Madness Special Report
Jack Tingle reached
basketball's pinnacle in the 1940s
coach, teammates recall
late star with mixed opinions
but admire his talent
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 š 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
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
š 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
"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
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.
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
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
"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,"
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,
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
"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.
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
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
"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
According to McHargue, it not not certain when š or where š 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: email@example.com.
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