Born in Centralia, Illinois on April 23, 1936, Bobby Joe Mason grew up to become an outstanding and gifted athlete, excelling in basketball during his years at Centralia High School and Bradley University.
While at Centralia High School Bobby Joe was Prep All-State Basketball in 1954 (2nd team Champaign News Gazette) and 1955 (1st team Champaign News Gazette), All-State football in 1954, and State pole-vault champ in 1954 ( 12’4”). He was the only player to be named to the first team all- tournament team for four years at the prestigious Centralia Holiday Tournament, and his #14 jersey is retired at CHS.
Mason went on to play basketball at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois. He was All-American and helped the Braves to NIT Championships in 1957 and 1960. In 2002, he was one of eight players named to the All-Decade Team for the 1950’s at Bradley, and he was named to the 15-member Team of the Century. (See Bradley's Best)
He went on to play professional basketball with the internationally known Harlem Globetrotters ffrom 1962 through 1974, serving as captain of the comical team, and playing along side such greats as Meadowlark Lemon and Wilt Chamberlain.
After his retirement from the Harlem Globetrotters in 1974, Bobby Joe became an avid golfer, putting his time and energy into this sport just as he had into basketball. He lived in Ohio for awhile, but eventually returned to Springfield, Illinois where he served as director of sports activities for the city park department. According to his daughter, he also spent a great deal of time singing karaoke.
Mason has been inducted into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame as a charter member (player category), the Centralia Sports Hall of Fame, and the Greater Peoria Sports Hall of Fame. He has also earned the Globetrotters' Legend Award and the Centralia High School Distinguished Alumni Award. He was also a part of the "Harlem Globetrotter Popcorn Machine" TV series.
He was a great motivator of young people and was always interested in what they were doing, where they were going, and how they planned to get there. He was an ambassador for young people, mentoring to many in his native Centralia as well as the Springfield area.
In life, Bobby Joe Mason was loved by the citizens of Centralia, Bradley University, The Harlem Globetrotters and their fans, the youth of Springfield, and Saturday morning cartoon fans throughout the country. He died on July 4, 2006 as a result of complications from a stroke. (also see LA Times article)
The Bobby Joe Mason Memorial Foundation, a not-for-profit organization, was created in 2009 as a means of assisting young people in Centralia, Illinois, Bobby Joe's hometown. An annual memorial golf tournament was established as a major activity of the committee.
In 2010, the Foundation established the website www.bobbyjoemason.com as a permanent online memorial to the great Bobby Joe.
In the summer of 2011, the City of Centralia honored Bobby Joe by designating several blocks of Howard Street as Bobby Joe Mason Way.
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