First Posted: 10/20/2009
PILOT MOUNTAIN As a young man from Pilot Mountain, Richard L. (Dick) Patterson set any early bar for the areas high school athletics.
As a member of the Pilot Mountain High School varsity team, Patterson was part of a Class B state championship under coach G.B. Motsinger.
Dick was chosen for the all-state team his senior season and was voted to the all-Journal-Sential team both his junior and senior seasons.
During his final year in Pilot, the Bulldogs narrowly lost the annual Journal-Sentinal Tournament, which included every high school from the papers coverage area, to Kannapolis.
After graduation, Patterson tried out for Duke and North Carolina but was eventually persuaded by a local minister to enroll at a junior college because of his young age (17) and the advanced age of many players due to their obligations of WWII.
Enrolling at Pheiffer Junior College in the fall of 1947, Dick was elected as captain of the team both as a freshman and sophomore. During his freshman campaign, Pheiffer won their junior college conference championship. In addition, Patterson was pegged as all-conference player both seasons in Misenheimer.
After exhausting his eligibility at Pheiffer, Patterson moved on to North Carolina in 1949. Before Patterson arrived the Tar Heels were somewhat of a mediocre team, but as the 1950s rolled around, UNC found itself winning more and more, with Patterson becoming an integral part of that success.
Dick was chosen by the Big Five coaches as athlete of the week during the week of January 25, 1949.
It was around that time during his first season in Chapel Hill that Patterson was called upon to replace Tar Heel star of the day Hugo Kappler, after Kappler was sidelined with pneumonia prior to a contest against South Carolina.
In relief, Patterson scored 17 points and led the Tar Heels to a victory over the Gamecocks.
After that game Patterson continued to be a top contributor and a valued reserve.
It was one of the breaks you get in playing sports, Patterson said. You never know what break youre going to get. At that particular time he was out sick and they started me in his place. I just so happened to have a real good night and it got me jump-started to playing consistently on the team.
Patterson said he doesnt recall being overly apprehensive about being thrown into the mix of things in Chapel Hill but ready to prove himself on yet another level.
I kind of felt like I had played good enough in high school and junior college, he said. I wasnt afraid, I just felt like it was my time and felt as up to the task as anybody on the team at that time.
Patterson played at a time when North Carolina was on the verge of becoming a hotbed of college basketball. Aided by legendary N.C. State coach Everett Case, the Tar Heel state found itself home to several of the premiere teams in the country.
Patterson participated in the first ever Dixie Classic at Reynolds Gym in Raleigh, a tournament which gained national notoriety as the years went on. Patterson said some of the other highlights of his career in Chapel Hill were playing at No. 2 Kentucky and playing at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
Of the Kentucky game, Patterson said it was an interesting atmosphere, with Wildcat coach Adolph Rupp roaming the sidelines and a ferocious crowd in the stands. One other thing Patterson remembers about the game is that the Tar Heels had a few extra members along their bench.
It was a sellout with no empty seats at all to be had and we had a group of eight or 10 tobacconists from North Carolina and they wanted to come see UNC play Kentucky. Adolph Rupp told them there were not any seats available but instead they extended our bench and put them right down on the sideline from us.
After he left Carolina, Patterson entered the Army where he served from 1951 until 1953. He married his wife, Betty, during this time and the two have been together for 58 years. In 1969 Patterson took over a Buick dealership in Mount Airy, and as Patterson said, the rest is history, as Patterson Chrysler Dodge Buick has been a major dealer in the Granite City since.
The Pattersons have two sons, Richard and Paul, and enjoy two grandchildren.