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 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. He was married and had two children when he became a student athlete at Berea. Shanks 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, 03/09/2004, 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 July 26, 2021,

Last modified: 2018-10-04 20:15:51