From orphan to Olympian: Remembering the life of Jerry Shipp
DURANT, Okla. (KTEN) -- Olympic gold medalist, Southeastern basketball star and Texoma coach Jerry Shipp died on Tuesday leaving a legacy of inspiring student athletes. He was 86.
"My father was born in Shreveport, in a ditch," said Shannon Shipp Cooper, daughter of Jerry Shipp. "They had him on a rainy night; wasn't expected to make it through the night. His first bed was a shoebox."
At age 4, Jerry Shipp was dropped off at Tipton Children's Home by his mother, who was dying of tuberculosis. She had a dream that her son would earn an education.
Jerry stayed in Tipton until he was 16. That's when a couple from Blue, Oklahoma, came to watch him play basketball after hearing about him from someone in town.
"They went home and discussed it and they went back to visit him a few times. And they decided that they wanted to move forward and talked with dad to adopt him," Cooper said. "He went on to Blue and was a very good basketball player. And Southeastern Coach Sullivan -- Bloomer Sullivan -- recruited him, and this was his home."
While wearing a Southeastern uniform, Shipp was a four-time All-American. He twice led the conference in scoring and set two conference records.
But he wanted more.
"After Southeastern, he tried out for the Olympics in 1960 and was the first alternate. Well if you know my father, that made him mad," Cooper said. "So he signed up to play with Phillips 66 and he got to travel the world. He won four national championships with them. And then came around in '64 and tried out for the Olympics and ended up being the captain and leading scorer for that team."
Soon after, Jerry Shipp held some office jobs, but wanted to move closer to home and purse the career that he had always wanted: Coaching and teaching.
Dickey Dwayne Taylor was one of the countless student athletes who was inspired by Coach Shipp during his tenure at Kingston High School.
"We knew he was a gold medalist, but it was never something he brought up. It was not something he talked about or something that he had done. It was just... he was just kind of a character, you know? He was just fun to be around," Taylor said.
"He always pressed that you didn't have to come from a large school to make it; you can come from a small school and make it, and I think that was why he came to Kingston," said Hal Showalter, another Kingston grad. "He was like a father figure to me. I mean, a basketball mind like you could not believe!"
In keeping with his goal to inspire young athletes, Shipp donated his Olympic gold medal to be put on display at Bloomer Sullivan Arena in 2009, a reminder to athletes that their hard work can pay off.
"I think he is one of the icons of Southeastern and Southeastern athletics, and will always be that. And we need to celebrate the history of his presence here," said Southeastern Athletic Director Keith Baxter. "What he did for our country and the United States Olympic Team in 1964. There's a lot of things that his life symbolizes that I think a lot of us could learn from, and that story needs to continue to be told."
Funeral services for Jerry Shipp are pending.