Each year in the 1930s, a national sporting goods company sponsored a six-county, 16-team invitational basketball tournament in Arkansas.   Schools from all over the state submitted bids in hopes of landing the prestigious event, but one year tiny West Point surprised them all.  Here’s how it was done and how  the final night almost ended in disaster.



Ox Walkard and I worked hard getting all the information assembled and mailed to the company before the deadline.  Our bid:  give 100 percent of the gate receipts to the company, and furnish all officials.  We also had to send photographs of the outside and inside of the gym.  This was in our favor because West Point had the largest and most attractive gym in the area.  Larger schools in the state had been getting the tournament for years.  Crossett had the tournament the year before.  We had invited the surrounding counties – Faulkner, Cleburne, Independence, Woodruff, Prairie as well as White.  

            We were holding our fingers crossed until we received the word that our bid had been accepted.  This stunned some of the larger schools in the state.  One superintendent who had placed an unsuccessful bid called me and said, “West Point, West Point – where in the hell is West Point, and how did you get the bid?”  I told him we had an excellent gymnasium and 35 high schools in the six counties included in the tournament.  We had hoped to make enough money out of our refreshment stand to defray the expense of officials, which we did.  However, we did not clear a lot of money for our school.   But it was worth the effort.  It gave the school and White County a lot of statewide publicity. 

            The tournament went off very smoothly until the final night.  Mt. Vernon in Faulkner County had two boys on the team that were far superior to any other boys in the entire tournament.   This was the first time the two boys had shown up playing for Mt. Vernon.  The Faulkner County Committee member started checking and found the two boys were star players on the Arkansas State Teachers College team.   ASTC did not know that the two boys had been playing on the Mt. Vernon high school team in that tournament.

            The Mt. Vernon team was dressed out and on the court ready for the final game when the committee member from Faulkner County arrived with his findings. The committee voted to forfeit the last game they played, 2-0, and go back and start with the semifinal game, which made three games to be played that night instead of two.  The committee also asked that I explain to the fans.  The Mt. Vernon fans thought that because I announced the decision, I was the cause of the team being kicked out of the tournament.

            The extra game caused the tournament to continue until after midnight.  After the fans had left the gymnasium,   table and chairs where placed in the center of the court for the committee members to count the money and do the necessary paperwork for the sporting goods company.  I saw it was going to take a long time, so I told the custodian to go home. After the committee had gone, the only ones in the gym were my wife Wilma, my 12-year-old son Hank and myself.  I had just finished closing the windows and the dressing room doors and walked to the table when suddenly two large angry men came rushing toward me.  One had a switch-blade knife open.   Rushing behind them were two West Point fans.  The two Mt. Vernon fans were trying to reach me on the other side of the table and did not see the approaching West Point fans. One of the West Point fans tackled the man with the knife.  The fall knocked the knife free from the man’s hand.  The other man ran from the gym with the West Point man in pursuit.  When the man on the floor got free he also ran from the gym.  The two then got into a car and sped away.

Homer Fullbright

            One of the West Point fans said, “We overheard those fellows saying what they intended to do, so we hid in some shrubbery until they made their move, then we charged them.”  I told them how thankful I was to know there were such loyal fans at West Point.

            All this pressure had begun to take its toll on me.  For many years I had been thinking of going full time into sales of educational materials to schools.  Then the opportunity came.  I resigned the day school closed and joined the F.E. Compton Company.  I was state manager for the company for 14 years.         vvv

The writer was an educator in White County and other public schools of Arkansas from 1923 to 1944.  This excerpt from his memoirs is courtesy of his son Hank Fulbright Jr., a WCHS member who lives in Searcy.