The Redbud City: Cole stands out in multiple sports

Clyde Wooldridge
Contributing writer


The “A” card gasoline ration was lowered to two gallons for the entire country on Tuesday, March 14, 1944, and would become effective March 22. This was announced because of “imminent critical demands” and a gigantic black market that was draining 2,500,000 gallons daily from the restricted civilian supply.

The action meant a one-third cut in basic family car rations for all parts of the country except the eastern seaboard where the “A” ration already was two gallons weekly. Accompanying the order was another tightening of restrictions for issuance of “B” coupons in five states of the Pacific coast areas.

Simultaneously with issuance of the orders, the office of price administration made startling charges as to the extent of counterfeiting of gasoline ration coupons. They called it the “biggest criminal racket ever to blanket the country,” said the director of gasoline rationing enforcement.

Star football, basketball and track man, J.D. COLE, from the class of 1944.


Red-headed J.D. Cole, dubbed “most valuable player on the Wolves basketball five recently, could well be called most valuable in all sports. Four-year basketball letterman, one-year football and three-year track star, the big 6’3” Wolf had plenty of laurels tacked on him in every athletic field.

And it was little wonder. Although Cole was unassuming about his sports feats, the years since his junior high days was bedecked with titles won and championship matches played. The 180-pounder that he was, Cole was probably the shyest Wolf in the pack. It was hard to get any information out of him and as to what sport he liked the best after his star-studded career. “I like them all,” he smiled and that was that.

However, he was a little more eloquent about the thrill concerning the various games. He called it great fun to come out on a court or soar over the high hurdles. And as for trouble, he was “crazy” about it. His favorite game, he listed as the tournament tilt with Capitol Hill, which as he put it, “was a fight between the underdog and the big dogs. We could have won that game with Capitol Hill. We weren’t nervous.” He attributed the loss to the Wolves being tired after their hard-pressed battle with Tulsa Will Rogers in the semi-finals.

Cole claimed he was a bundle of calmness. “It’s just a great experience and usually doesn’t bother me,” he said, speaking of the rough and tumble games which the Wolves played during the season. “However, I won’t forget that awful moment in the Ropers-Wolves game when I had to hit two free tosses,” he said as he smiled. “Maybe I was a little bit bothered then and I remember my knees shaking.”

Aside from that, Cole was hard to convince on this business of a player getting nervous. As to his battles with the Capitol Hill center, Bill Waters, that didn’t faze him one bit. Although he named Waters as the man he liked to play against the best, Cole wasn’t convinced of the superlative power which was attributed to the big Redskin center.

“I like to play against him because he’s big and that always makes a good opponent,” he said. He mentioned otherwise that Waters wasn’t fast. “But he’s the best man I’ve played against,” he declared. “Pete Gunning wasn’t so hot, and Bobby Jack Stuart isn’t a basketball player. He’s strictly a football man.”

Going to the state tournament was declared to be Cole’s top thrill of the season. “I didn’t think we’d hit the finals and when we did, it sure was exciting,” he said. But the greatest experience in his entire athletic career, the Wolf said, was the time he scored 30 points against Wewoka.

Playing this past season didn’t mean a chance to be All-State and All-Star that was given but it meant the thrill of playing with the three other boys with whom he began his basketball career. They were Paul Graham, Haylor Fisher, Jr., and Charley Whitaker.

“We started together in junior high and we kept it up for four years,” he explained. “It finally got so that we even knew what the other was going to do before he did it.”

Chief hazard to the top star in athletics, however, was training. “We never seem to eat at all,” he sighed, “and of course before the game was forbidden. Afterwards, it’s only poached eggs, milk and toast.”

The previous week, when Coach Ray LeCrone gave his basketball cagers a week of rest before the track season started was the first time the center had gotten his fill since school started. “I really filled up then on everything,” he smiled and stressed how the entire week had been spent eating his favorite foods, which were steak and pie.

The athletic star, acclaimed over the state as being one of the best Oklahoma centers, found time to be active in other school work too. He was treasurer of the senior class and vice president of the student council. In addition, he did dramatic work. As for scholastic activities, he did not list them as one of his all-time highs. He liked history and biology but put thumbs down on English grammar.

Currently, he had his eye on a college career with business as a major, but he would be 18 in May. “I don’t believe I’ll make it,” he said vaguely and then pointed out that he was interested in service in the merchant marines anyway.

He did not talk much about the upcoming track season, until he mentioned that he would have to defend three state titles. He explained that he was the owner of the state high hurdle, low hurdles, and discus throw titles. He hoped to keep them during the current season.

Track was equally exciting to Cole and he admitted there’s nothing like a high hurdle for a thrill. And strangely enough, he wasn’t nervous about thinclad competition either. “You get all relaxed just like in basketball,” he attempted for an explanation.

In all his years in athletics, the Wolf was injured once. He received a knee injury during his football year. He was grateful to Coach LeCrone too. “He started me out in basketball when I was just in junior high,” he said. “Doubtful if there is a better coach in the business and I attribute my success to Coach. I’d never played basketball before I came to Shawnee from New Lima, and I didn’t even know what track was. All I knew was football and baseball and I wasn’t interested in them.”

These stories appear in Volume Two of “Redbud City,” the history of Shawnee. The weekly articles in the News-Star are excerpts from those editions. All six volumes, from 1830 to June of 2021, are now available for purchase at the Pottawatomie County Historical Society. They are now open, and you may visit them, or you may order them online at their website, or by calling (405) 275-8412. Each volume is $35, but a purchase of two or more volumes can be obtained at $30 each. We are offering a special deal. If you purchase any other volume, you may obtain Volume One (1830-1929) for just $20. The six volumes contain approximately three million words and more than 1,000 pictures. Each volume is indexed with people and businesses, making it easy to find a person or entity.