Clair Francis Bee (March 2, 1896-May 20, 1983) was born in Pennsboro, Ritchie County. He was a successful, innovative college basketball coach and widely published author of both technical basketball books and young adult fiction. Bee spent his childhood in Grafton where he graduated from high school.
After an impressive start to his coaching career at Rider College in New Jersey, Bee became basketball coach at Long Island University, where he established the Blackbirds as a national power by winning the National Invitational Tournament in 1939 and 1941. Bee ended his college coaching career following the 1951 point-shaving scandals that devastated college basketball. He was crushed by the involvement of three of his players and took it as his personal failure as a coach and the failure of college basketball to instill better values in players.
In 1948, Bee wrote Touchdown Pass. The book, featuring Chip Hilton as a high school football player, sold more than 125,000 copies. Bee wrote 23 more books in the Chip Hilton series, which traced the athletic careers of Chip and his friends from Valley Falls through high school and college seasons in football, basketball, and baseball. Valley Falls was named for a place near Grafton, and State College was set in a small college town not unlike Morgantown.
Most critics claim that the best in the series was Hoop Crazy, published in 1950. The final Chip Hilton book, Comeback Cagers, was published in 1962. Through Chip, Bee taught a generation of young readers to be honest, stoical, modest, and to obey their parents and coaches. Chip exuded America’s small-town values and a strong sense of group loyalty.
Clair Bee received numerous awards, including election to the Basketball Hall of Fame and the West Virginia Sportswriters Hall of Fame.
This Article was written by C. Robert Barnett
Last Revised on September 25, 2012
McCallum, Jack. A Hero for all Times. Sports Illustrated, January 7, 1980.
McAvoy, Rogers. Mr. Basketball: The Clair Bee Story. Goldenseal, (Winter 1991).