Sports obituary: Agnew starred for Price in football and basketball
By Mike London
SALISBURY — With the 1963 high school football season winding down, the upcoming game pitting Salisbury’s J.C. Price Red Devils against East Spencer’s Dunbar Tigers received quite a bit of hype in local barber shops, restaurants and the Salisbury Post.
Price head coach Fred Ponder and Dunbar head coach James Pemberton had agreed to designate the rivalry contest between the neighbors as an annual “Classic” with a handsome trophy being awarded to the winning school. That trophy would be provided by the local association of Black barber shops.
The Red Devils and Tigers met on Nov. 8 at Boyden High — two weeks before the assassination of President John F. Kennedy — and they played in front of a crowd that was described as close to capacity.
J.C. Price had a solid team that year and won that game with relative ease, 34-14. The Red Devils took charge early behind the efforts of senior quarterback/halfback Rufus Agnew. He broke a 20-yard scoring run and then threw a touchdown pass to William Boger, who would go on to quite a bit of athletic fame at Livingstone College.
Agnew, whose obituary appeared in the Post on Sunday, followed right behind his brother, William, as a star athlete at Price.
He had quite a football season in 1963, throwing touchdown passes, catching touchdown passes and running for touchdowns.
When Price crushed Reidsville 34-0, Agnew caught a 35-yard TD pass to open the scoring.
In a 14-10 loss to Concord’s Logan High, Agnew’s fourth-quarter touchdown gallop sparked a comeback that fell just short.
Still, it was in basketball that Agnew, who was inducted into the J.C. Price Hall of Fame in 2017, had outings that jump off the pages of the record books.
Research leaves no doubt that in the 1962-63 and 1963-64 seasons, he was Rowan County’s leading scorer, although the Post’s sports pages in those days listed only scoring averages for the players at the white schools.
The top five county scorers in 1962-63, Agnew’s junior year, were Agnew (15.2 points per game), Dunbar’s Nathaniel Davis (14.7), North Rowan’s Gilbert Sprinkle (14.1), West Rowan’s Benny Robbins (13.5) and Dunbar’s Lonnie Kluttz (13.6).
As a senior in 1963-64, Agnew turned in several monumental games for the basketball Red Devils.
He missed five games in February with an arm injury, but he averaged 22.4 points per game. The county’s other top scorers were Dunbar’s Davis (18.4), Dunbar’s Lewis Jefferies (18.1), North Rowan’s David Chapman (17.3) and Price’s Boger (16.1).
On Jan. 10, 1964, the Red Devils traveled to Charlotte to take on York Road High, the the school that would be renamed Robert F. Kennedy High in 1969 as part of Charlotte’s integration plan.
Agnew poured in 36 that night and led an 83-72 victory.
A week later when Charlotte’s Second Ward High came to Salisbury and pounded Price 82-63, Agnew scored 32, more than the rest of his teammates combined.
He scored 27 against a very strong Dunbar team in a 77-73 loss and had 29 against Winston-Salem’s Paisley High.
Agnew also was a scholar. He graduated from Livingstone College in 1968 and received a scholarship to continue his studies at the University of North Carolina.
He earned a masters degree in social work from UNC and continued his education with post-graduate studies at the University of Michigan. Then he went to work for the United Way.
In 1978, when he was 32, he was named as the allocations director for the United Community Chest of Rochester, N.Y.
Agnew was living in Lauder Lakes, Fla., when he passed away recently at 74.
Rufus Agnew, of Salisbury, NC, went home to be with The Lord on September 26 at 74 years old. Predeceased by his stepson, Marlondo James; brothers, William and Ronald (Virginia) Agnew; sister, Helen Oglesby. Rufus is survived by his wife, Barbara; stepdaughter, Priscilla Lindsay; stepdaughter-in-law, Akilah James; sister, Brenda Williams; sisters-in-law, Jacqueline (Siebert) Lynch, Audrey (Chestnut) Bailey; 6 grandchildren and many other relatives and friends. Calling hours, Friday, 1-3PM and 5-7PM, at DM Williams Funeral Home, 2793 Culver Rd. Interment, Grove Place Cemetery, Chili, NY.
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