Legendary Burlington track & field athlete to be inducted into state hall of fame posthumously

UNC considers him “Father of Track & Field” in North Carolina

By Bob Sutton

Special to The Alamance News

E.V. Patterson’s legacy lives on in the manner of the former Burlington standout’s upcoming induction into the North Carolina High School Track & Field and Cross Country Hall of Fame.

This one goes back more than a century. Even some of his relatives weren’t aware of his impact until more recently.

“I was fortunate growing up to spend all my summers in Alamance County,” said Dr. Troy Patterson, now a dentist in Metairie, Louisiana. “He never let on to how important he was to the development of a program.”

E.V. Patterson is called one of the “Fathers of Track & Field” in North Carolina. He helped initiate the first state-wide high school championship meet by raising money, providing awards, and setting rules.

[Story continues below photo of Patterson.]

E.V. Patterson, UNC Class of 1912

Patterson coached what was then considered an early dynasty at Friendship High School. That was an arm of Friendship United Methodist Church, now on Friendship Patterson Mill Road not far from the Village of Alamance.

He guided then-Friendship High School to seven straight championships from 1914-20.
As a student after two years, he transferred from Elon to the University of North Carolina. He became a captain of the 1912 North Carolina team and, based on information from the induction group, is believed to be the first person from North Carolina to compete in Europe. He ran in England, Scotland and Germany.

A 1911 UNC yearbook description of Patterson, at age 19, listed him at 5-foot-8½ and 118 pounds. His biography included the notion, apparently as a joke, that he was “a born follower – especially on the track – and a good one.” It also referenced his connection to Alamance Country Club and club baseball.

He won the 1-mile and 2-mile races in the 1912 Southern Intercollegiate Games in Baltimore.
Troy Patterson, 69, said he recalled visiting family on Central Avenue in Burlington. He said area youngsters would crawl under a fence at a nearby school to get on the track.

E.V. Patterson would be proud of how the next couple of generations of family members participated in track and field and cross country, his grandson said. Troy Patterson ran in middle-distance events.

The value that “Pop” – as E.V. Patterson was known – put on education remains evident, his grandson said. His descendants have histories of working in medical fields. Troy Patterson’s two children are in dental practice with him in Louisiana.

E.V. Patterson died in 1976 at age of 85. An online listing suggests that he’s buried in Pine Hill Cemetery in Burlington.

Troy Patterson hasn’t visited Burlington in decades. He said family connections included Pattersons, Sharpes, McAdoos and Shoffners in and around Alamance County.

The Hall of Fame elect’s son, Earl Patterson Jr., who was born in Burlington, died in 2006 at age 87 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He moved to Louisiana after World War II.

The induction ceremony is set for January 28 at JDL Fast Track in Winston-Salem as part of the Mondo Elite High School Invitational. Two of E.V. Patterson’s great grandsons – Dr. Craig Patterson, a pulmonologist in Atlanta, and Dr. Conner Patterson, a dermatologist in Fredericksburg, Virginia (nephews of Troy Patterson) – are expected to attend.