Hunt County hero dies

Commerce, TX –

A Greenville native who rose from a tragic accident to lead, coach and inspire an untold number of local children and to carry the Olympic Torch has died. Anthony Tony Wakefield, 48, died the day after Christmas at his home in Commerce.

Wakefield was injured while making a tackle in Greenville junior varsity football practice in September, 1975. The crash left Wakefield with a broken vertebrae in his spinal column and the loss of the use of his legs and hands.

That didn't stop Wakefield, though. Using an electric wheelchair, he taught in various capacities at Bowie Elementary and Greenville Middle School and volunteer coached at the YMCA and the Boys and Girls Club.

His determination caught the attention of Charles Davidson of Greenville. In 1996, USA Today and the Coca-Cola Company were seeking nominations of individuals to carry the Olympic Torch for the games that summer.

Wakefield taught Davidson's son in basketball at the YMCA and, like most everyone else who met Wakefield, Davidson was impressed by both Wakefield's courage and character, so much so he nominated Wakefield.

USA Today and Coca-Cola agreed and Wakefield was chosen to carry the torch on an eight-tenths of a mile route underneath Interstate 35 in downtown Dallas on May 20, 1996. Wakefield's course would carry him through Dealey Plaza.

Cozine & Tarver Funeral Home were in charge of arrangements.