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Archive for Tuesday, January 3, 1995

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January 3, 1995

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Everything you wanted to know about Dr. James A. Naismith, but were so overwhelmed by Dick Vitale you forgot to ask:

Naismith was born in rural Ontario in Canada. Did he ever become a U.S. citizen?

Yes. Naismith filed a petition with the Douglas County District Court and on Sept. 11, 1918, Judge Hugh Means signed a certificate that made him a U.S. citizen. He was two months shy of his 57th birthday.

Naismith died in 1939. Were any color pictures ever taken of him?

Many black-and-white photos exist -- several taken by his friend Duke D'Ambra, a professional photographer -- but no color shots have surfaced. Some of the black-and-white photos have been tinted, however.

Did Naismith perform any military service?

Yes. He was a chaplain during the Mexican War, serving at Eagle Pass, Texas, and during World War I, serving in France. He conducted classes in prevention of sexually-transmitted diseases and also battled organized prostitution around the camps.

How much money did he make as a KU professor?

He came here from Denver in 1898, lured by an annual salary of $1,300 a year. In his later years he was earning $250 a month. To supplement his income and support his wife and four children, he became a part-time minister, traveling to Vinland, Silver Lake, Rossville and Leavenworth to conduct services.

Where did Naismith come up with the idea to use peach baskets as the goals during the original game?

Actually, Naismith wanted boxes, but the janitor at the Springfield Y didn't have any. Instead, the custodian came up with a couple of peach baskets. Why the Y had peach baskets and no boxes no one knows.

Did Naismith have a doctorate or was he really a medical doctor?

Naismith earned a degree from the Denver Medical School, which later became the University of Colorado School of Medicine. Naismith never practice medicine, however.

Are there any buildings on the KU campus named for him?

No, but Robinson Gym could have been. Largely through the efforts of Naismith and Chancellor Frank Strong, Robinson Gym was built in 1908. It was a state-of-the-art facility that, in effect, fostered KU's tradition of basketball excellence.

Who was Robinson?

Charles Robinson, the first governor of Kansas, was the original owner of the land on which the gym was built. The building was located roughly where Wescoe Hall is today. New Robinson Gym -- now called Robinson Center -- is directly east of Allen Fieldhouse and separated by Naismith Drive.

Why did Naismith spend his last 41 years in Lawrence?

He must have liked it here. Or as Steve Jansen, director of the Elizabeth M. Watkins Community Museum said: "He could have gone anywhere he wanted to, and he decided to stay."

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