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Wednesday, April 30, 2014
Frank Downing has led a long and healthy life, still walking on his own and even occasionally driving an automobile. More importantly, he has led an interesting life. A veteran of World War II, where he was part of a tank crew as a driver before he returned to the United States. He attended Western Kentucky where he played basketball, but soon transferred to what was known then as David Lipscomb College. He has fond memories of the school and plans this week to talk to a high school senior in Gainesville, Ga., with plans to attend Lipscomb this fall. Downing, who counts Miles Ezell, Lee Marsh, Bob Mason and George McIntosh among his close friends, He keeps in contact with them. He spent time this week with lipscombsports.com.
What years did you play basketball at Lipscomb? Who were your coaches?
"I played basketball in 1948 and 1949. Eugene "Fessor" Boyce was the coach in 1948. Herman Waddell was his assistant. In 1949 Waddell was the head coach.
"After playing at Western Kentucky I decided I wanted something completely different. I talked to "Fessor' Boyce about coming to Lipscomb and playing basketball there.
"I was the captain of the team for two years and I was one of the leading scorers."
What is your fondest athletic memory at Lipscomb?
"There are so many and it was so long ago. I guess it would be being selected to be captain of the team for the two years I was there. That was a big honor to me.
"We almost beat Vanderbilt once. That was a big thing. But almost is not quite enough.
"We were in the VSAC and the Mississippi Valley Conference then. I see the Lipscomb games on TV now. The program is getting to be big time."
Talk about your basketball experiences before you arrived at Lipscomb?
"I was 6-foot-5 and I played center. Now you can't play guard at 6-5. When I was in England in training during World War II I also played basketball. They had a European Theater basketball league. My first sergeant never did like it. We would be training and someone would get me to play in a basketball game.
"When I came back from the service I was totally lost. Our family sold the dairy farm and moved to Nashville. I told my brother I was going to Bowling Green to talk with Coach Ed Diddle and Ted Hornback, his assistant, about playing at Western Kentucky. I played there for a year.
"I loved basketball, but playing at Western Kentucky was like going back into the service. Basketball was a big business there. We lived with the coach. We ate with the coach. They told you what to do and when and where to go. Coming back to Lipscomb I could be with my family.
"At Western Kentucky we played some big schools. I played against George Mikan, the only All-America I faced, when he was at DePaul. He was the biggest man I ever saw. His shoes were huge."
Who had the biggest influence on you during your athletic career at Lipscomb? How?
"It would be `Fessor' Boyce. He was one of the finest men I ever met. He was something special.
"I will never forget "Fessor". I graduated with a degree in physical education. He was my favorite professor. He was a good person…a great person to be around.
"To me "Fessor" was Lipscomb basketball."
What is your fondest non-athletic memory from your time at Lipscomb?
"David Lipscomb had been a junior college. The 1949 class was the first to graduate from the school after it had become a four-year college. It was a great experience to go to Lipscomb.
"I was a day student. I made some really good friends there. Bobby Mason's family had a ping pong table. I went to his house many times to play ping pong.
"I remember Ira North was building a house across from campus when I was there. We watched it being built from the ground up."
What do you remember the most about Lipscomb and how it influenced your life?
"When you go to Lipscomb you hear a lot about Jesus. Chapel, and really the whole environment, at Lipscomb is a rare thing. It was a privilege to do that.
"It was such a privilege to come back from what I had been through to Lipscomb. I had a tank commander who told me what to do. But I spent a lot of time talking to God. I am sure my tank commander wished I had shut up.
"Lipscomb was a lot smaller when I was there. We knew everybody. I have had life-long friendships with my basketball teammates. Lipscomb was the best thing that could have happened to me after World War II. It was a calming influence."
How hard was it to adjust to college life after living through World War II?
"I didn't talk very much about World War II when I was a student at Lipscomb. I was drafted out of high school. I lived on a dairy farm in Delilah, Tenn. We milked cows morning and evening.
"World War II was a horrible thing for a young man right out of high school to be put into. I didn't ask for it. I was drafted and away I went. I spent most of my time with General Courtney Hodges' First Army,
"I was sent from Nashville to Fort Oglethorpe, Ga. Then I went to Fort Knox, Ky. After that I want to Indiantown Gap, Pa., where I joined the Third Armored Division, the outfit I stayed with through the rest of the war. We trained for a year in England. We went to France a few days after D-Day. We fought all the way through to when we met the Russians in Berlin.
"War does some strange things to people. Coming to Lipscomb was really a blessing."
Who was your favorite professor? Why?
"Ira North (Bible, speech), Dr. J. Ridley Stroop (psychology) and Mrs. Ora Crabtree (speech). They were down-to-earth people. They were good teachers"
Where do you live now?
"I live in Gainesville, Ga."
Who was your employer? What was your occupation? What did your position entail?
"I worked in physical medicine which includes physical therapy, occupational therapy and recreation, with the Veteran's Administration Hospital in Nashville. I started when it was located out on White Bridge Road in Nashville. I moved to the location at Vanderbilt.
"In 1968 I had a chance to go to the V.A. hospital of my choice and I chose to go to Atlanta. It was a good move."
Tell us about your family.
"My wife, Inez, died Nov. 13, 2000. We have five children - Nancy Ann, Frank, Jr., Mark, Teresa and Carmen."
I do not have an email address.
**Follow the video link below the picture in the story for a full interview with Downing discussing his memories of war.**