A walk down memory lane… Bowers stood tall in the ring and in remembering veterans

Published 4:07 pm Tuesday, June 1, 2021

CONTRIBUTED BY BOB ROBINSON
Arthur Byron Bowers, nicknamed “little Deacon” after an older brother killed in a motorcycle
accident proved the “power of the punch” was unstoppable for opponents in his heyday in the
ring.

The Elizabethton native scored knockouts in 45 of 55 boxing matches in the heavyweight
division, reserved for those weighing 190 to 201 pounds, in the late 1950s.

In his boxing zenith, Deacon was inducted into the Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia Boxing
Hall of Fame and won the Upper East Tennessee Golden Gloves boxing championship two
years in a row.

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In 1958, he competed in the finals of the Southern Golden Gloves tournament. In 1959, he won
the Upper East Tennessee and Southern Golden Gloves tournaments and participated in the
quarterfinals of the National Golden Gloves tournament in Chicago.

Deacon was one round away from fighting the infamous Cassius Clay for the national championship.

After a boxing match in Elizabethton, Deacon met his future wife, Carol Morgan of Birmingham,
Alabama.

They were married on September 16, 1959, and have three children, Donna, Julie, and Paul, and four
grandchildren, Sarah Millsaps Presnell, Rachel Millsaps Williams, and Adam and William Presnell.

Although he has now taken off his boxing gloves, the love of the sport and a desire to help
fledgling boxers mature and grow in stature has kept him close to the sweat and punches being
thrown in the ring.

Since 1961, Deacon has been a referee for the National Golden Gloves Boxing Association and
has also served as its president.

During that time, he has refereed 30 bouts, including 29 televised nationally. In the year 2000,
Deacon became the first Tennessean inducted into the National Organization of Golden Gloves
Officials of America Hall of Fame.

On Oct. 29, 2004, Deacon retired as Regional Veterans Employment Representative.

In 1968, he began serving veterans as employment representative for Upper East Tennessee
Human Development Agency, the forerunner of the present Labor and Workforce Development
organization.

Deacon said retirement will allow him to devote more time to being a referee. He said he looks
forward to being invited to referee national fights and others overseas which may eventually take
him and his wife, Carol, to Japan.

“Boxing rules are different everywhere. I would like to see a Federal Boxing Commission set the
same rules for all boxers,” said Deacon, who issues warnings to boxers for head butting, hitting
below the belt, throwing kidney punches and holding.

To maintain his “referee” stamina, Deacon walks two miles a day and has maintained his weight
of 235 pounds in the aging process.

Deacon says his daily regiment of “staying in shape” brings back memories of his days in boot
camp in the Army and with the Marines at Paris Island, S. C.

A big boy for his age, when he was 13-years-old he enlisted in Company F of Tennessee
National Guard in Elizabethton under commander Charlie Jett.

As the unit was being activated to Korea in 1950, he was kicked out when it was discovered he
was underage.

Six months later, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. While in basic training, he was
kicked out for being underage. He was 14 at the time.

His perseverance paid off, however, and the third time was the charm. At age 15, he enlisted in the
United States Army.

After boot camp, in November 1952 he was sent to Korea to join American forces as an infantryman,
just in time to celebrate his 16th birthday with the 25th Division, 35th Regiment.

After being discharged from the Army, Deacon met the late Don Marshall, who became his
boxing coach and mentor. “He was like a father figure. He taught me I could do anything I set
my mind to do.”

“Although winning the Southern Golden Gloves Boxing Championship was a big
accomplishment, construction of the Elizabethton-Carter County Veterans War Memorial, which
honors 258 Carter Countians killed in combat in all wars since World War I, was bigger,”
according to Bowers, who said he is looking forward to the construction of the Veterans Walk of
Honor which will honor all Carter County veterans.

“The Veterans War Memorial and Walk of Honor are the biggest accomplishments in my
career,” said Deacon, who is quick to give credit to members of the Carter County Veterans War
Memorial Committee, veterans and their families, and others who made cash donations and in-
kind contributions who made the projects a reality.

In recognition of his service to veterans and to the community, Bowers was named 2002
Citizen of the Year for Elizabethton and Carter County.

“I am proud to be an American and to be able to serve veterans and their families,” said Bowers,
who grew up in the Stoney Creek area of Carter County.