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Fighter's legacy
Late father's boxing shapes Parkview's Flowe

LILBURN - Digging through some boxes last Thursday, Cecil Flowe found one filled with trophies and newspaper clippings that his father kept private.

Carl "Butch" Flowe died earlier that day and as Cecil, Parkview's head football coach, went through his father's belongings, he discovered his dad was a decorated boxer. He knew that his father had fought, just not to this extent.

"He had tons of trophies and clippings that he would never take out," Flowe said of his father, a longtime Gwinnett resident. "So I was looking through it last night and I was going, 'my God.'"

Flowe quickly discovered his dad was a great fighter. Not only in his battle with cancer that took his life at age 80, but in boxing.

Carl Flowe was known around the North Carolina boxing circuit as Butch. He had two boxing careers. The first was when he was 12 years old in high school for state power Charlotte Central, where he fought in the sub-fly weights. His second fighting career was for the Charlotte YMCA, where he was a two-time Golden Gloves champion.

The only reason for the two stints as a boxer was because of war. It halted boxing in the Carolinas and Butch joined the Army. He was a drill instructor and later served in the Korean War.

A story in the Charlotte News in 1949 described Butch as "Probably the greatest fighter for his weight in these parts" when he made his comeback in boxing after serving in the Army.

Butch Flowe was the North Carolina Golden Gloves champion in 1949 and 1951. He made it to the national finals in '51, where he faced Floyd Patterson for the middleweight title and lost a decision. That same year he married his wife Patsy, who he stayed married to for 58 years.

He fought in 13 Golden Glove open division tournaments, winning nine championships from Charlotte to Greenville and just about every other town in North Carolina. He was inducted in the Carolinas Boxing Hall of Fame in 1992 and had a career record of 47-4. He lost one fight during his first boxing stint before the war and that was because his trunks were too big.

"He kept reaching down to hold them up, letting his opponent get the best of him. A fellow can't hold up his trunks and fight at the same time," the Charlotte News story said.

Eventually the desire to raise a family and the strain of a full-time job at General Motors, where he worked for 36 years, and training for boxing were too much for Butch Flowe. He gave up boxing. Packed away all of his trophies, all of his awards, all of the old films of his fights.

Cecil Flowe never saw all the awards and trophies his father won more than half a century ago.

"We would say 'Daddy let's take them out and frame them,'" Flowe recalled. "No, I ain't doing that (he would say)."

The decorated boxer also spawned one of the greatest football coaches in Gwinnett County and Georgia history.

"Daddy was always, 'do the thing right and you pay attention to details.' He was a bit of a perfectionist. You go after stuff, you fight for it," Flowe said. "He had to fight his way through the Depression era. He was very frugal. That's why when he needed to stay in the hospital it was all taken care of. He had the money saved up. He protected mother."

Cecil is a bit of a perfectionist himself, at least on the football field. From 2000-02, his Panthers posted perfect seasons and won a then state-record 46 straight games.

He has led the Panthers to six state championship games, the most recent in 2004, and has claimed four state titles. Flowe has a 174-41 career coaching record in 17 seasons, which includes 15 straight playoff appearances. He trails former Central Gwinnett head coach Tally Johnson for the most wins in Gwinnett County by just 11.

Those are all accomplishments his father was proud of and Butch Flowe was there for the Panthers' glory days in the early 2000s. He even followed his son to the race track - Cecil Flowe also is an avid auto racing fan and driver.

"Great man, great father. Two places he would come watch me - here and on the race track," Flowe said. "He's not going to miss a race and he's not going to miss me here. Until he got sick and couldn't come."

Like many great boxers the after effect of years of taking a pounding to the head took its toll on Butch Flowe. He developed Alzheimer's disease in the early part of this decade. Then prostate cancer struck, which later turned to bone cancer. By 2007, he was in an assisted living and memory care home.

"When the cancer started getting on him, he just started shuffling and having trouble with his legs," Flowe said. "It finally took his legs and ate his legs up and he couldn't walk, so he was in a wheel chair. Then it moved up. It was hard for me to go watch and look at him. I just couldn't stand it."

Cecil Flowe's health struggled as well.

First with kidney stones and then a heart condition. After Parkview's Corky Kell game in the Georgia Dome in 2006, Flowe experienced chest pains. It has been ongoing the last few years. He passed out on the sidelines during games last season. Heart surgery over the summer has him feeling much better.

"I know there's people a lot worse off than I am," Flowe said. "I've had some health issues to deal with. It's tough, but not so tough you can't get through it. It's a part of life."

For the last few months Flowe prepared himself for the day his father would pass away. So when Butch Flowe died last Thursday, it was more a comfort for the Flowe family after watching the once great boxer's body deteriorate. What came as a surprise was his father's hidden success in the ring.

Cecil Flowe knew his father was a good boxer growing up, but never knew how good. That mystery was uncovered last week.

"I started reading it with my mouth wide open," Flowe said. "(My brother) Darrell looked at me and said 'What are you reading?' I said 'Oh, about daddy fighting Floyd Patterson in Madison Square Garden.'"

Patterson went on to be a gold medalist at the 1952 Olympics and later won the heavyweight title. Patterson died in 2006 at age 71 after a battle with Alzheimer's disease and prostate cancer, just like Flowe.

Fighting the legendary Patterson was the biggest thrill Cecil Flowe found out about his father. He never saw his father box in person, but he has old films of his father's fights.

"Man he was a good puncher. I've got footage of him," he said.

Butch Flowe was a Golden Gloves champion, served his country and was dedicated to his job and family. Those are all the things Cecil Flowe knew about his dad.

Everything else in the boxes found last week just added to the legacy.

"He's a fighter, a competitor. That's what I got from him," Flowe said.