Huntington’s ‘Joe Regular Guy’ thrilled to be serving hoop hall of fame with his heroes

Bill Walker, of Huntington, stands by a picture in his home displaying famous high school basketball players from across the state. A high school basketball enthusiast, Walker was recently promoted from the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame’s board of directors to its executive committee.
Bill Walker, of Huntington, stands by a picture in his home displaying famous high school basketball players from across the state. A high school basketball enthusiast, Walker was recently promoted from the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame’s board of directors to its executive committee. Photo by Steve Clark.

Originally published June 30, 2016.

Bill Walker is living the dream of any Indiana high school basketball fan.

Walker, of Huntington, serves the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame, doing so alongside many of the players and coaches he grew up idolizing.

“It’s like, I’m ‘Joe Regular Guy’ along with these guys who, I mean, they are legends to me,” Walker says. “They’re my heroes. I can tell you about every one of them.”

It was one of Walker’s favorite basketball luminaries, Bob Straight, who coached the 1963-64 boys’ basketball team at Huntington High School to a state runner-up finish, that turned him on to the idea of serving the hall of fame. Straight was the principal at Huntington North High School when Walker got hired as a teacher there in 1974. In the years following Straight’s retirement, Walker made a habit of sending him articles about high school basketball he found interesting. In 2010, Straight emailed Walker to gauge his interest in becoming an associate director for the hall of fame.

“I’m not a famous basketball player,” says Walker, who was the student manager of his high school team at New Castle. “I’m not a famous basketball coach. I never, like, gave it a thought.”

Straight, though, knew about Walker’s passion for basketball. And after Walker researched what the duties of an associate director were, he took Straight up on his offer.

The first thing Walker did was purchase a membership with the hall of fame. After that, he completed a survey assessing his interest in how he’d like to serve the hall.

“You kind of fill out what committees you would like to be on,” Walker explains. “I had no idea. I ended up on the necrology committee. So, I kind of keep track, as best I can, of when Indiana basketball folks die and pass that along.”

Walker was also approached about serving as co-chairman of the committee in charge of planning the annual men’s basketball banquet.

He consented to joining that committee, too, and credits Straight with helping him serve that board effectively. Straight, a 1979 hall of fame inductee, oversaw that committee for years and furnished Walker with paperwork that gave him an idea of how the banquets are planned.

While Walker says he would have been content to serve as an associate director “for the rest of my life,” he learned in 2013 that the hall’s executive committee wanted to promote him to the board of directors. Walker was humbled by the gesture and accepted the promotion gladly.

Since then, he’s continued to serve on both the necrology and men’s banquet committees and helped out with membership initiatives as well.

Rather than trying to make changes immediately, Walker’s approach to serving the hall of fame has been one of restraint and patience.

“I’ll sit back and watch and that works out well for me, that’s kind of who I am,” he says. “After a few years, I fine-tuned some things that I thought needed to be done, both with necrology and the men’s banquet. That’s worked out well.”

Walker’s contributions haven’t gone unnoticed. In May, he learned he’d been nominated for a spot on the executive committee. The
 Hall’s governing body, the executive committee features 10 positions, with Walker tapped to succeed Shorty Burdsall, of Alexandria, as vice president north.

In mid-June, the Hall officially announced that Walker would take over for Burdsall. His term will last eight years. Among his duties will be attending a monthly meeting of the executive committee in Indianapolis. Walker will also get to weigh-in on the Hall’s budget and building projects at the Hall of Fame itself, which is located in New Castle.

Walker hopes he’ll get to continue serving on his current committees, but doesn’t know for certain yet. Regardless of what he’ll be tasked with, Walker is just happy to be affiliated with the Hall.

“I love it,” he says. “I really do.”

Aside from serving the Hall of Fame, Walker gets his basketball fix by keeping statistics for Huntington North boys’ basketball and serving as the public address announcer for Huntington University men’s basketball. He retired from Huntington North in 2007 and has relished getting to spend his retirement immersed in the sport he loves so much.

“A perfect day for me would be, have a late breakfast at Nick’s, PA a Huntington University men’s basketball game and then go keep stats for the Vikings that night,” muses Walker. “I don’t see anything wrong with that.”