March 19, 1925: First Black State High School Basketball Tournament Begins
On March 19, 1925, the state’s first basketball tournament for black high schools kicked off on the campus of West Virginia State College (now University) at Institute.
It featured 24 teams, with Lincoln High of Wheeling defeating Kimball in the championship. Kimball and other regions with large African-American populations were perennial favorites in the tournament. This included other McDowell County schools such as Gary and Excelsior High School of War as well as Beckley’s Genoa High.
During the 1930s and ‘40s, the tournament rotated among West Virginia State, Charleston’s Garnet High, and Carmichael Auditorium in Clarksburg. During this time, the dominant team was Clarksburg’s Kelly Miller High, coached by the legendary Mark Cardwell. The dominant teams in the late ‘40s and ‘50s were Garnet of Charleston and Douglass of Huntington.
The tournament continued a few years after school integration began, with Bluefield Park Central beating Byrd Prillerman in the last tournament. After 1957, the remaining all-black schools played in the formerly all-white high school tournament. In 1965, Class A Gary District became the first traditionally black high school to win the now-integrated tournament.