By Ralphine Major
Her sons wore Nos. 40 and 42 on the Gibbs High School 1964-65 basketball team. Virginia and her late husband, Clay Graves, were well-known leaders in the Gibbs Community. Clay was active in the Ruritan Club and the Gibbs Community Club, but they were known especially for their rabbits— lots of them. Clay and Virginia’s work in the rabbit industry extended well beyond Gibbs, however. They were involved with the Smoky Mountain Rabbit Breeders Association, and every September Clay and Virginia could be found at the Tennessee Valley Fair with many of their beautiful rabbits. Our family would always go by to see them. Some of those bunnies from the Graves’ Rabbitry found their way to our farm.
Actually, the Graves were parents to three sons. Danny, who was a year behind my class, was the only son I knew. He was manager of several sports teams at Gibbs. Though he was the youngest, Danny passed away several years ago. I remembered the oldest son, Ron, on the amazing ‘64-65 basketball team coached by Bob Dagley. I had never met him, but I knew how I could get in touch with him.
Danny’s son, Kevin, is a manager at the Midway IGA in the Gibbs Community. When I asked about contacting his uncle, Kevin thought it was interesting that I was writing about the ‘64-65 team during the time the Eagles’ 2012-13 team was having an amazing run of their own. I agreed. But, I have learned through writing this series of articles that the Eagles’ 1964-65 season was more outstanding than I realized as a ten-year-old watching it unfold. Unlike the teams today that play other teams in their division, the ‘64-65 Eagles from a very small, rural Knox County school competed against schools much larger. There were no divisions at that time so that the school of only 420 students could compete with other schools in their class. Coach Dagley and the former players I have talked to have mentioned that fact. To understand what this team accomplished under those conditions is absolutely awesome!
I called No. 42 to get a comment about Coach Dagley. While we were talking, I learned that his brother, Mike, was on the team, too! Ron was the 6-foot-4 senior starter who helped lead the Eagles to the 6th District Championship and No. 3 in the state. Mike, No. 40, was a 6-foot-1 junior. I thought it was incredible that this outstanding family had not one–but two–of the eleven players on the team.
The mother who once had snacks, suppers, and clean uniforms ready for her sons; who worked in the community; and who helped in the family’s rabbitry found the time to do something much more lasting. She took painstaking effort to make each of them a scrapbook of their year in basketball. This mother’s love can be found in the pages of those scrapbooks nearly fifty years later. It is the unconditional love of all those mothers who, like Virginia, have sacrificed, made scrapbooks, and cared for their loved ones through the years that make our families strong and our communities great. (This is the ninth in a series about the 1964-65 Gibbs Eagles’ incredible season. To be continued next week with No. 42.)