GREENSBORO, N.C. – Guilford College mourns the passing of assistant baseball coach and Athletics Hall of Famer Thomas Tucker "Tommy" Grayson '68. Grayson died at his home Sunday at the age of 74 after a lengthy illness.
Grayson enjoyed decorated careers as both a coach and student-athlete. The Lexington, North Carolina, native is enshrined in four halls of fame and the football stadium at Eastern Guilford High School was named in his honor in 2013. He touched countless lives as a local high school teacher and coach and spent many years assisting his alma mater's baseball and football teams.
"I'm still in disbelief," said Guilford head baseball coach Nick Black '02. "He was my hero. He was the type of coach that I want to be. He was a father-figure, mentor, and friend.
"I'll miss his perspectives on life and the game of baseball, how it's taught, and how to deal with the successes and failures. He taught me family was always number one. His simple approach to the game kept us all in check. It was all about attitude and effort."
Grayson transferred to Guilford in the fall of 1965 from Chowan Junior College. He spurned an invitation from North Carolina State University to join the Quakers where he made an instant impact as a running back, safety, and place-kicker. Grayson earned All-National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) District 26 and All-Carolinas Conference recognition in 1965, which helped the Quakers to an 8-2 campaign, then a school record. Grayson led the league in both rushing and scoring in his first Guilford season. He played two football years with the Quakers and remains ranked among the school's career and season leaders in rushing touchdowns and point-after conversions.
In Grayson's first Guilford baseball season the following spring, he hit .347 with a team-best 57 hits to help hall-of-fame coach Stuart Maynard's '43 club to fourth place in the 1966 NAIA World Series. The 1966 Carolinas Conference Tournament Most Valuable Player, Grayson earned honorable mention All-America honors for the NAIA Area 7 champions. He hit .392 the following year and was named a First Team NAIA All-American in both 1967 and 1968.
When hall-of-fame coach basketball coach Jerry Steele's 1965-66 roster shrunk due to injuries and attrition, Steele tapped Grayson to join his team. Grayson appeared in 10 basketball games for Guilford and helped the Quakers reach the round of 16 at the 1966 NAIA National Tournament for the first time in school history.
Major League Baseball's Pittsburgh Pirates picked Grayson in the 1967 draft, but he chose to exhaust his Guilford eligibility the following year. He signed with MLB's Detroit Tigers after graduating in 1968 and played five minor-league baseball seasons. Grayson ascended to the AAA-level Toledo Mud Hens of the International League (IL) in 1971 and also made IL stops in Syracuse and Peninsula before retiring from professional baseball in 1973.
In addition to playing pro ball, Grayson started his coaching career right after graduation. He made stops at Rocky Mount (N.C.) Junior High, Northwest Guilford Middle School, and Asheboro (N.C.) Junior High before landing a position at Eastern Guilford High School. He spent 17 seasons with the Wildcats, where he taught physical education and coached baseball, golf, track and field, wrestling, and most notably football. Grayson guided Eastern Guilford's football team to the 1981 North Carolina Class AAA Division II East title. Former Wildcats' receiver Torry Holt played for Grayson and went on to star at North Carolina State University before enjoying an 11-season National Football League career that included seven Pro Bowl selections. After assisting Guilford's football and baseball teams from 1992-95, Grayson returned to scholastic coaching and spent eight seasons as head football coach at Rockingham County (N.C.) High School. He helped coach Guilford's baseball and/or football teams off and on for over a decade, most recently serving as the baseball team's bench coach from 2010-19.
Guilford inducted Grayson into its Athletics Hall of Fame in 1982 and Chowan followed suit three years later. He was part of the inaugural class in Davidson County's Sports Hall of Fame in 2002 and joined the Guilford County Sports Hall of Fame in 2016.
The Guilford community extends its deepest sympathy to Grayson's wife of 49 years, Pamela, a 1971 Guilford alum, the couple's three daughters and their families, Tommy's two sisters, and to Tommy's many friends and former students. Condolences may be sent to the Grayson family at 1910 Hawthorne Lane, Burlington, NC, 27215.