Former Western High Star Jim Tucker Inducted into Dawahares/KHSAA HOF
May 23, 2012Paris High School
Jim Tucker Helped Lead The Tigers To Four Athletic League State Tournaments
LEXINGTON – Many of us weren’t around to see former Paris Western High School star Jim Tucker play basketball for the Tigers back in the late 40’s, however, from what I’ve been told and the stories I have heard by several people who did see him play, Tucker could easily be mention in the talks as one of the best (if not the best) basketball player to ever come out of Paris, Kentucky.
Last Saturday night, Tucker, a legendary player in the Kentucky High School Athletic League, was honored for his accomplishments on the hardwood floor by being inducted into the 25th class of the Dawahares/KHSAA Hall of Fame. He was one of 12 who were honored at the banquet that was held at the Bluegrass Grand Ballroom in the Lexington Convention Center. The induction of the 12 brings the total number of individuals honored to 403.
On getting recognized for such a high honor, Tucker had this to say. “I’m humbled by all the attention, to be honest. But at the same time, I’m proud to be a Kentuckian, to have been able to represent my state even at the high school level and to be acknowledged for the honor that we brought to what was at the time segregated high school athletics.” The former player went on to say that he guess one could say that he helped put Paris Western on the map in the late 1940’s. “I was consistently a scoring leader, but our entire team helped lead our team to four consecutive Kentucky High School Athletic League state tournament appearances from 1947-1950.” Tucker continued by saying that they had a great coach in William “Chief” Reed, who also coached football and baseball, as well as some other great players on their team. He mentioned the likes of Marvin Roberts, Bill Reed Jr, Jim Allen, Grant Crooks, James Milton Rankins, Bradley Hutsell and Lee Henderson.
Tucker, who was just recently inducted into the Coaches Association’s 10th Region Hall of Fame, grew up mostly on Gano Street in Paris. His mother, Ms. Willie Mae Fields was the backbone certainly of their family, arguably of the Paris community in which they lived. She worked in the school system for years until she retired. She and his late Uncle Frank Marks also of Paris were his strongest supporters, and they never missed a ball game. “Not a day goes by that I don’t think of something they said or did that helped me direct my life,” said Tucker.
After graduating from Western in 1950, and with the help of legendary Kentucky Coach Adolph Rupp, Tucker was recruited by several northern schools, one of which was Duquesne University in Pittsburgh were he would play his college basketball. In his collegiate debut, Tucker scored 26 points, and that jump started him to a very successful college career. He earned All-American Honors in 1952 and Black College and Catholic College All American status in 1952, 1953 and 1954. Along the way, their squad earned an NCAA Elite Eight appearance, as well as an NIT runner-up finish.
Upon leaving college, he played with and against the Harlem Globetrotters on an All-American basketball tour. Shortly after that stint with the Globetrotters, he was recruited by the NBA, where he played for the Syracuse Nationals (now the Philadelphia 76’ers) for three years. “I am very proud to say that along with my teammate Earl Lloyd, we were the first two African-Americans in NBA history to play on a championship team when the Syracuse Nationals won the NBA title in 1955.”
When his basketball playing days were over, Tucker was in sales for 20 years with Pillsbury, followed by 15 years in ground operations with Northwest Airlines, both in Minneapolis. He has four children, with five grandchildren and has been married to his wife, Jan, for almost 30 years.
In closing, the following question was asked to Jim Tucker. Had you guys gotten a chance to play for a KHSAA State Championship, do you think your teams could’ve won state titles? His response … “You know, that was over 60 years ago and that was the situation we lived with at the time. Who's to say if things would have been different...”
From what this writer has heard about the Western teams of the past, we wouldn’t be talking about a state title, we would be talking about several state titles!