Speaking of Sports: Lee Dockins' honor tops the greatest
By Jim Turner

Posted on July 22, 2019 1:47 PM


Over the years, some local athletes have earned amazing honors. For example:

*Lillie Mason earned Miss Kentucky Basketball honors at Olmstead High School, was a three-time All-American at WKU and was named MVP of two NCAA regional tournaments while leading her teams to consecutive Final Fours.

*Mark Thompson of LCHS was the second draft pick in Colorado Rockies history, was the franchise’s first pitcher of the year, was the winning pitcher in the first game ever played at Coors Field, and earned the first postseason save in Rockies history.

*Brenda Chapman Strickler—also of Olmstead--gave up being the number one tennis player at Western to play basketball, was the program’s all-time leading scorer when she graduated, and was both MVP and Rookie of the Year in the women’s professional basketball league which preceded the WNBA.

*Katherine Neely Murrie not only won the state girls golf championship while representing LCHS but then won a collegiate national championship while playing NAIA golf for Lipscomb University,

*Fred Tisdale was named MVP of the state boys basketball tournament while leading the Logan County Cougars to the state championship in 1984. In the early 21st century, he was honored as one of the 50 Greatest Players in state tournament history.

*Bubba Wells of Russellville was a scoring machine at Austin Peay. He would have led the nation in scoring if he had played enough games. (He was sidelined twice having metal rods inserted into his legs.) He was the number two draft pick of the Dallas Mavericks.

*Otis Key, who was Bubba’s teammate at both RHS and APSU, was so popular when he played pro basketball in the Canary Islands that he had a candy bar named after him. He played for professional sports’ most well-known team internationally, the Harlem Globetrotters, for eight seasons, often serving as the Advance Man promoting the game. When his ‘Trotters appeared at APSU, he was wearing a microphone in the role of Showman.

*Joseph Jefferson of Logan County was the number three draft pick of the Indianapolis Colts and for over a decade was the highest draft pick in WKU history. He was named last year as one of the greatest players in Hilltopper history.

*Terry Clayton of LCHS won the first ever National Rudy Award for the college student athlete who was most successful in overcoming a physical handicap

*A pair of Russellvillians—Tom Wilkins of UK football and Stacie Gamble of Lady Topper basketball—were captains of their teams for two straight seasons.

Still with all of those lofty achievements, I really believe the highest honor ever coming to a local athlete is the current one bestowed on Logan County Hall of Famer Lee Dockins. And even though it’s very significant, the one I’m talking about is not the signs on the county lines of Logan’s main roads letting visitors know they are entering the home county of Lee Dockins.

I can attest she was born in Logan County. I went to the hospital the night she was born to see her and to congratulate her parents, Harris and Sharon Dockins.

Lee has won so many medals in gymnastics that it would be difficult to count them all. I guarantee you, though, that she knows how many gold medals she has earned. (She doesn’t consider silvers and bronzes to be true medals unless they are on a very big stage.) One source had her overall total at 237 medals before starting more competition this summer.

Kentucky officials say she is the most decorated World Games athlete in Special Olympics Kentucky history. In three previous trips to the World Games – 2007 in China, 2011 in Greece and 2015 in Los Angeles, she won 12 medals, including eight golds. Two of those gold medals – 2011 in Athens and 2015 in Los Angeles – came in the all-around. That means she was the top Special Olympics artistic gymnast in the world twice.

That was before she won even more World Games medals this year in a different kind of gymnastics in Dubai. She did Rhythmic events this time instead of Artistic. She added five more World Games medals.

All of that pales to the honor bestowed on her by The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History choosing her as one of only four athletes featured in its tribute to Special Olympics in Washington. The fifth honoree is Eunice Shriver, sister of President John F. Kennedy and Attorney General Bobby Kennedy and found of Special Olympics in 1968

“Special Olympics at 50” is a display showcasing 50 years of Special Olympics. Founded at a time when people with intellectual disabilities (ID) were often institutionalized or hidden away, Special Olympics changed attitudes about the abilities and talents of children and adults with ID—giving them the chance to train their bodies, build confidence, meet new people and share skills through sports, according to a Smithsonian press release.

“Special Olympics at 50” highlights the lives of four athletes who participated in the games over the years as well as Shriver who grew Camp Shriver into the Special Olympics by 1968. Included in the display are Shriver’s clipboard and hat from the 1988 Special Olympics annual conference and a pennant from the first international games, Marty Sheets’ (1953–2015) ski hat and competition bib from the first Special Olympics International Winter Games in Colorado in 1977 and Ricardo Thornton’s jersey from a Special Olympics D.C. race and medal from the National Games in Nebraska in 2010. Also on view are Loretta Claiborne’s T-shirt from the 1972 International World Summer Games and a torch carried at the 2015 World Games in Los Angeles, and Lee Dockins’ leotard from the 2007 World Summer Games in China and leather grips.

More than 5 million athletes in 174 countries and more than 1 million volunteers have participated in Special Olympics. Logan’s Lee Dockins is one of only five of them to be honored by America’s premier museum.

That’s hard to top.



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