May 20, 1983: Basketball Coach, Author Clair Bee Dies at 87

Hoop Crazy by Clair Bee

On May 20, 1983, basketball coach and author Clair Bee died at age 87. He was a native of Pennsboro in Ritchie County but grew up in Grafton.

He became a coaching legend at Long Island University in the 1930s. Bee led the Blackbirds to 43 straight wins, two undefeated seasons, and National Invitational Tournament titles in 1939 and ’41. He resigned in 1951 after a point-shaving scandal implicated three of his players. During his career, Bee won nearly 83 percent of his games—still an NCAA Division I record. He also developed the 1-3-1 zone.

Although his coaching days ended on a sad note, Clair Bee had another career ahead of him. In 1948, he wrote Touchdown Pass about fictional high school football player Chip Hilton. Amazingly, the book sold more than 125,000 copies. He published 23 more books about Hilton, which taught young readers to be honest and to obey their parents and coaches. The stories were set in the town of Valley Falls, a fictional version of a real place near Grafton.

Clair Bee was later elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame.