This post is part of our Hall of Honor series where the Flying Queens Foundation is recognizing all Queens, Queens’ sponsors, and Queens’ or Bees’ coaches who have been inducted into the Wayland Baptist Athletic Hall of Honor. This week we recognize 2018 Inductee, Pearl Worrell Trimble.
The fact that the first sentence in Pearl Worrell-Trimble’s obituary included information about her being a “former Kodak All-America basketball player for the Wayland Baptist University Flying Queens” shows how much that accomplishment and that time in her life meant to her. “She really, really enjoyed her teammates and being able to play ball. She cherished everything she learned,” said Trimble’s daughter, Monica. “She said she would always remember being part of the Flying Queens.”
While being named Kodak All-American in 1976 was her crowning achievement, Worrell collected numerous other honors during her time at Wayland. She was a two-time AAU All-American, NWIT All-American, and helped the Flying Queens to a pair of AAU national titles. When she graduated in 1976, she was the fifth-leading scorer in program history with 1,273 points; today she ranks 19th.
Willie Pearl (her dad wanted to give her a male name followed by a very feminine one, Monica explained) was a standout high school basketball player in Decatur, Ga., helping her team to a state title and averaging 32 points a game her senior year in 1972. Monica said her mom was used to going places to play basketball since she was part of a travel team in Georgia, so the thought of playing for the Flying Queens appealed to her. “She was wanting something different…different community, different environment.”
She arrived at Wayland in time for legendary coach Harley Redin’s final season before Dean Weese took over in 1973. A 5-foot-11 post, Worrell wound up playing on Flying Queens teams that forged a 123-17 record, including 34 wins each of her last three seasons. She was described in the team’s media guide as “probably the most improved player on the team” following her sophomore season when she was named AAU All-American and honorable mention NWIT All-American. “Pearl should be one of our best all-around players this season,” Weese said. “She progressed greatly as a shooter and rebounder and should be much improved on defense.”
As a junior during the 1974-75 season, Worrell and the Flying Queens won the last of Wayland’s 10 AAU championships as they went 34-1, losing only to Immaculata College of Pennsylvania, 68-58. Her senior season, the Flying Queens finished 34-5 and missed another AAU crown when National General West of Fullerton, Calif., hit a shot at the buzzer and won, 67-66. Wayland finished third at the National AIAW Tournament in State College, Pa., bowing in the semifinals to two-time champion Delta State, Miss., also by just one point, 61-60.
Worrell was named all-tournament. That same season the Flying Queens won their eighth straight NWIT championship in Amarillo by beating UCLA in the finals, 90-77. Worrell was named MVP.
After being named Kodak All-American, Worrell spent part of that summer in Russia playing with fellow Flying Queens Carolyn Bush, Rosemary Brown, Leann Shieldknight and Breena Caldwell on the USA All-Star Team. Monica said her mother and Brown were best friends. “She’s my godmother.”
After graduating from Wayland with a degree in English (she later earned a master’s degree in Education from West Texas A&M), Worrell went to work at Palo Duro High School in Amarillo as an English teacher and became the first head girls basketball coach in school history. In 1977, Pearl married her high school sweetheart, Norman Trimble. Three years later they had their first child, Monica. “She worked hard to improve the lives of her family, her students and her basketball team,” Monica said.
In 1984 Trimble led the Lady Dons to their first district title and playoff victory. The District 3-5A Coach of the Year in 1983 and ‘84, she continued coaching at PD for 11 years before in 1987 she was promoted to assistant athletics director for Amarillo ISD. Four years later she was promoted again, this time to AISD’s director of secondary personnel.
In the mid-1990s, Trimble was diagnosed with neurosarcoidosis, a nerve-crippling disease most often affecting African-American women between the ages of 20-40. “It attacks the nervous system and paralyzes your entire body,” Monica said. “Hers was the first case they came across in Amarillo. They had no idea how to treat it. They put her on a lot of medications but they couldn’t … get her well.” Trimble had better luck at Atlanta’s Emory Hospital. “They had seen four cases prior to my mother’s,” Monica said.
Trimble got better and returned to Amarillo but then had a relapse. “She had to learn to walk all over again, learn to write all over again.” Wheelchair-bound and unable to continue her job, she reluctantly retired in 1998, the same year she received AISD’s Bob Ashworth Award for dedicated service.
In 2001 Trimble moved back to Decatur to be closer to more knowledgeable doctors. “They were able to get her back on her feet and she was really living a full life,” Monica said. “She was working at the Boys & Girls Club as membership clerk and was on a committee to revitalize the Scottish Rite Hospital. She even started her own non-denominational church.”
An ordained minister, Trimble’s faith played a big role in her life. “We were at church every Sunday, Wednesday and some Saturdays,” Monica said. Trimble also lived her faith. “I remember one time we saw a homeless guy walking down the street asking for money. We were in a red Dodge Colt. Mom gave him a ride, prayed with him and gave him a couple of dollars. She was always doing things like that.”
Life was going well until Trimble suffered sudden cardiac arrest. Monica and her sister, Michelle Franklin were up late on a Sunday night visiting with their mom when it happened. “She had taken such a pounding for almost 10 years” due to the neurosarcoidosis. “Her body was tired and just kind of broke down.”
Trimble died Monday, July 25, 2005, in Atlanta. She was 51.
“Her spirit was so bright and her faith was so strong,” Monica said. “She never suffered. She may have had times she hurt, but she never suffered. Looking at her and hearing her speak, just talking to her on the phone, you would never know what she had been through. Coming out of rehab centers, out of hospitals, she always kept a smile on her face. She was happy and grateful the Lord was keeping her here.”
Trimble received numerous honors and awards through the years. Among them: the Amarillo Women’s Network Career Achievement Award in 1992, the Palo Duro High School Basketball Hall of Honor in 2000, the City of Decatur’s Hometown Hero in 2005, and Amarillo’s African-American Trail Blazers award in 2014. She also was active on numerous community boards, including the YMCA, Little Dribblers, Kids Inc., University Interscholastic League Legislative and Advisory councils, and the United Way.
“She was a true leader in her community. People knew her and respected her, not only for her professionalism but for the way she carried herself with such grace. She let God lead her life into the roles she played,” Monica said. “She also organized a lot of mentoring groups and led women’s empowerment groups and conferences. She was a leader for young girls. She definitely did that for us.”
Today, Monica and Michelle both are walking in their mother’s footsteps. Monica works as a senior executive director for Boys & Girls Clubs in Decatur, while Michelle is an academic advisor in the academic department at Texas Christian University.
“We are continuing her legacy of giving back to the community and helping people reach their potential. We’re fulfilling her destiny,” Monica said. “We live a positive life because of her. She was a great example of how to live life.”
Wayland Grad 1976
Flying Queens Forever!