Earl Wilkerson, a long-time basketball official who spent many years working for the Rome Floyd Parks and Recreation Authority, passed away this week. Wilkerson left a lasting impression on the sports community and the people in the Rome Floyd County area and beyond.
Both Rick Haase and Todd Wofford worked with Wilkerson for several years and spoke about Wilkerson’s impact on parks and recreation and on the community as a whole.
“Earl always had a smile on his face and a good word for everybody. If you didn’t like Earl, something was wrong with you,” Haase says.
Haase met Wilkerson on the day he was interviewing for a job at parks and recreation roughly 35 years ago.
“When I interviewed for the job in 1984, they took me behind the levee where the football teams were playing and practicing, and I met Earl,” Haase says.
That meeting help spark a life-long friendship between the two.
“Earl was always just a phone call away. We got in the habit of always sending each other texts on Christmas and Father’s Day,” Haase says. “It kind of got to be a game to see who would be able to send the text first.”
Wilkerson served in countless roles for parks and recreation.
“He umpired youth softball and adult softball, referred youth basketball, adult basketball and youth football,” Haase says. “He supervised programs, and he even drove busses for our senior programs.”
Wofford notes Wilkerson served as a teacher and a mentor for local officials for years.
“Earl taught me how to referee games,” Wofford says. “I called my first high school basketball game with him.”
One key aspect about Wilkerson that Haase recalls is that he enjoyed everything he did.
“He was truly an ambassador for our parks and recreation program and for kids being active and playing sports,” Haase says. “He was always looking after kids. He had a very strong stance on making sure kids were being treated right.”
His presence at events also helped serve as a calming influence for everyone involved.
“I think it was his gift to this community the way he put people at ease. I know when people saw him as a game official or as a supervisor, they knew that things were going to be done right. They didn’t have to worry about anything being out of line,” Haase says. “He just had that ability and presence about him.”
In recent years, Wilkerson spoke about his battle with cancer and was one of several people featured in Harbin Clinic’s Faces of Hope campaign. https://harbinclinic.com/earl-wilkerson
In his testimonial, Wilkerson encourages anyone facing cancer to have hope and faith. When Wilkerson saw his photo and testimonial on the wall during the revealing ceremony at the Harbin Clinic Cancer Center in 2015, a big smile broke out on his face.
“Earl is definitely going to be missed,” Haase says. “I miss him already.”
“Everybody in the last 40 years that has played recreation or high school sports has been impacted by Big Earl,” Wofford says. “He did so much for the recreation department, and he was a great friend.”