News, Sports

A local connection to the late, great Jerry West

by Lisa Schauer

1960 was quite a year for Jerry West, the basketball legend from West Virginia, who passed away on June 12 in Los Angeles.

In that one remarkable year, West graduated from WVU, after leading them to a NCAA title game, won an Olympic gold medal, and was drafted into the NBA.

One Morgan County native — the late Ruth (Yost) Julien  — was on a trip to Rome to see the Olympics in 1960 with a group of teachers and crossed paths with West, according to her nephew, Andy Swaim of Berkeley Springs.

Basketball legend Jerry West was photographed in 1969 for Sport magazine. Berkeley Springs resident Andy Swaim came across the iconic photo while going through some old family photos.

Yost, who attended Berkeley Springs High School, was one of the first two women from Morgan County to graduate from WVU — along with Mary Banks Nichols –around 1955, said Swaim.

The teachers had tickets to a track and field event, but they switched them to an indoor event at the last minute due to the extreme heat in Rome.

It was then that Julien got to watch West play basketball and win his Olympic gold medal on the men’s basketball team.

Before his aunt’s death, Swaim purchased her 1907 farmhouse on New Hope. While sorting through her belongings, he came across a famous photo of Jerry West.

Photographer Wen Roberts captured the iconic image in 1969 for Sport magazine. The image was later used as the inspiration for the design of the blue and red NBA logo.

In a 2017 interview with ESPN, West acknowledged it was he in the NBA logo, saying he found out after the fact, and didn’t like to do anything to garner attention to himself, so he would just as soon they change it.

Speaking from his farmhouse in Morgan County, Swaim said he has no idea how his aunt came to acquire the photo, but he wanted to share it, and the story of its local connection, with The Morgan Messenger.