C. “Peck” Martin

Peck was a teacher at Purcell High School and assistant coach to Boney Matthews in all sports from the mid-1940’s into the mid-1950’s.

He was known to be Boney’s right hand man for many years at PHS.

Peck served as an Oklahoma High School Oil Bowl Football Coach in 1957 along with the legendary C.B. Speegle of Oklahoma City Capitol Hill High School and Art Young of Altus High School.

Peck had an overall head coaching record of 9-17-1 coaching at Wetumka from 1958-59 and at Vian in 1960.

He was selected as a member of the Oklahoma Track Coaches Association for his long track coaching career at Idabel High School and other coaching stops along the way.

He was inducted into the Oklahoma Coach Association Hall of Fame in 1971.

Peck Martin died in Idabel in 1980, which was his last coaching stop.

Coach Richard Lemler

Coach Richard Lemler began his career at Edmond Junior High in 1966.

Coach came to Purcell in 1969.

His coaching responsibilities were the offensive line and linebackers.

Coach stayed in Purcell for four years and in his final year as a Dragon Purcell won its only football State Championship.

From Purcell coach went to Cardondale, CO where he coached another State Championship team.

Coach spent some time at Tulsa Union before moving to Stillwater where he coached for 26 years.

After Stillwater, coach went to Lewisville, TX for three years.

Coach Lemler coached in the Oklahoma All-State games in both football and wrestling. He was also inducted into the Oklahoma Coaches Hall of Fame.

But coach will always be a Dragon because once a Dragon always a Dragon.

Bruce James
Bruce James
Bruce Wellington James

Bruce Wellington James graduated college in Marshall, TX with a 4.0 GPA with a double major in Math and Science.

Mr. James was a veteran and served his country proudly in the Korean Conflict. After that, he was a professional basketball player for the Court Jesters in Portland, OR.

Mr. James served as the Principal of Purcell Booker T. Washington School and when Purcell began integration in 1955, Purcell High School was integrated but not the Booker T. Washington Elementary School.

Mr. James, who was now serving as the Booker T. Washington Elementary Principal, was asked by legendary Purcell Basketball Coach Boney Matthews to be an Assistant Coach for him and to help with the integration of the PHS Basketball Team. Mr. James accepted that offer.

In that capacity, Coach Bruce Wellington James became Purcell High School’s first African American Coach, and we honor him for that feat.

There were no bios submitted for Connie Wells or Rose Mantooth.


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