Gary Austin Freeman, son of Glen and Lola Opal (née Harris) Freeman, was born in Carterville, Missouri on October 19, 1931. Gary graduated from Carthage High School and then attended Southwest Missouri State (now Missouri State University) and Pittsburg State University. He joined the army and served during the Korean War. Following service to his country, he returned to Carthage and began a 41-year career at Atlas Powder Company as a railroad car driver.
Gary is one of the top running backs in the history of Carthage High School, and the best from the era before 1965. He was a halfback for Carthage, playing just two years. Records from the 1940’s are hard to find so we may never know the full story of his football greatness, but in 1947, he gained 1,403 yards rushing. In 1948, he eclipsed his own numbers by posting 1,576 yards rushing. His two-year career total of 2,979 yards rushing in 445 carries, for an average of 6.7 yards per carry, was and is very impressive.
In 1948, Gary was the dominant offensive performer for the Carthage Tigers. According to Carthage Press Sports Editor Fletcher Cupp, his rushing yards were 76% of the total for the whole team. In addition, Gary passed for 282 yards, 84% of the team total, and was involved in laterals for 145 yards, 93% of the team total. He had 7 kick-off returns for 187 yards, an average of 26.7 yards per return. In total for the 1948 season, Gary totaled 2,190 yards and scored 99 points for the Carthage Tigers.
Gary led the Carthage Tigers to the championship of the Big Eight Conference in both 1947 and 1948. This was before there was a state championship playoff system or all-state players. According to articles by Jack Harshaw, Carthage Sports Editor for many years after Cupp, the statistics of Gary Freeman surpass the best by Jack Crusa in the early 1940’s, Bill Samuels in 1953, H.B. Davis in 1956, all of whom have been honored by the Hall of Carthage Heroes for their football accomplishments.
Gary died in 2012 and is buried in Park Cemetery.