Black History Month: The Wesleyan Way, Dallas Thornton ’68

by Roy Pickerill ’75  

Louisville native Dallas Thornton’s basketball career spanned 27 years at Louisville Male High School, Kentucky Wesleyan College, the Miami Floridians (American Basketball Association) and the Harlem Globetrotters.

“I have been blessed with a wonderful career and many honors,” Thornton said.

He was an All-American and All-State selection at Male in 1964.

“My mother loved sports but my father wanted me to get a job after graduation, so he gave me an application. I understood his reasoning, but I snuck off to college instead. Mom was glad I decided on a college education,” remembered Thornton. “My father was not happy but KWC coach Guy Strong called him and calmed him down and that is how I got to Kentucky Wesleyan College.”

As a four-year starter, Thornton led the Panthers to two NCAA Division II National Championships in 1966 and 1968, plus a third-place finish in 1967. He averaged 17.5 points and 8.1 rebounds per game in his career.

He earned first, second and third team All-America honors. Thornton accumulated 1,929 points and 903 rebounds.

The NBA Baltimore Bullets and the ABA Miami Floridians drafted Thornton. He played two seasons for the Floridians before joining the Harlem Globetrotters

“I had quite a career with the Globetrotters, playing 17 years with the most famous – Marques Haynes, Meadowlark Lemon, Curly Neal and ‘Geese’ Ausbie”, smiled Thornton. “My time also included serving as a player-coach and team representative. We played in 75 countries, traveled the globe three times and performed before the Queen of England on her 25th Silver Jubilee Anniversary.”

Thornton shared that his most memorable moment as a Globetrotter was visiting the White House three times. “President Gerald R. Ford and First Lady Betty Ford invited the team to the Oval Office to celebrate our record milestone of games played in 1974. A few years later, President Jimmy Carter and First Lady Rosalynn Carter asked us back twice. The first time, I taught Mrs. Carter how to spin the ball on her finger,” Thornton laughed. “Next trip, we performed for the Vice Premier of China and his wife in 1979.”

Thornton appeared in several TV shows as a Globetrotter including a two-hour made-for-TV-movie, “The Globetrotters on Gilligan’s Island.”

In 1982, Thornton and the Globetrotters were honored with a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for their worldwide entertainment.

Following his retirement from the Globetrotters, Thornton went back to KWC to finish his Bachelor of Science degree and become an assistant coach for the Panthers.

“That was my proudest moment of my life to walk across the stage in my cap and gown to receive my degree in front of Mom and Dad.”