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Honoring a Hoops Legend

City of Madison names
Elm Street after former
basketball star Humes

Class of 1962 plans ceremony
to coincide with 50th reunion

By Tess Worrell
Contributing Writer

(October 2012) – After a basketball game on a hot July afternoon, what could be more natural than heading to the pool to cool off? Back in the 1950s Lawrence Humes’ friends wondered why he always headed home instead of joining them at Crystal Beach. “We couldn’t understand why he didn’t come with us,” says Deanna Shelley, a classmate. “We didn’t realize he wasn’t allowed in the all-white pool.”

Larry Humes

Photo courtesy of Hank Bentz

Larry Humes speaks to the crowd as his brothers and son look on. Four Humes Way signs were erected – Main and Elm, Elm and Third, Elm and Fourth, and Elm and Fifth.  Elm Street is where the Humes family lived. Pictured from left are Louis, Larry (speaking), Kenny, Larry’s son Howard Jr., and Willie. His brother, Howard, is deceased. 

Humes Sign

When unfairness strikes, many people – rightly so – get angry and demand their rights. Humes chose a different path. Rather than fight or give up, Humes chose to focus on the opportunity available through basketball to build a better life. Not only did he achieve greatness, he inspired others.
Humes became a basketball legend. He was named Indiana’s Mr. Basketball in 1962 after leading Madison High School to the state Final Four championship. In regular season games, his high school record was 95 wins, one loss. He then played for the University of Evansville, where his team won two national championships and he was voted All American. He has since been inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame.
Humes’ prowess on the court showed itself almost immediately. After attending the segregated Broadway school, he went to Madison High School at the beginning of desegregation. He started the first game of his freshman year on the junior varsity team. The coach pulled him at half time. When the varsity team hit the court later that night, Humes was a starter. He started at varsity level every high school game thereafter.
“Larry wasn’t just a great athlete,” says Hank Bentz, friend and teammate of Humes. “He was a great man. He was always teaching, inspiring those around him. No wonder he went on to teach high school and college. He saw life as a lesson, and he shared those lessons with us.”
Humes’ greatest lessons focused on sportsmanship. “Larry was a ferocious player, but you never saw him get mad, go after anybody, or do anything unsportsmanlike,” Bentz continued. “He set the tone for the team. He made everyone around him better. It was like osmosis. If you were around Larry, you played better and you were a better person. He’s the same today.”
The Madison High School Class of 1962 held its 50th reunion Sept. 22. Shelley saw the reunion as a chance to celebrate Humes’ legacy.
She spearheaded the effort to ask City of Madison officials to rename Elm Street from Main to Fifth “Humes Way” to honor the Humes family for all they contributed to the community.
“From 1958 to 1974, brothers Lawrence, Howard, Kenney, Willie and Junior became a basketball dynasty, brother playing alongside brother. One brother broke another brother’s records,” says Shelley. “We will probably never see anything like it again.”
Madison officials agreed and held a renaming ceremony early in the day on Sept. 22 as part of the reunion events.
At a reception hosted by the reunion committee at the Brown Gym, Humes answered questions from the public.
“Larry was still teaching,” Bentz said. “Someone would ask about athletics, but Larry would turn the question into a life lesson.”
When Humes was asked if he was ever afraid during a game, Bentz recalls, “Larry said, ‘There’s a difference between fear and intimidation. Fear inspires you to be your best. But, if you’re intimidated, you’ve lost before you even step onto the court. Same in life. It’s OK to be afraid, but if you’re intimidated you might as well not even try.’ ”
Today, Humes, 68, enjoys life in Indianapolis with his bride of 30 years, Cecile Humes. They have two children and two granddaughters. Humes recently retired from coaching, teaching and serving as a guidance counselor at the high school and college levels.
Humes says, “Growing up, my three goals were to be a policeman, a state trooper or service person. None of those options came through, so I went into teaching. I never had any authority growing up, so I wanted a job with authority. I thought if I had a uniform, I could help people in trouble. But by going into teaching and guidance counseling, I helped keep kids from getting into trouble. So it worked out. I am happiest when I can help somebody else.
“(Former Madison basketball coaches) Bud Ritter and Lyde White took me in and helped me. My work allowed me to give back.”
When asked what he thought of the renaming of the street, Humes replied, “Of all the honors I’ve had, this is the greatest because this honors my whole family. Please tell the people of Madison that nothing else means as much as this.” Humes’ focus on helping others, no matter the struggles he faced, made him a living legend.

• For those who want to know more about Larry Humes’ career, an hour-long interview is available on www.TheFan1070.com.

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