Header
 
 

March Madness Special Report 

Bedford's Jack Tingle reached
basketball's pinnacle in the 1940s

Former coach, teammates recall
late star with mixed opinions
but admire his talent

By Ben Fronczek
Staff Writer

BEDFORD, Ky. • For many older basketball fans in Trimble County, Ky., the name, Jack Tingle, brings to mind an era of Rupp and Beard and Auerbach.
Tingle, a 1943 graduate of Bedford High School, is remembered for leading his high school team to an undefeated season, later playing for legendary coach Adolph Rupp on the University of Kentucky's 1946 national championship team and eventually being the first player from the area to be drafted by the National Basketball Association. His legacy stands as one not to be forgotten. And it hasn't been, either.

Though Tingle passed away in 1958, friends, family and fans still remember his talent, good looks and vibrant personality. 
Trimble County resident and sports memorabilia collector Aaron McHargue is currently collecting photos, old sports programs and other items to be housed in a permanent display at the Trimble County High School as a way of paying homage to the Bedford-born basketball great. 
"I'd been thinking about it for a while," said McHargue. "It is something I want to do to show his accomplishments that we have a history here." 
McHargue has been researching newspaper accounts of the time. He also surfs Internet sites, such as E-bay, for purchasing sports memorabilia. 
Many stories still exist in the minds of those area residents who knew and loved Tingle. Some are among his former teammates, both from Bedford and the University of Kentucky. They recall the many sides of this talented basketball star, whom they say never even reached his full potential on the hardwood, married the daughter of a Courier-Journal sports editor and died too young in the years after his basketball career had long ended.

Growing up in in Bedford, Ky.

Some of Tingle's high school teammates still live in Bedford and recall Tingle's lifelong love for basketball. James "Jimmy" Black, a former school teacher and Bedford mayor from 1975 to 1994, played ball with him as a child. Black and Tingle grew up in the same neighborhood and were close childhood friends. 
"We were out there every chance we got playing ball," said Black, who now lives behind the courthouse just a block from Tingle's childhood home. "He had a garage, and he had a bucket above his garage, and we used that."
The house to which Black referred was the historic Hancock House, now owned and occupied by Joy and Richard Hawkes. It is a two-story house located on Hwy. 421 in downtown Bedford. 
Others remember coming to Tingle's house and seeing him play basketball, regardless of the weather.
"In the winter time, he had a hoop on the door. One day I went over there, and he was playing ball in the living room," recalled 102-year-old Hazel Jackson, who was married to Tingle's uncle, William. Jackson to this day is still a loyal UK basketball fan and faithfully watches them play from her room in the Bedford Nursing Home.
Many of Tingle's high school teammates were also his childhood friends.
"He was supreme above all of us young people in the neighborhood at sports," said Howard "Buck" Callis, now the Trimble County jailer but then a guard-forward on the Bedford team with Tingle. "He was very easy to get along with; just an all-around nice fellow."
"He was a fine athlete," added Vernon Craig, a former Trimble County Middle School principal and high school baseball coach who also played with Tingle on the Bedford team. "He could play any sport you name it."
Many also remember the terrible accident that happened to Tingle during his childhood. Around age 10, he fell from a maple tree and badly broke his left arm. The injury affected the movement of his arm for the rest of his life but not his overall basketball game. In the late 1930s and early 1940s, the two-handed shot was still used. 
"Since his left arm was stiff, he shot the ball with his right hand," recalled Callis.
"He could not get his arm higher than this," added Craig, holding his left arm just above chest level.
Tingle started playing basketball for the Bedford team as early as eighth grade. Black recalled that at the time, there were only 300 students combined in the consolidated grade and high school at Bedford. Therefore, strong athletes had a better opportunity to play at varsity level earlier than most do today.
At Bedford High School, Tingle helped lead his Bedford team to the district game two years and an undefeated season in 1943. As many of his high school teammates recalled, though, turning Tingle's game on was always a struggle. 
"He was extremely good, but he was lazy," said Black. "We'd get on him because he wasn't rebounding enough, and then he'd get with it."
Tingle certainly did, because soon his success at Bedford impressed even UK's Rupp.
"Mr. Rupp came over and watched him play," said Jackson, remembering seeing Rupp at a Bedford game. Tingle's strong impression on Rupp led to UK's signing him in 1943. 

Heading out to Wildcat Country

At UK, Tingle helped lead the Wildcats to the 1946 National Invitational Tournament championship, which held the big "March Madness" hype before the NCAA became dominant. He also became the first player to be named to the All-SEC Conference Team all four years of college, as well as being named the SEC Player of the Year each time. 
"He could certainly shoot," said former UK star Ralph Beard, who played on the 1946 championship team with Tingle. "He was one of the mainstays of the team and instrumental in winning games." 
Beard, now 73, was a member of the Fabulous Five who went on to play on the 1948 Olympic team and later started the NBA franchise, the Indianapolis Olympians in 1953. He is retired in Louisville, Ky., after running a wholesale drug company for many years.
Beard also recalled Tingle's personality off the court. "Jack was a person who loved to have a good time. He certainly loved life. He was a bit wild at times, but he loved people and people loved him. He was his own man."
Bill Hughes, owner of Little Town and Country Restaurant in Bedford, Ky., recalled watching Tingle play in a 1947 UK preseason exhibition game at his hometown high school in Corbin, Ky. "I was just a teenager at the time and had never heard of Tingle or Bedford back then," Hughes said. "But I knew who Adolph Rupp and Ralph Beard were."
Now Hughes collects Trimble County High School sports photos, which he hangs on the walls of his dining room. He even has some photos of Tingle. "I never knew him, but I've heard lots of stories about him over the years," he said.
Bill Jackson, who today owns and operates Definitive Deorderant in Kansas City, Mo., was a cousin of Tingle's. Nine years younger, he remembered looking up to the basketball star. "I followed him around whenever he'd let me."
In a telephone interview, Jackson spoke of a particular time when Tingle came home from college, and Tingle and a friend invited Jackson to tag along when they went to play pool and drink beer in Carrollton, Ky. While there, the town bully tried to pick a fight with Tingle, even following the three outside and across the street into the courthouse lawn.
Finally, after trying to avoid a conflict, Tingle gave in and, according to Jackson, "Thirty seconds later, (the bully) looked like Beetle Bailey. Jack beat him to a pulp and never broke a sweat. I knew then the difference between athletes and the rest of us."
Outside of finding success with basketball at UK, Tingle also found love in girlfriend and his eventual wife, Joan Ruby of Louisville. She was the daughter of then Louisville Courier-Journal sports editor Earl Ruby. In a telephone interview, she shared her first recollection of Tingle. 
"I remember him looking at me, and I didn't know who he was. I had to find out, and when I did, I was impressed," said Joan.
From then on, the two were together throughout their college years. "Once you date Jack Tingle, no one else is going to ask you out," she joked.

Life after UK

Tingle's success at the college level soon led him to become the first UK player to be drafted by the NBA. In 1947, the Washington Capitals took him in the first round. 
About the same time, Tingle married Joan. "I flew up to Washington, and we were married there," she recalled. The wedding took place at the Church of Epiphany in Washington, D.C., and Tingle's Washington Capitals teammates attended, as well as the team's coach at the time, who was none other than legendary Boston Celtics coach Red Auerbach
"He was a good shooter," said Auerbach, 83, in a telephone interview when asked what he remembered about Tingle. "He could run like hell, but he didn't take care of himself, which is why Jack didn't last long in the NBA. He was quiet but a good guy."
"The one thing I didn't understand was why Jack didn't play more, because he certainly could," said Joan. Even though, Tingle spent a great deal of his first pro season sitting on the bench, she said.
Joan recalled one time when he went into the game. It was in Baltimore, and she recalled how he helped win the game, and his name was included in the headline the next morning of the Washington paper. The newly married couple lived in Washington, D.C., renting a house with Tingle's Washington teammate and best man, John Mannkan.
Tingle remained involved in Louisville, though, despite his East Coast residence. A 1948 newspaper account cited Tingle helping out with the summer playground staff at Boone Park. Eventually, the Tingles moved back to Louisville when his wife became pregnant with their first child. 
For a short time, Tingle played for the Minneapolis Lakers during the 1948-49 season. He then briefly played for a team called the New York Nationals, who were in the same league as the Harlem Globetrotters. But eventually, family demands brought him back home to Kentucky.
Earl Ruby bought a house for the couple on Shelbyville Road in Louisville. They had three children: Margaret, nicknamed "Peggy," now 52 and living in Austin, Texas; Jocelyn, nicknamed "Jolly," now 45 and living in Canyon Lake, Texas; and John, nicknamed "Jackie," now 43 and living in St. Louis, Mo.
After Tingle's death, Joan remarried years later to Ben Perry and the couple moved their family to Washington, D.C., where Perry participated in politics. All three children took Perry as their last name. Ben died last year at age 96. Joan's parents died about the same time, so she moved to be close by her daughter, Jocelyn, a nurse in San Antonio, Texas. 
Jackie, the youngest, recalled growing up in Louisville. "The way their lifestyle went was pretty much the fairy tale story of that era," he said, referring to the analogy of the All-American and the Debutant. The Tingles were a sociable couple and were constantly among friends, according to Joan.
Tingle's return to Kentucky found him coaching basketball at Hiseville High School and later working as a photo engraver for the Louisville Courier-Journal. 
"It was a good opportunity," said Joan. "He wouldn't have to travel since we lived in Louisville."
But the "fairy tale of that era" was to be short-lived.

From triumph to tragedy

Jack Tingle's life ended on Sept. 22, 1958, in Lyndon, Ky., a suburb of Louisville. He died of colon cancer at age 33.
"The last time I saw him, he looked like something wasn't right," said Black. "It wasn't too long after that, he passed away. When we were kids, he let you hit him hard in the stomach, and it wouldn't bother him." 
But soon, the invincibility Tingle seemed to have as an athlete began to fade away.
"I went to see him at St. Anthony's Hospital," remembered Beard. "When I saw him, I knew he wasn't going to be with us for very long." Beard explained that Tingle was in a coma that last day he visited him. "I squeezed his hand, but I'm not sure that he knew."
"It went fast, even though he fought," recalled Joan, 73. "I remember when he finally went in the hospital for the last time. He had cancer everywhere."
Tingle is buried at the I.O.O.F. Cemetery in Bedford, Ky. But many in Trimble County still keep alive the memory of the boy from Bedford who went pro. 
According to McHargue, it not not certain when or where the display on Tingle will go up in the high school. One thing for sure is that Jack Tingle has earned a place among Kentucky's basketball greats.

• To provide information or memorabilia on the Tingle collection, contact Aaron McHargue at (502) 255-7548 or email him at: wmchargue@igloo.com.

Back to March 2001 Articles.

 

 

Copyright 1999-2015, Kentuckiana Publishing, Inc.

Pick-Up Locations Subscribe Staff Advertise Contact Submit A Story Our Advertisers Columnists Archive Area Links Area Events Search our Site Home Monthly Articles Calendar of Events Kentucky Speedway Madison Chautauqua Madison Ribberfest Madison Regatta