Profession: Recreation Department Director
High School: Belwood
Billy “Hoss” Bearden was born in Gordon County on August 15, 1934. He was the oldest of the five children of Orion “Hoss” and Dorothy Bearden. On January 16, 1953, Billy married the love of his life, Bobbie Jean Allen. They were married for 62 years and had three children, Donna Grant, Melinda Cox and Bill Jr. Billy was also the proud grandfather of Tyler Grant and Jessica Cox Linn.
Billy Bearden attended Belwood High School from 1948 to 1951 where he was a stand out in basketball, baseball and softball. A four-year letterman in each sport, Billy also earned All-District and All-Star distinctions on the basketball court. He set a record his senior season by scoring 501 points for the Bellwood Indians’ basketball team.
On the day before his graduation from Belwood High School, Billy signed with the Brunswick Pirates, known as the Milwaukee Crackers, of the National Association of Professional Baseball League. Billy’s father had to sign a consent to allow him to travel with the team as Billy was just 16 years old. He played for the next five years with the team.
Billy excelled in adult basketball and softball leagues as well. He was part of the state championship team in the VFW basketball league. In fast pitch softball, Billy was a member of the ‘All World’ Softball team and was the MVP for the 1962 championship game. He was a five time all-American, MVP in seven state tournaments and pitched an incredible 100 no-hitter games. In 1961 his pitch was clocked at 100 mph, which was the fastest recorded in the world at that time. Leslie Leiber of the New York Times clocked the pitch during the training camp in Baltimore, and Billy was known as one of the top six fast-pitch pitchers in the world. As pitcher, Bearden played on state championship teams in five states; Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, Florida and Virginia. In more than 600 games, he pitched three perfect games and 100 no-hitter games. As a hitter, the 6-foot, 220 pound Bearden won several batting titles – finishing with a lifetime .330 average with 350 homeruns. He was named to the “All American Team” in 1973 and 1974 and was inducted into the Georgia ASA Hall of Fame in 1988.
While playing on championship teams in multiple states, Billy worked for the YMCA in Canton, North Carolina, worked for the recreation department in Fox Hill, Virginia and in Clearwater, Florida, where he worked with the recreation department while a member of the 1961 World Champion Team. Billy was also an accomplished and competitive basketball player as a member of the VFW teams, which won the Alabama Tournament in 1962. That same year, Bearden played on the VFW National AAV Basketball team that played in Denver, Colorado.
Billy returned to Gordon County as head of the recreation activities for the local VFW post. In 1961 he was named Director of the Calhoun-Gordon County Recreation Department where he had a long and illustrious career until his retirment in 1992. Thursday, January 14, 1993 was proclaimed “Billy Bearden Day” by the City of Calhoun. Known as “Mr. Recreation”, the Calhoun Recreation Center is named in his honor – “Billy Bearden Center”. Calhoun Mayor and Calhoun-Gordon County Sports Hall of Fame board member, Jimmy Palmer, remembered Billy Bearden always saying, “Recreation is for everyone”. At the naming ceremony, Bearden said “I had the best job in the country and I loved it.”
He also coached football, basketball and baseball teams to numerous league, tournament, district and state championships. Bearden returned to Calhoun because he wanted to give back to his community and he is known for turning around many young people who were headed in the wrong direction. Billy coached a 12 and under girls basketball team to win the state championship in 1962, and was proud that his younger sister, Dianne Kirby, was a member of that team. Bearden continued coaching youth sports through the 1970’s and 80’s and many of his teams won district and state championships.
Billy was also an avid golfer and fisherman. Even in sickness after retirement, Bearden wasn’t one to complain and still enjoyed recreation and sports. Sadly, Billy Bearden passed away in January, 2015. Near the end of his life, Billy’s graddaughter, Jessica Linn, wrote a children’s book about his life, called “Hoss, the Wise Old Owl” as a tribute to his life.