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ETSU basketball legend Chilton dies

Jeff Birchfield • Oct 1, 2019 at 1:50 AM

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 an All-American that season and finished as a three-time All-Ohio Valley Conference selection, scoring 1,801 points over three seasons.

Chilton 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 February 1961. He scored 47 points less than three weeks later against Western Kentucky, and he still has three of the top four scoring performances in school history.

His daughter Cathy discussed her father’s love for ETSU, and said he would try to come to as many functions as possible when visiting family. He met his wife, Judy, a Gate City 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 there was no 3-point shot.

Also a member of the Indiana Sports Hall of Fame, Chilton averaged 23 points and 22 rebounds per game for Austin High School in 1956. He was a third-round draft pick of the St. Louis Hawks in 1961 and 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 recalled 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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