Charlie Beard, DeAnn Samply, Les Haney, John Silcox and Curtis Barnes inducted
An artist, a world famous softball pitcher, an oilman, a deep sea drilling innovator and a sign language specialist with a soft heart for Romanian orphans took in the spotlight Saturday as the latest inductees in Taft Union High School’s Hall of Fame.
The ceremony held in Mullen Gymnasium was the sixth as inductees Curt Barnes (Class of 1960), Charles Beard (1957), Les Haney (1942), DeAnn Gaither Sampley (1972) and John Silcox (1940) joined 42 other distinguished graduates in the Hall of Fame.
Five of the six accepted their medals and plaques while the sixth – Haney – was honored posthumously and was represented by his son, Tab.
Barnes has exhibited in prestigious galleries and museums in the U.S., Europe, South America and South Korea and has work permanently displayed in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City where he lives and works.
The foundations for his success, he said, are clearly rooted in being raised and schooled in Taft.
“I want to express my due respect not only to the high school but the entire community for everything you did for me back then,” he said. ?He thanked his TUHS art teachers Alma Steininger and Marge Faust “for just wonderful experiences” and said they “had much more impact on me than the faculty at Berkeley,” where he earned his bachelor’s degree.
In his message in the banquet program, Barnes wrote glowingly of life growing up in Taft and was especially generous about the quality of the schools.
“I could explore and develop without self-consciousness, getting encouragement but not too much flattery, gaining self-confidence without vanity,” he wrote. “Taft’s environment might not have been ideal for every budding artist to come along, but from my vantage point I would hardly have changed a thing.”
Beard made his mark in the industry that made Taft.
“I started a business in 1976 with just $200,” he said, and turned General Production Service, Inc. into a company with nearly 250 employees.
The secret to his success?
“You don’t have to be the smartest person in the world, but if you surround yourself with smart people, they’ll make you look smart.”
Perhaps more importantly is the philanthropic work Beard does in the community that has earned him the reputation as the guy who “makes things happen.”
Beard has played key roles in the success of Taft Oildorado Days and Little League baseball, is the driving force behind the community’s annual bicycle giveaway program, and contributed generously to Taft’s million dollar Oilworker Monument with cash and, especially, with his and his company’s labor.
He prefers to labor behind the scenes and shuns the plaudits, but being selected to the Hall of Fame is something special.
“It is such a great honor,” he said.
The man known simply as “The Arm” was one of the greatest – if not THE greatest – softball pitchers of all time.
Haney was one of the biggest names in a sport that was king in the ’40s and ’50s.
The 1942 grad who was an All-Valley baseball player for the Wildcats three years running began playing softball at age 15 when he traveled with the Belridge Oilers to the national championships in Detroit.
A four-time All-American, Haney etched his name in the record and history books with performances such as 17 no-hitters in a season, 43 strikeouts in a 20-inning game, and averaging 21 strikeouts a game over a 43-game season. He earned a spot in Ripley’s Believe it or Not for striking out all 27 batters in a game. Opposing batters managed just two foul tips.
With a fastball clocked at 115 mph, “The Arm” led the Taft Merchants to the world championship in 1948 that culminated with a wild downtown homecoming celebration.
Most Taftians also knew him as that mild-mannered guy at the window of the local Post Office who repaired Venetian blinds in his garage on weekends.
“He knew where everybody lived,” quipped son Tab as he accepted his dad’s gold medal Saturday night.
Haney’s career was pretty much over before his son got to see him pitch, but Tab remembers the stories.
“One time he knocked out one of his catchers when the lights went out just as he released a pitch.”
Sampley established the first sign language course at Taft College and as a professor at Bakersfield College developed an American Sign Language lab and secured ASL as a foreign language.
In 1993 she co-founded a non-profit organization that helps abandoned and abused children in Romania and India. Her work there includes development of college and professional team ministries in seven Romanian orphanages.
Her relationship with a disabled neighbor boy and a deaf cousin “inspired me to carve out a career in sign language.”
Sampley began her teaching career at Lincoln Junior High where Principal Don Zumbro “encouraged me as though I were a tenured professional when, in reality, I was a deer in the headlights.”
Reflecting on her Hall of Fame selection, she recalled the support and friendships from her childhood.
“I discovered many who believed in me before I believed in myself,” she said. “I am forever thankful to those – and you know who you are – who nurtured me when the cement of my soul was still wet.”
Silcox, who turns 90 in July, follows in the footsteps of his brother John, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame two years ago.
Bill Silcox grew up in Standard Oil Company’s 11-C Camp and, like other inductees, pointed to the excellent education he got in Taft.
“Education was a big thing here and we all benefited from it,” he said, pointing to the breadth of courses available in high school.
“Taft High offered courses for college prep and Taft High offered courses for working in the oil fields,” he said. “It’s a great honor to have gone to school here.”
Silcox is best known for his pioneering work in deep water drilling.
When he began his professional career, deepwater oil drillers could reach only 250 feet below the surface.
He developed and patented a dozen tools and provided the leadership that enabled undersea drilling to reach depths of 2,400 feet. The high-pressure deep-water flexible pipe he developed is still being used around the world.