“Was it a block or a charge?”
That is the perfect caption for a piece of technological art featuring former Marshall University basketball player Tex Williams, which was unveiled Wednesday at the Robert C. Byrd Institute in Huntington.
The artwork consists of a photograph that was lasered onto a piece of stainless steel.
The photograph from Marshall’s 1960 season shows a high-flying Williams crashing into an Eastern Kentucky University defender while a Colonels’ teammate is watching to see if Williams’ shot was good.
What makes this particular choice of a photograph so appropriate, however, is it shows Williams playing then exactly the way he still lives his life now.
Charging, charging, relentlessly charging.
“The journey for all of us has taken many twists and turns,” said the 79-year-old Williams. “One of the best decisions I ever made was coming to Marshall.”
Then, the former St. Albans High School, University of Charleston and Charleston Gunners coach told a mesmerizing tale of how athletics worked back in 1957.
“I played at Clear Fork High School,” said Williams, who was born and raised in the unincorporated city of Artie in Raleigh County. “I played everything — football, baseball and basketball. I even had a football scholarship offer from Virginia Tech.
“But I didn’t know if I was good enough to be a college basketball player.”
Besides his uncertainty, there were some complicating issues.
“I was newly married,” said Williams, “and I needed some money.”
That’s when Beckley Junior College entered the picture. The two-year school was located in nearby Beckley and, shall we say, flew under the radar.
“A man came down with a suitcase,” recalled Williams, insinuating that money was not going to be a problem. “I got $25 a month and we thought we were rich. I was the most popular guy on the team because all my teammates wanted loans.”
Williams starred for Beckley Junior College for two seasons. Then, it was time to choose a new college.
“I had two good years there,” he said. “I had scored 40 points in several games, but I happened to get lucky and threw in 50 points one night. A week later, Coach [Jule] Rivlin told my coach that he wanted to talk to me.
“I’ll never forget it. I met Coach Rivlin at the old Glass House on the West Virginia Turnpike and signed.”
As Williams reminisced at the podium in the Robert C. Byrd Institute Wednesday, the iconic coach mused that was the best decision of his storied life.
“I fell in love with how the city of Huntington is laid out,” he said. “I knew I needed to go somewhere that I wasn’t going to get lost. One of the greatest moves I ever made was coming to Huntington.”
After finishing his playing career, Williams began his fabulously successful coaching career. He spent 15 years as St. Albans High School’s head coach, then was the University of Charleston’s coach from 1982-86. He finished his coaching career as the Charleston Gunners’ coach in the old Continental Basketball Association.
And, now, after all these years, Williams’ old college is still remembering and still honoring him.
“I am happy Marshall University has the opportunity to honor Tex Williams,” said MU President Jerome Gilbert on Wednesday, “with an interaction of art, athletics and technology.”
Better still, it symbolizes the life of Tex Williams to perfection.
Charging ever forward.