Jumpin’ Johnny was Mr. Basketball in 1946, when he led Anderson to the state championship. He scored 30 of his team’s 67 points in that game, after scoring 17 of their 39 in the afternoon game.
He could have been a star at Indiana or Purdue or for any other major program, but black players weren’t getting scholarships in those days. The following year, Bill Garrett would become the first black player to receive a Big Ten scholarship, a year late for Wilson. He went to Anderson University instead, starring in basketball, baseball and track. He won 11 letters overall, and All-American honors in basketball.
He went on to play pro baseball for one season in the Negro Leagues, and basketball for the Globetrotters.
One of the subplots to his story is his close friendship with Carl Erskine, a white friend from the neighborhood in Anderson. Erskine credits Wilson for the ease with which he accepted Jackie Robinson when Robinson broke the color barrier for the Brooklyn Dodgers. The two were still playing golf together when this conversation was conducted in the studio. Wilson had driven to Indianapolis to visit a friend at Methodist Hospital that day, and drove over to the studio afterward.
First aired 2012
Tagged with: Anderson High School, Anderson University, Carl Erskine, Indiana Mr. Basketball 1946, Johnny Wilson, Jumpin' Johnny Wilson