Two Wilkes County all-star softball teams won district titles this past weekend in Wilkesboro, and a baseball team came within two runs of making it a clean sweep for our local squads.
No one would have been prouder of those teams’ success than Arthur M. “Buster” Bush.
Buster Bush, who died in 2000, started recreational sports for youth in North Wilkesboro, and his name is synonymous with Tar Heel Leagues ball sports in these parts.
He was inducted into the Tar Heel Leagues Inc. Hall of Honor as an administrator in 1995 and posthumously into the Wilkes County Hall of Fame in 2019.
Buster was the fourth of 11 children born to David Taylor and Zada Bumgarner Bush. He graduated from North Wilkesboro High School. During his youth, he was an active Scout and athlete, playing semi-pro fast pitch softball.
He was very instrumental in founding the first recreation program in North Wilkesboro. He led a recreation program for youth with the help of local churches several years before the town began financing the program.
Buster served as president of the North Wilkesboro Optimist Club, was a volunteer fireman in North Wilkesboro for 25 years and was the first auxiliary policeman of North Wilkesboro.
He was scoutmaster for Troop 334 from 1952 until 1985. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Award by the Wilkes County Jaycees in 1959 and the Charles Ham Citizenship Award by the Wilkes Civitan Club in 1986.
Buster was hired as the town’s first recreation director in January 1957 and served until his retirement in June 1987.
During his 30 years of service to the town, Buster impacted the lives of thousands of young people by volunteering as a coach, mentor, friend and father figure. The many recreation programs available to young people in Wilkes County today are here because of Buster’s efforts.
Buster organized and ran Little League baseball in Wilkes County for 35 years. He was the Little Tar Heel Baseball League district commissioner for 25 years.
When Buster retired from running the Tar Heel Leagues in North Wilkesboro, his duties were taken over by Jimmy Gaines, who later moved back to his hometown of Erwin and served as president of the organization from 1977-1984 and 1991-2013 before being inducted into its hall of honor, also as an administrator, in 1994.
When I covered sports here from 1993 to 1996, I recall Jimmy running a tight ship at Memorial Park when the Tar Heel Leagues tourneys were hosted there. He welcomed the media coverage and was very helpful in getting me what I needed back in those analog days.
Over the years, the recreation departments of the towns and county have also been affiliated with the Babe Ruth League and Cal Ripken Little League, but the roots with Tar Heel Leagues run deeper and longer.
Buster truly had a heart of service and cared deeply for the youth of Wilkes County. I like to think he’s looking down on the continued success of Tar Heel Leagues teams with a wide smile on his face.