People who know Betty Jaynes, who served for 15 years as the executive director of the Women's Basketball Coaches Association, might be surprised to learn that she didn't even know what a basketball was until she reached the sixth grade.
A native of the mill village Porterdale, Jaynes said her mother thought she had musical talent, so she spent many hours as a child taking piano, tap and vocal lessons and had even appeared on the old "Stars of Tomorrow" TV show, hosted by the late Freddie Miller.
But when Jaynes got to the sixth grade, she found sports - or, it might be more accurate to say that sports, and the city's athletic director, B.C. Crowell, found her.
"The first sport I played was kickball and I was pretty good," said Jaynes, who now serves as a consultant for the Gwinnett County-based WBCA, a 5,000-member national organization devoted to promoting women's basketball. "B.C. said he wanted me to go out for the girls basketball team, and I'd never even seen a basketball. He wanted me to be a stationary guard, but I told him I didn't think my parents would approve."
Jaynes said Crowell first visited her father, who worked in the Porterdale Mill, and was advised he'd have to ask Jaynes' mother, who worked in the Osprey Mill.
"When B.C. asked my mom, she said, 'No! Betty is a performer,'" Jaynes recalled. "B.C. went back three different times and finally convinced my mother to let me play basketball. My mother reluctantly agreed and that piano went right out the door. Basketball became my love."
A four-year letter-winner at Newton County High School, Jaynes was named All-State in basketball after her junior and senior seasons and in 1963 led the Lady Rams to a 33-1 record and a second-place finish in the Class AA state tournament.
A longtime advocate of both women's basketball and her hometown, Jaynes - who coached at James Madison University from 1970-82 and chaired the U.S. Girls' and Womens Basketball Rules Committee from 1979-81 - has allowed herself to be the focus of a fundraising roast to help raise funds for the Porter Memorial Gymnasium, which was almost completely destroyed in a 2005 fire.
"I don't mind being the roast target if it will help Porterdale," said Jaynes, who now lives in Lawrenceville. "We need to raise money to rebuild that gym and the first thing needed is a roof - the weather is killing what's left of it."
The roast is set for 6:30 p.m. May 15 at the Turner Lake Complex in Covington. Among those who have committed to be roasters are former University of Georgia football coach and athletic director Vince Dooley, mega-successful University of Tennessee women's basketball coach Pat Summitt, longtime Newton County basketball coach Ron Bradley, Robin Roberts of "Good Morning America" and five-time Olympic Gold medalist and former Georgia basketball standout Teresa Edwards.
Veteran WSB-TV news anchor Monica Pearson will serve as the emcee for the roast.
The event is sponsored by the Friends of Porterdale, a nonprofit organization whose first project is the rebuilding of the gym in Porterdale, which was constructed in 1938 and served as the activities hub for the children of the village. The building also served as the place to be for boxing and wrestling bouts, concerts and several visits from the world-famous Harlem Globetrotters.
"That gym is where I learned to play ball," Jaynes said. "We want to get it up and running again so the children and the senior citizens of the town can have a place to play and hold their meetings and events. (Bibb Manufacturing) built the school, pool, clubs and gym in Porterdale for the children and we definitely enjoyed the benefits from it."
A number of the Friends of Porterdale are former neighbors, friends and teammates of Jaynes', including Kay Coggin, Peggy Moss, Suzanne Dobbs, Janie Stokes and, of course, Crowell.
"My hat is off to this committee," she said. "They have worked so hard on this project and we hope we'll be able to take the proceeds and run with it. Tommy Hailey at the Newton County Recreation Commission has expressed an interest in including the rebuilt gym as part of the commission's venues and it's our hope that we can see the building return to its former glory."
Tickets for the event, which includes dinner, are $100 and the Turner Lake Complex can seat approximately 250 people.
For more information on the Friends of Porterdale's roast of Betty Jaynes, call Suzanne Dobbs (770-786-7173), Deedy Shaw Pate (770-310-3730), Carol Smith (404-643-2912), Kay Coggin (770-787-0001) or Peggy Moss (770-513-2082), or visit www.friendsofporterdaleinc.org.
Chris Starrs is a freelance writer based in Athens. If you have a feature story idea, e-mail email@example.com.