By J.R. VANHOOSE
For The Independent
PAINTSVILLE — Albert “Junior” White can be considered one of Eastern Kentucky’s first true legends. He played at Meade Memorial from 1946-50. In 1950 he was named 1st team All-State by the Louisville Courier-Journal and became the national prep scoring champion, scoring 2,989 points in his career. On March 16, 1950, the Paintsville Herald gave a recap of his high school career,
“Albert White, Jr. nineteen-year-old Meade Memorial senior and basketball star ended his high school career as national prep school scoring champion… taking the honor away from Wallace “Wah-Wah” Jones, professional basketball player. Jones, a former UK star, established the record in 1945 at Harlan with 2,398 points for five years of play. White succeeded in topping the record by 591 points, or a total of 2,989 tallies during his five years on the Meade squad.”
“The five-foot ten-inch guard, under the guidance this year of Coach Dow Stapleton, managed to strip the net for a total of 838 points. Sources near the breezy basketeer, intimated ‘feelers’ from the University of Kentucky, Vanderbilt, North Carolina State, Berea, Morehead, and the University of Louisville, had been sent out in White’s direction, but the young man himself would not comment.”
“Other accomplishments White has to his credit while starring for one of Johnson County’s best basketball aggregations include five letters in basketball and an equal amount in baseball. During his time on the court for the ‘Red Devils’ of Meade, he collected 19 gold basketballs.”
However, not many people seem to know what happened to him when he left Meade. The book Blue Yonder, which chronicles basketball in the state of Kentucky, even ads to the mystery when it says, “In Johnson County alone, Meade Memorial… had Donnis Butcher, who later played for the New York Knicks and coached the Detroit Pistons, and an even better player (according to some) named Junior White, who worked in the mines year-round, scored forty-nine points after walking twelve miles to a road game, and after high school disappeared back into the coal tunnels…” What is surprising is that he did continue to play basketball after high school, although not where you might think. He even had a chance to play major league baseball.
He may have gone back into the mines after high school, but he also continued to play basketball. In the 1951-52 season, White was a member of the Mayo Vocational School basketball team, which was located in Paintsville. At that time Mayo was a junior college (two-year institution) and the basketball team played against similar schools, independent (semi-pro teams) and some four-year college teams. White led the team in scoring that season (1951-52), averaging close to 25 points-per-game.
The Paintsville Herald praised the Mayo team in an article on January 24, 1952, “Under the guidance of Coach Grover Salyer and through a spirit of teamwork, the Mayo Pirates have built up an impressive record in basketball circles in Kentucky this year… eight wins against three losses, all against top Junior colleges and one four-year college. [They have] an average of 80.5 points per game to a 71.5 average for their opponents.”
At the end of his junior college playing career, White had an opportunity to switch sports and become a professional baseball player. The Cleveland Indians offered White a Class “B” contract. The Paintsville Herald reported, “This upon the recommendation of local fans who watch White perform the year around in sports. The specific recommendation however, was tendered on the play of White at shortstop on the Louisa team of the Wayne County [WV] League last year. Stipulations of the contract call for the local shortstop to receive a $500 bonus and $200 per month if he makes the Spartanburg, SC team, a farm unit of the Indian setup.” He apparently did not accept the offer to play minor league baseball for the Indians, as there was no record of him and the Indians in further sports pages. However, he wasn’t done playing sports.
White is next found as a member of the Montgomery (WV) Travelers, a semi-pro independent basketball team from central West Virginia. Apparently, he had moved to Montgomery, WV, just south of Charleston, and found work. What is ironic about him playing for the Travelers, is that he appeared in Paintsville in December 1952 to play a game against his former team, the Mayo State Pirates, at the Paintsville High School gym. Playing against his old team, White did well, scoring 18 points, but the Travelers were beaten by the Mayo Pirates, 89-60.
Albert “Junior” White lived, married, and worked in Montgomery, W.Va., for the rest of his life. He died there on June 10, 1997 in the Montgomery General Hospital. His obituary, in the Paintsville Herald, consisted of the following line, “Albert White Jr., 66, one-time star basketball player for Meade Memorial High School during the late 1940s…” White was buried in the Montgomery Memorial Park.