Clifton Barnes of Cary has won a national writing award for an online post promoting high school classmate Buck Williams for inclusion in the basketball hall of fame.
Writing for his CapitalSportsNC.com website, Barnes won an Award of Excellence from the DC area-based Communications Concepts through its 2022 Awards for Publication Excellence competition.
Barnes, a UNC-Chapel Hill journalism and political science grad, was one of only two people across the nation to win Awards of Excellence in the Best Single Blog Post writing category. Dr. Stephanie Graff of Brown University was the other winner.
Admittedly, Barnes was irked when he realized that his old friend Charles “Buck” Williams had been eligible for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame since 2004 but hadn’t even been nominated until 2020, when his nomination failed to get enough votes for entry.
Williams, who led the Rocky Mount Gryphons to the state 4-A basketball title in high school in 1978, went on to be an all-conference player twice at Maryland, an NBA all-star three times, an all-NBA defensive team selection four times and served a term as president of the NBA Players Association.
Barnes’ opinion article was a “powerful” piece of persuasion, the judges said, adding that the article makes a good case that since Williams “wasn’t a brash, trash-talking, jerk of a player, he was overlooked and underappreciated.”
John L. Doleva, the president and CEO of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, received a copy of the article. He enjoyed it so much – calling it well written and a joy to read – that he included it in Williams’ nomination file.
Unfortunately, Williams still failed to garner enough votes earlier this year for election into the hall of fame. Barnes said he will update the article each year, and promote a letter-writing campaign if he has to, until Williams is admitted into the elite group.
Judges said while the article forcefully lays out the case for Williams, it was done in a heartwarming way. They said the article had convinced them, adding “Good luck Buck!”
In the article, Barnes told the story of a high school analytics group in New York that proved statistically that Williams deserves to be in the hall of fame. Then Barnes took a more personal account of Williams as a person and why that should also play into his inclusion into the hall of fame.
Williams was so touched by the efforts of teenagers who never saw him play that he got behind their effort and even wants to start a similar analytics club at Rocky Mount High School, perhaps in honor of his high school coach Reggie Henderson who passed away in May of this year.
Before his death, Henderson and his wife Beverly sent a note to Barnes after he posted the article saying they agreed that Williams should be in the hall of fame and that it was a “beautiful article filled with wonderful thoughts and facts about a most special person.”
Barnes has now won a writing award in the APEX national competition 12 years in a row, including six awards for his website CapitalSportsNC.com. That site features articles from all the top media outlets and sports teams in the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area along with his own original sports commentary.
Barnes served as director of communications for the N.C. Bar Association for 15 years and, before that, was a newspaper writer and editor.
Today he is a freelance writer, editor and Web developer who owns several websites, including one that chronicles each UNC basketball game. He is also a commercial real estate correspondent for the Triangle Business Journal.
Barnes is also known for spear-heading movements to get a highway marker for legendary comedic bandleader Kay Kyser in Rocky Mount and a yearly Hometown Spirit Award in Cary.
Along with his wife Andrea, he raises their 16-year-old son Will Griffin. Barnes is the son of W.C. (deceased) and Lorraine Barnes of Atlantic Beach.
The winning article can be accessed at http://capitalsportsnc.com/?p=1574844.