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J.J. Corbett

Inducted 2008

J.J. Corbett has been an important figure in Bartow for many years, combining a love for education and athletics with an understanding of the importance of community service.

After playing both football and basketball at local Union Academy, Corbett decided to attend and play football at Bethune-Cookman College. His performance earned him All-Conference status at guard for Bethune-Cookman. His time at BCC was short-lived, due to being drafted into the United States Army and serving his country in the first black paratrooper unit. In the fall of 1945, after the conclusion of World War II, he continued his college football playing career at Army, then found himself playing football at North Carolina A&T while pursuing a degree in mathematics.

In 1950, Corbett returned home to Bartow and Union Academy to teach mathematics and begin a coaching career that would span 30 years. During his time at Union Academy, Corbett was an assistant coach for both the football and track & field teams, assuming head coaching duties for the track team in 1967 and capturing back-to-back state championships in 1968 and 1969, as well as Class B Florida Track Coach of the Year honors both years.

At the beginning of the 1969-70 school year, he took his coaching expertise to newly integrated Bartow High School, becoming an assistant football coach and soon afterwards the head coach of district champion cross country (1977) and state champion track & field (1977) teams. He organized the Bartow Invitational Track Meet from 1971-1980, an event that now bears his name.

Corbett retired from teaching and coaching in 1980, but continued his involvement with athletics. He served as a track & field official for the next 14 years and occupied a seat on the Polk County school board. Corbett was also active in his community, acting as a board member for Big Brothers/Big Sisters and Goodwill of Polk County, as well as chairman for the United Way of Central Florida. He received the first Bartow American Legend Award in 2005 and is a recipient of the Rotary Community Service Award.