J. Craft Akard, Jr.
James Craft “Lefty” Akard, Jr., was a native of Blountville, Tenn. A charter member of the Emory & Henry Sports Hall of Fame in 1972, he was a standout on the baseball diamond and basketball court.
Akard was the captain of the baseball team where he pitched and played outfield, served as co-captain for basketball and was also a member of the student council. After graduating from Emory & Henry in 1938, Akard taught school during the year and played professional baseball during the summers.
He began the 1943 season playing for the Kingsport Cherokees before leaving to support the war effort with Holston Ordnance. In 1944, Akard returned to be a player-manager for the Cherokees, leading the team to the Appalachian League pennant. The 1945 season saw him return to a pitching-only role – earning 20 wins on the season – as Kingsport made it back-to-back Appalachian League titles. Akard was selected as the Appalachian League pitcher of the year in both the 1944 and 1945 seasons.
After retiring from professional baseball at the age of 26 to devote all his time to public education, Akard became the Superintendent of Sullivan County Schools in 1948 and stayed in that position until his retirement in 1971. Akard also received a Master’s Degree from East Tennessee State University in 1956. Upon leaving the school system, he served the Tennessee Education Association for eight years and also served a term in the Tennessee State Legislature.
Born on January 17, 1917, J. Craft “Lefty” Akard, Jr., died on March 27, 2015 at the age of 98.