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 due to 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 is buried in the Madison County 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.


Cited in this Entry

NKAA Source: B for Berea : the amazing story of Berea College basketball in the words of the men who played it
NKAA Source: Berea College magazine (periodical)
NKAA Source: Lexington herald-leader (newspaper)

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Shanks, Irvine Lee,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed October 1, 2022,

Last modified: 2022-04-08 16:48:10