Wah Jones still going strong at 84

By: Steve Moss
By: Steve Moss

Wallace "Wah Wah" Jones still draws a crowd, even at age 84. Entertaining a large group of well-wishers recently, during a surprise birthday party, Jones was amazed by the turnout. Among the guests, former UK coach Joe B. Hall, himself a spry 81. "He's one of the best that's ever been to the University of Kentucky," Hall said.

Wallace "Wah Wah" Jones still draws a crowd, even at age 84.

Entertaining a large group of well-wishers recently, during a surprise birthday party, Jones was amazed by the turnout.  Among the guests, former UK coach Joe B. Hall, himself a spry 81.

"He's one of the best that's ever been to the University of Kentucky," Hall said.

That's because Jones was a two-sport All-American, a man that played for two legendary coaches.  Under Adolph Rupp, Jones was a member of the Fabulous Five.  His teams won two national championships and an NIT. 

"Can't get much better than that," Hall quipped.

Jones also was an All-SEC tight end under Bear Bryant.  He's still the only player at Kentucky to have his jerseys retired in both sports.

"They were similar," Jones said of Rupp and Bryant.  "They demanded the best."

Coming out of Harlan, Jones made a name for himself as a basketball player.  Longtime friend Humsey Yessin described Jones as the ultimate competitor.

"During the war years, he (Jones) had a bad foot," Yessin recalled.  "All the county schools, every time there was a draft called, everybody wanted him on that bus.  They all said if he could shoot a basketball that well, he could shoulder a rifle."

Yessin said his friend was rejected by the Army during World War II because of his foot.

But that didn't stop Jones from unparalleled success on the field or court. 

"He was the last four-letter man at the University of Kentucky," Yessin said.  In addition to basketball and football, Jones was a pitcher with the Wildcats and a member of the UK track and field squad.

Jones enjoys being one of the UK greats.  He's retired and relishes time spent with family and his dog.

He still gets mail from fans seeking an autograph, some of whom remember Jones as a gold medal winner from the 1948 Olympics.

"I've had mail from overseas wanting an autograph.  How they get some of the pictures, I don't know," Jones said.  "I've got some now, to sign and send back.  I try to send back a little resume I've got printed up, to give them something extra."

Jones also wants to write a book. 

When asked about his memories of Rupp, Jones laughed.

"I've got a whole bunch of stories that I've got to tell about him.  I'm trying to put together a book, if I can," he said.  Jones said he'd include stories about Bryant, too.

"They believed in me," Jones said of his coaches.  I was always on the good side.  I did what I had to do."

"Coach Bryant, if he had a recruit in that he was trying to hide out, he would send me to his farm to pick him up and bring him to town." 

Jones said he never was to talk to anyone about recruits.

The Fabulous Five included All-Americans Ralph Beard and Alex Groza.  Jones was one of UK's tough guys.

"You didn't want to press him too much or you were going to wind up on your backside," Hall remembered.

"Rupp used to call him 'the killer,'" Yessin said, who was a manager on those same teams.  "Wah could really block his man out and get the rebound, then get the ball out on a fast break."

Yessin said because of Jones, the offense was pretty simple.

"We ran a two-guard offense and the forward was the key in there.  Wah could block his man and hand it off to Beard," Yessin said.  "It was old number six.  Rupp used to say, 'Well, the National Anthem and we run No. 6.'  That was the offense."

Former UK All-American Kyle Macy may have said it best.  "Without him or his teammates, there really wouldn't be a Kentucky basketball where it is today."

To this we say, happy birthday Wah Jones.  Here's hoping there are many more.

Those are the highlights... Stay tuned.

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  • by Honey Location: born and raised in Kentucky,now of Arkansas an d Florida on Feb 6, 2011 at 11:14 PM
    Wah Wah was my high school crush and my Daddy took me to a game when I was a Freshman and urged me to get an autograph so with knees knocking and hands trembling I trudged up to him and stuttered something to him and he graciously signed the program with MY PEN! Of course,his immense height bent over my small height of 4'8" which case his persperation to flow over my prognram,pen.and my hand. On the way home,I solemnly informed my daddy that no was
  • by David Location: Morehead on Aug 17, 2010 at 01:13 PM
    It's incredible to think that of all the great athletes that donned the blue and white at UK, Wah Wah is probably the GREATEST. As a player, he earned the respect and love of coaches, teammates and opponents alike and that carries over today. He's a living legend. One of my fondest memories of Wah Wah is also a testament to his loyalty and wisdom. During the early part of the Rich Brooks era, UK football was struggling miserably and fans were calling for the coach's head. Honestly, it appeared all hope was lost. I struck up a conversation with Wah Wah in the press box one Saturday afternoon at Commonwealth Stadium concerning the future of Wildcat football. Even then, he plainly told me that if given time, Brooks would be success. The administration and fans simply needed to give him time. "Don't give up on the man", he said, "he'll be fine...just give him a chance." Oh how accurate his words turned out to be. Truely a man of class and wisdom.
  • by Fred Location: Indianapolis, IN on Aug 2, 2010 at 04:56 PM
    I still think of Beard, Groza, and Jones as a dream I had in the 1940's. My God, I can't imagine anything greater to be a part of ... even in the bleachers. I was in my early teens, and dearly wanted to be Jones or Groza. To the credit of the gamblers, they must have known not to mess with Wah-Wah. But that team was the ALL-Time special ! I attended the University of Kentucky as a freshman in 1954-55. My room-mate and I went to all games (then free to students.) Early in the first home game we visited, my room-mate, Jimmy Howell, said "Hey look, there's Wah Wah Jones (who was patrolling the Municipal Auditoriam,with a bit of a swagger.) He's the sheriff, now. Let's see if we can get him to 'draw down' on us." I told Jimmy that I thought that was a great idea, but that I was hankering for a hot dog, and would be right back, and would like to hear the outcome when I returned. Jimmy was gone to the rest room when I returned. May God Bless You, Mr. Jones !
  • by KUNGFU Location: KY on Jul 31, 2010 at 05:00 PM
    ALL CLASS!!!!!!


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