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Paris High School “Going Back In Time” To Honor The Paris Western Tigers

HONORING THE WESTERN TIGERS – Members of this year’s Paris High School basketball team’s senior class show off the uniforms they will be wearing Thursday night to honor the Paris Western Tigers, an all-black school that turned out to be a basketball powerhouse. Seniors pictured from left to right are Matthew Barber, Caleb Johnson, Jamaun Clark, Marcus Jackson and Jalen Ransom.

JUST CALL HIM “CHIEF” – The late William B. “Chief” Reed led the Paris Western Tigers to the 1953 National Championship for black schools. He also guided his 1952 team to a fourth place finish at the National Tournament. During his 11 years coaching the Tigers, “Chief” Reed, according to the Kentucky High School Basketball Encyclopedia, won 203 games, with 109 setbacks, with 72 of those losses coming in the final few years leading up to their integration with Paris. —Citizen file photo

Paris’ School System Will Honor

The All Former Black School

That Won A National Championship




PARIS, KY – A lot of kids today from the local area really don’t know much about the Paris Western Tigers, an African American school that was located on 7th Street near Paris High School.

A small school that housed one of the best basketball programs and players in the state and nation, growing up as a kid, that’s all one heard about was the Western Tigers. A school so special that after winning a Basketball National Championship, UK legendary Coach Adolph Rupp, who many tab him as a racist by not recruiting black players, came to town to be a guest speaker at a meeting that honored the champions at the school. The Tigers, coached by the legendary and late William B. “Chief” Reed, won the 22nd National Basketball Tournament for Black High Schools in 1953, and finished as National Semifinalist in 1952.

Thursday night, because of a conversation between Paris School’s Athletic Director Cary Barr and Paris Independent School Superintendent Stephen McCauley, the school system will honor the school with a Paris Western night that will see the basketball team and cheerleaders wear the Western Tigers attire.

“Coach Barr and I were talking during the 10th Region All A semifinals and he mentioned that several years ago we hosted a Paris Western Night and had a great turnout,” McCauley recalled during a text message. “He suggested that we try to do it again. I loved the idea, so we ran with it.”

McCauley said that they will be doing a chili supper, as well as a meet and greet before the Paris versus Pendleton County basketball game. Paris Schools Public Relations and Tech Support Specialist Whitney Gray is also putting together, what McCauley calls, an amazing tribute video, while the boys team and cheerleaders are going to be wearing Western High gear for the game.

“Some of our Middle School students are going to help serve dinner, and our elementary students are singing the national anthem before the game and the High School band is playing the Western High Fight Song when the alumni walk out onto the court before the game,” McCauley said. “It’s going to be an amazing night.”

Festivities will start at 6:00 Thursday night, with the meet and greet with the basketball game slated to tip-off at 7:30. It will also be senior night for the Greyhound basketball team.

So far, as of this writing, they have the following sponsors/supporters to thank for this special evening: Wallis Brooks, Ron Boaz, The Barr House Inn, Traditional Bank, Paris Independent School District, Darae & Friends Catering, Hopewell Museum, Paris-Bourbon County Library and Dr. Mandy Thornberry.


RUPP SPEAKS AT WESTERN HIGH SCHOOL – The late University of Kentucky Basketball coach and Hall of Famer Adolph Rupp, is shown as the main speaker at a meeting at Western High School in Paris. Coach Rupp was welcoming the team members of the Paris Western Tigers, winners of the 1953 National High School Basketball Tournament for Black Schools. –Citizen File Photo

Western Wins Title Over

Booker T. Washington

In a study that was produced by Louisiana State University Digital Commons and written by Charles Herbert Thompson, Louisiana State University and Agricultural & Mechanical College, talked about the history of the National Basketball Tournaments for Black High Schools.

During his study of the Black National Tournament, Thompson wrote that Paris Western’s opening round 81-54 victory over powerhouse Chaneyville High School of Zachary, Louisiana, “caught the attention of the fans” because from this point on, the Paris, Kentucky school’s closest game was a ten-point victory over Pearl out of Nashville.

In the finals, 3,000 spectators watched Western increase its average margin of victory to twenty-one points by downing Booker T. Washington of Montgomery, Alabama 70-41 to claim the national title. Jesse Downey scored 21 points, Russell Tucker chipped in 17 and William Conner had 16 to lead Western on that evening inside Tennessee A & I State College’s new 4,000 seat gymnasium that made the national tournament the inaugural event in the spacious facility. Other scoring had William Spencer with 12 and William “Butch” Gaines with 5. The Tigers, according to the Kentucky High School Basketball Encyclopedia, finished that season with a 29-3 record.


The last national tournament for black schools was held on the campus of Alabama State College in Montgomery, Alabama, March 25-27, 1967. The national tournament and the NHSAA, founded in 1945, were dissolved a year later on Saturday, June 16, 1968, in Atlanta, Georgia.

Paris Western would continue to play basketball at the school until their merger with Paris in 1963. The team’s all-time record was 262-132, as “Chief” Reed complied a 203-109 record after coaching for 11 seasons, according to the Kentucky High School Basketball Encyclopedia. F.M. Wood guided the team from 1949 to 1952. He finished with a 59-23 record.


For more information on the National Championship Tournament for Black schools you can go to the LSU Digital Commons website. (


EDITOR’S NOTE: To read the complete story, pick up a copy of the print edition of the Bourbon County Citizen on Thursday, February 20. You can find a copy at a local store, newsstand or the Citizen office that’s located at 123 West 8th street in Paris.

NATIONAL CHAMPS HONORED – The picture above shows the Paris Western High School in 1953 when they returned to Paris after winning the High School National Basketball Championship at Tennessee State University. The team players, shown from left in this photo, are Leon Hayden, William “Butch” Gaines, Lytle Davis, Jessie Downey, Wallace Downey, School Principal Mrs. M.E. Kellis and Coach William B. “Chief” Reed. Standing in the photo are William Conner, Randolph Moore, Ruel Tucker and William (Bill) Baker. The Scrapbook Editor appreciates help in identifying the team members. Western defeated Booker T. Washington High School from Montgomery, Alabama to claim the title. –Citizen File Photo


  1. Jo Etta Allen on February 19, 2020 at 10:55 am

    I look forward to this celebration. I was fortunate to attend Western from the first through eighth grades. Many students transitioned “over the hill” to Paris High in 1963 due to integration but our class remained in the structure and all black through my sixth grade of learning with many teachers our parents enjoyed such as 1st grade, Mrs. E. P. Thomas, substitute Ms. Minerva Bedford; 2nd grade, Mrs. Lillie Mae Crooks; 3rd grade, Ms. Ola Del Jacobs; 4th grade, Ms. Betty B. Williams; 5th grade, Ms. DeCora Williams, in the absence of Mrs. Nana Hazzard; and 6th grade Mrs. Mary E. Thomas. Through the process of integration, many changes would suddenly become available like getting new books instead of the very ‘not gently’ used books laden with racial slurs. During our 7th and 8th grade years, the building was renovated to include a change to the front yard making a semi circle drop off to facilitate many of our new white students who came to school in cars since they were not from the neighborhood. I forged many life long relationships before and after integration. But, I cut my teeth on the principles I learned from Western High, its teachers and Chief Reed. I was given a sense and appreciation of education, of family, of God, of self and my purpose in the cultural village. Western produced greats in athletics, medicine, business, music and engineering. Those of us who remember being prepared for the trek over the hill to the “white” school laugh about how we were cautioned to be on our best behavior so as not embarrass our race and to be viewed as heathens. But when we arrived, we were in shock to see how those students were loud and running amuck! Things at Western were done decently and in order. I remember experiencing impending separation anxiety when we were told that we could not be the last class to graduate across Western’s stage. I likened this to our ancestors being taken from the motherland. You see, Western was the center of many positive actions in our community and now, through no fault of our own, we were being stripped of the last visible vestige of our cultural foundation and offered crumbs to try to quell our hurt by saying that we should be proud to be the first class to graduate from the Fine Arts Center. For those of us who were brought through the halls of Western, it was not. We are now old and we will never forget, Western, Western dear and true, yes, our hearts are all with you, every day we try to be, true to you Western and sing of thee.
    Jo Etta Allen

  2. Carl Williams on February 20, 2020 at 11:08 am

    I was in the first grade in 1963 at 7th Street elementary and remember just going to school and not paying any attention to anything but learning and making new friends.
    Then in 1967 I was introduced to a lady named Mary Thomas who taught 4th grade.
    She taught us that no matter what you looked like, talked like or where you came from mattered.
    We were all from the same race, the human race.
    Miss Thomas instilled a love that is like no other into each and every one of us.
    I thank God everyday for Miss Thomas, and the life lessons we all learned.
    God bless Western High School and semper cum superbia.
    Paris Greyhound for life.
    PHS Class of 1975

  3. Thomas Lawrence on April 13, 2020 at 3:34 am

    Western, Western dear and true, yes, our hearts are all with you, every day we try to be, true to you Western and sing of thee.

    I’ll never forget in the 2nd grade, having turned around, Mrs. Crooks could have whacked me on the arm and told me to be quite and turn around but she didn’t. She gently put her hand on my face and slowly turned my head around.
    To this day I listen…….
    Western High 1st grade to 8th grade

    African Village of Paris ky.

  4. Ben Wilson on January 5, 2022 at 4:42 am

    I am trying to reach the families of Jesse and Wallace Downey, William Conner, William Spencer and William Gaines for an article/book I am writing. I can be reached at 202/657-2534

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