CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Garrett “Gary” Mays will present “African American Life: A Personal Perspective” in the Archives and History Library at the Culture Center, State Capitol Complex in Charleston, on Thursday, July 28. The program, which is the third of the 2016 The Block Speakers Series, begins at 6 p.m. and is free and open to the public.
Mays, “The One Arm Bandit,” was born in Burnwell, a coal mining town in Kanawha County in 1935. At the age of five, he lost his left arm in a shotgun accident. When he was 12, he moved to Washington, D.C., where he started playing baseball at the Logan Community Center.
Mays attended Armstrong Technical High School, where he continued to display his athletic skills in baseball and basketball. Charlie Baltimore, his basketball coach, dubbed Mays “The One Arm Bandit” for his skill at stealing the ball.
In 1954, Armstrong and Spingarn high schools played each other for the Inter-High Division II Basketball Tournament title. Spingarn was undefeated that year and its star player, Elgin Baylor, had averaged more than 40 points a game in the school’s two victories over Armstrong during the regular season. Coach Baltimore instructed Mays to play “man-to-man” defense against Baylor. Armstrong beat Spingarn 50 to 47, and Baylor scored only 18 points.
In 1955, Mays attended the Washington Senators’ annual tryout camp at Griffith Stadium. Although he was not signed by the Senators, Mays threw out a base runner and hit the only home run in the camp-closing scrimmage and was unanimously voted Most Valuable Player.
Mays went on to attend the College of Idaho in Caldwell, Idaho, own a liquor store and drive a cab, bus and limousine. He was building chairman for the D.C. Chapter of Habitat for Humanity and owner of a construction company. Currently, he is vice president of the Armstrong Alumni Association.
“The Block” was once considered the heart of Charleston’s black community. It comprised a 25-acre area bounded by Washington Street East, Capitol Street, Smith Street and Sentz Court.
For additional information about the Archives and History lecture series, contact the Archives and History Library at (304) 558-0230.
Patrons may park behind the Culture Center after 5:30 p.m. on July 28 and enter the building at the back loading dock area. The new bus turnaround is open, and handicapped spots are available there. Visitors parking there should enter at the front of the building.
The West Virginia Division of Culture and History is an agency within the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts with Kay Goodwin, Cabinet Secretary. The division, led by Commissioner Randall Reid-Smith, brings together the past, present and future through programs and services focusing on archives and history, arts, historic preservation and museums. For more information about the division’s programs, events and sites, visit www.wvculture.org. The Division of Culture and History is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.