If you know Don Rackard, 75, as a Christian musician and songwriter in Knoxville, you might be surprised to find him in Jeffersonville, Ind., this weekend for induction into the United States Martial Arts Hall of Fame.
The event offers three days of instruction and training and features a black-tie dinner.
Rackard, once a student and later an associate of the legendary Harold Long, was a long-ago champion in Isshin-Ryu, a style of Okinawan karate. He reached black-belt status in 1963 and lost once in three years of national tournament competition.
He rejected previous hall of fame nominations out of modesty.
“This ceremony happens to be on July 20, the anniversary of the death of Bruce Lee, the most influential martial artist of the 20th century,” said Rackard.
“I have long admired one of his sayings: ‘Showing off is a fool’s idea of glory.’
“This time, I thought the time was finally right to participate.”
I’ve known Don Rackard since 1956. He was an outstanding Little League shortstop at Mary Vestal Park in South Knoxville. The next year, after skillful recruiting and minimum coaching, he was an outstanding shortstop on my 13-year-old team at the Boys Club. It included Ray Fisher, Jeff Fletcher, Buddy Burkhart, Gary Webber, Edd Poore and several other later prominent local citizens.
We dominated a new league, won a bunch of games and lost one.
After Don concluded he was not going to be a professional baseball player, he became a professional musician. He sang a good ol’ country song, “She Took the Place of You,” as the opening act at the Knoxville Coliseum on the evening Larry Gatlin drew an overflow crowd of 7,800.
Don recorded it in Nashville at Dolly Parton’s studio. It got some exposure on radio stations.
Archie Campbell heard Don Rackard play his guitar and sing and was properly impressed. Over a period of months, he mentioned the possibility of a beginning role on HeeHaw. It didn’t happen.
Rackard’s job with the sheriff’s office got in the way. That employment also conflicted with four lucrative contract offers from hotels and night clubs. Don accepted the fact that law enforcement knocked out the possibly better career.
It did not stop the music. He wrote and sang a patriotic “We Are the Red, White and Blue” after 9/11.
One of his best (in my opinion) is “He Gave,” a beautiful message of God providing the keys to His kingdom of Heaven. It is prominent in Rackard’s one-hour, non-denominational musical worship service, free to churches and religious gatherings in the region.
He is not picky. He has appeared before large congregations. He once drove 60 miles to express his faith to 15.
“I don’t have a manager,” said Rackard. “But my phone number is 865-687-0736.”
He’s booked for this weekend.
Marvin West welcomes reader comments and questions. His address is [email protected].