ETSU hoops legend Chilton dies

Jeff Birchfield • Updated Sep 30, 2019 at 9:41 PM

East Tennessee State basketball legend Tom Chilton died Sunday after recently suffering a stroke. He was 81.

Chilton, an Indiana native, was second in the nation in scoring with a school-record 32.1 points per game his senior season of 1960-61. He was named All-American that season and was a three-time All-Ohio Valley Conference selection, scoring 1,801 points over three seasons.

He still holds the ETSU career scoring average record of 26.1 points per game and the single-game scoring record of 52 points in an 100-86 win over Austin Peay in Feb. 1961. He scored 47 points less than three weeks later against Western Kentucky and has three of the top four scoring performances in school history.

His daughter Cathy talked about how her father loved ETSU and would try to come to as many functions as possible when visiting family. He met his wife, Judy, a Gate City, Virginia native, while at ETSU.

“He loved the school, loved the area,” his daughter said. “When we were down there visiting family, we would always try to go to functions. If we had lived closer, he would have probably been there more.”

Inducted into the ETSU Athletics Hall of Fame in 1980, Chilton ranks sixth on the Bucs’ all-time scoring list despite playing in an era when freshmen were ineligible and when there was no 3-point shot.

Also a member of the Indiana Sports Hall of Fame, he averaged 23 points and 22 rebounds per game for Austin High School in 1956. Chilton was a third-round draft pick of the St. Louis Hawks in 1961. He played in some exhibition games for the NBA team before being drafted in the Army.

He served in the Army two years before injuries cut short his basketball career. He later worked as a teacher and coach in Indiana, and was also a farmer and businessman. His daughter remembered how her father always had a reverence for Madison Brooks, his college coach at ETSU.

“He loved Coach Brooks,” Cathy Chilton said. “I remember as a little girl when Coach Brooks would call he would stand at attention and be like, ‘Yes sir.’ He really loved him like a father.”

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