From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Shanks, Irvine Lee

(born: 1930  -  died: 2004) 

Born in Kenton County, KY, Shanks became the first African American to play basketball at Berea College (KY) when he was on the team 1954-1955. A 6'5" center, he was the only African American on the team. No opposing team ever canceled a game because of his presence. In 1955, he helped Berea College win the Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament.

Irvine Shanks was married and had two children when he became a student athlete at Berea. He had been a sergeant in the U.S. Army and fought in the Korean War. He died 3/5/2004 and is buried in the Madison County (KY) Memorial Gardens, according to the U.S. Veterans Gravesites.

For more see "B" For Berea: The Amazing Story of Berea College Basketball in the Words of the Men Who Played It, by T. Chase; Berea College Magazine, Spring 2002; and "Irvine Shanks, sports pioneer - war veteran broke basketball color barrier in Kentucky," Lexington Herald-Leader, 3/9/2004, City & Region section, p. B4.

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Kenton County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Item Relations

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Shanks, Irvine Lee,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed May 24, 2024,

Last modified: 2023-06-02 17:16:28