Former commissioner, chess champion Harry Sabine passes
“Long-time Crossville attorney and county commissioner Harry D. Sabine passed away July 31. He was 78 years old.
Sabine grew up in Cumberland County, graduating from Cumberland County High School in 1958. He attended the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and returned to Crossville to practice law in 1968.
He also served in the U.S. Marine Corps as a captain, including one tour of duty in Vietnam.
He and his wife, Michelle Ann, had two sons, Steve and Jay.
Sabine was a champion of chess in the schools and community. He organized the Scholastic Chess program for Cumberland County beginning in 1973. The program garnered more than 20 state championships for the schools and top honors in national tournaments for Martin Junior High Chess Club in 1982 and 1985.
In 2003, Sabine began working to bring the U.S. Chess Federation to Crossville. The organization moved its national headquarters to Cumberland County in 2006.
Sabine also served four terms on the Cumberland County Commission representing the First Civil District.
Funeral arrangements have not been announced by the family at this time.”
The last time I saw Harry was at the 2009 U.S. Open in Indianapolis, Indiana in 2009. I had travelled from Louisville with one of my older students, Rick Rothenburg, for a day trip. An old friend, the Legendary Georgia Ironman, Tim Brookshear, was the first to greet me in the parking lot. We talked for awhile before I walked inside. After entering the main playing hall the first person to greet me was Ryan Velez. He was playing but stood up and walked over to shake my hand and say hello. As he did so I noticed this large, hulking man break into a huge grin as he began ambling toward me from the front of the room. I, too, was grinning as I walked toward Harry Sabine, who had his outstretched hand pointing in my direction long before close enough to actually clasp hands. This was the first time we had seen each other since my publishing a post on the old, now defunct, BaconLOG, which follows.
Monday, June 1, 2009
Tennessee Senior Open
The Tennessee Senior Open was a wonderful event! Not feeling my best, I decided to play the first round Sat morning, in lieu of Fri night, but attended the opening ceremonies at the Fair Park Senior Center that evening. The Mayor, J.H. Graham III, welcomed us with open arms. I told him the following story: I left my hotel room after changing pants, as it was warm enough for shorts. After ordering a couple of burrito’s at Taco Bell, I realized the money was still in the jeans. I felt foolish, but the employee, Nan Turner, handed me the grub, saying it would be on her! I simply could not believe it! I mean, that does not happen in a large city like Atlanta. The next day I stopped by and gave her the money, which included a decent tip, which she attempted to refuse, to no avail. This is a perfect illustration of the difference between a big city and a small town. I learned that during my stay in Hendersonville, NC. My theory is that people are much more friendly in a small town because they realize the people they encounter one day at a restaurant may be the same person they encounter at the library the next day. In a big city, one thinks they will never see that person again. It is the people who constitute a community, whether Crossville, Tn., or our small chess community. This has to be one of the major reasons Crossville was chosen to be the new USCF HQ. A better place could not have been found. The next morning, upon my arrival, the Mayor greeted me, giving me his card and asking if I would send him the tale I told him the previous night via email. Then, when it came time for the picture, the Mayor asked me to stand beside him. Several others said a few words in greeting us, too, so the first round began a little late, which is very unusual for “Head ‘em up, move ‘em out” Harry Sabine, as he’s known for getting the round started on time. There was a drawing for prizes donated by the Crossville community, and I was fortunate enough to win one. There was free coffee, drinks and snacks for all the players, which was a real nice touch. Harry was the head TD, capably assisted by Susan Houston, an employee of the USCF, and her son, Charley, who kept us updated on the US Championship. Harry is training Charley; passing the torch, so to speak. Charley is quite young, and was, therefore, reluctant to tell we Seniors to be quite, so I told him he was a TD, and to say what needed to be said, since he was ‘The Man’. I smiled when Charley told a group, including me, to “keep it down.” Susan remarked the tournament had a different feel to it than any other she has attended, with the players acting more like a family reunion, or homecoming. Susan handled the ‘puter and also served as I like to think of her, as ‘Chess Mom’. She also coordinated trips for the players to the HQ. I went by earlier in the week, seeing old friends like Chuck Lovingood and Jay Sabine (and watching games from the US Championship!), Walter Brown, Alan Kantor, etc., and meeting new friends. The Fair Park Senior Center was a fine place for the tournament. The lighting was superior, far better than the recent Georgia State Championship, for example. Lighting is especially important for Senior players. Different folks from the Senior Center welcomed us, making us feel right at home. As I sat there listening to these wonderful people, I thought this is the kind of greeting I’ve read about on the web in European countries. It made me feel proud to be a chess player as they made us feel special. There were 35 players, far exceeding the small turnouts for previous Tennessee Senior tournaments, which were only a one day event with a G/60 time control. I think part of the reason was a tribute to Harry Sabine. We still miss the Fairfield Glade after all these years! One year it snowed heavily and we were stranded Sunday night but the Glade did not charge us for the room! Players came from half a dozen different states, with one player originally from England and one from the Netherlands. NM Henry Robinson took first, 4-0. The fine Chess Café historical writer, Jerry Spinrad, was clear second with 3 ½. Seven players tied for third with a score of 3-1. I was in that group, losing only to Henry. An ornate chess set was donated by the Fair Park Senior Center and it went to the biggest upset (I asked Harry if that meant the largest rating differential, or the player who got the most upset after a loss, which brought a smile to his mug). My first round opponent, Larry Grohn, rated 880, bested my third round opponent, Wieb Van Der Meer, 1420, in the last round to take the prize. Mucho Kudos to Harry Sabine for holding this event! Although Harry and I have had our differences over the years, I prefer to think of it as a disagreement with a TD, not the man. The man is someone with whom I have shared a drink of Jack Daniels (what else would Harry drink?!), and invited into the Atlanta Chess Center on a day it was closed for Thanksgiving, make a cuppa joe, and have a conversation while showing him around the House of Pain. The best part was the look on Harry’s face when I opened the door after his knock! I knew it was Harry after glancing out the window and seeing his orange tennis shoes! I must have been the last person Harry expected to see. Knowing Harry had been a Marine I mentioned a man from the old neighborhood who had also been a Marine during World War Two, Sloppy Floyd Bailey, who had said, “Once a jarhead, always a jarhead!” Harry smiled before saying, “Sloppy Floyd knew what he was talking about.”
The worst thing I heard about Harry while in Crossville was that he is a “fine man.” And I heard it not once, but many times. “Oh, you know Harry Sabine? He’s a such a nice man.” Or, “Harry Sabine is a wonderful man.” You must come to Crossville in order to understand what having the USCF HQ means to this community. These people are PROUD, and Harry Sabine, as the Mayor said, deserves much credit. The modest Harry pointed out the work of others. I can think of no one better than Harry to coordinate a Senior tournament in all 50 states! Senior chess is bringing players back to the game, in some cases after many years out of chess. I would like to thank Harry, Susan, Charley, and everyone else for a wonderful time here in the mountains…