Taylorville High School 
Sports Hall of Fame
P O R T R A I T

BARNEY MELVIN

    Barney Melvin, played basketball for the Taylorville Tornadoes in the early 1940’s and his story, along with that of his brother Kenny, is one of the more interesting in the annuals of the storied Dolph Stanley years at Taylorville High School.
    Barney was a talented guard, standing only 5’6” tall. As a freshman , Coach Stanley selected him as a varsity starter to open the season because of his ball handling and leadership skills. However, following the fourth game of the season, Coach Stanley chose another route for his promising guard. Recognizing the potential of a talented freshman team, Barney was asked and agreed to continue the season with fellow freshman Johnny Orr, Ron Bontemps, Pete Meredith and his brother Kenny Melvin as they achieved an undefeated season. 

    The following season, 1941 -1942, Barney became the starting guard on the varsity and contributed 210 point and many assists to help lead the Tornadoes to a 28 – 5 season, and a South Central Conference Championship, but falling to Decatur in the Sectional finals 40 – 38.

    In the fall of 1942 Barney and returning senior starter LeRoy Walker were joined by juniors Ron Bontemps, Johnny Orr and his brother Kenny Melvin in the starting lineup. Being selected team captain, Barney helped lead this group of Tornadoes who completed their season with a 28 – 3 record. Winning their first 8 games by an average of 25 points a game, Taylorville earned a state ranking as high as the 5th best team in the state. There only regular season losses were to number six ranked Moline and to perennial power West Frankfort. The highlight of the season was a win at Paris over the eventual state champions. However, the Tornadoes didn’t get the opportunity to play Paris in the State Tournament as they were defeated in the Sectional Finals again by Decatur 39-36.

    Barney was the second leading scorer on the team but more importantly averaged nearly 14 assist per game. The Breeze Courier Reported near the end of the season that “the Melvin brothers, Barney and Ken, a pair of 5’6” guards are sharp shooters who don’t give the big boys many opportunities to rebound. Barney, unusually clever, gave Dick Foley of Paris, reputably the best guard in the state, quite a headache as the Tornadoes rolled over Paris on the Tigers own court (earlier in the year)”.


    But basketball wasn’t the only sport that Barney excelled in. He also was a three year letter winner and a starting pitcher on Coach John Wasilewski’s Tornado baseball team.

    But the fortunes for Barney Melvin and the Tornadoes’ basketball future turn sour as his senior year approached.  With the United States fully involved in World War II, even high school students were being drafted into the military once they turned 18 years old. In order to get his choice, Barney forfeited his senior year (and an opportunity to play on the eventual state championship team) and joined the United State Navy. He served his country from June 1943 to October 1945.

    On his return from the War, he received his high school diploma and was awarded a scholarship to attend and play basketball at Arkansas State College. As an adult, Barney continued to play basketball on several independent teams including Shelbyville Moose Lodge, International Harvester and the Shelbyville All Stars.

    During his career, Barney worked briefly for Peabody Coal in Taylorville and the A & P Tea Company in Shelbyville, then in 1955 became co-owner of Gene and Barney’s Supermarket in Shelbyville. He served a Shelby County Treasurer from 1982 to 1990.

Barney Melvin currently resides in Shelbyville, Illinois.