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Profiles In Badassery: James Carter

My favorite burger at Triple XXX is the Duane Purvis. The combination of burger and peanut butter provides a unique flavor that is certainly an acquired taste, but I am a big fan of it. Purvis himself was an All-American halfback and fullback in 1933 and 1934 that rushed for 1,804 yards and was the leading rusher at Purdue until Leroy Keyes broke his record.

What people don't realize is that he had a backfield teammate on a 1932 Purdue team that went undefeated at 7-0-1 and won the Big Ten, as well as the Parke-Davis National Championship (the only football national title we can claim). James Carter was the second half of the "touchdown twins" on those legendary Purdue teams, and he passed away Wednesday at age 100.

Carter's background

Obviously, a man sees a lot in his life if he lives 100 years (although in Carter's case he still never saw a Cubs World Series championship and just missed out on a Purdue Big Ten baseball title). Carter was certainly no exception, a he saw two World Wars, a fellow alum walk on the moon, and other noteworthy feats. Carter was born on November 12, 1911 in Indianapolis and grew up on the west side. He attended George Washington High School (the future high school of George McGinnis), where was a stellar athlete. He was the pole vault state champion in 1930, breaking the state record with a vault of 12 feet, 4.75 inches. He was the first athlete at his high school to win an individual state championship.

Time at Purdue

He chose to go to Purdue, where he excelled in the backfield with Purvis. Even though he hasn't played a down in almost 80 years, his career average of 5.37 yards per carry still ranks sixth on the all-time rushing list. His teams lost just four games while he was on the team from 1932-34. The 1932 team repeated as the Big Ten champion at 7-0-1, only tying Northwestern 7-7. In 1933 a 14-6 loss to Iowa prevented Purdue from winning yet again, as Purdue was 6-1-1 with a tie against Minnesota. In 1934 Purdue was 5-3, losing games to Rice and Notre Dame before winning five straight. A 17-6 loss to Indiana prevented a 4-0 Big Ten record.

Carter wore jersey No. 99, which is rare for a running back. Still, he was dominant. He rushed for 1,547 yards in tandem with Purvis, which is still good for 19th on the all-time Purdue list. This came in only 288 attempts. His yards per carry average trails only Purvis, Jaycen Taylor, Mike Alstott, Jeff Hill, and Leroy Keyes.

Carter holds the distinction of returning the first kickoff for a touchdown in Purdue history, taking one 90 yards for a score against Carnegie Tech on November 4th, 1933. That was instrumental in a 17-7 win that day. Counting the one that Raheem Mostert took to the house in the Little Caesar's Bowl, Purdue has just 21 kickoffs ever returned for a touchdown. Five belong to Stan Brown, three to Dorien Bryant, and two to Otis Armstrong.

After Purdue

Carter was selected to play in the 1935 Chicago Callege All-Star game with Purvis, but he would make a bigger career mark as a basketball coach. He was hired as an assistant football coach at the University of Dayton, but despite having no basketball experience whatsoever, he eventually became head basketball coach in 1939. He coached the Flyers from 1939 until 1947, and improved the Flyer's profile by scheduling more prominent east coast schools. He only went 41-75 during his tenure, but he also did something unthinkable at the time in his last season: he started a black player.

In addition to coaching, his obituary lists a link with fellow Boilermaker Harry K. Dalighan:

He was the head basketball coach at the University of Dayton until WWII broke out. In 1943, he was recruited by Dupont Munitions as the recreation director for a project that produced components of the atomic bomb in Hanford, Washington, known as the Manhatten Project, Jim would later refer to this as one of the most interesting jobs he ever had. After the war, he returned to football as the head coach at Terre Haute Wiley High School. Finally, in 1951 he took a teaching and head football coach at Anderson High School where he retired from coaching 15 years later, and then as a history teacher in 1977.

That's right. This guy was a football All-American, coached a college basketball team with no experience for eight years, taught young men and women for several years, broke ground for Civil rights, and he WORKED ON THE ATOMIC BOMB IN HIS SPARE TIME!!!!!!!!!!


Carter lived a fairly quiet life after retiring form teaching in 1977. He was married to his wife, Florence, for 56 years until her death in 1994. He and Florence had three children five grandchildren, and seven great grandchildren. He was recently celebrated as the oldest living Boilermaker, and was one of the last people alive that walked the campus of Purdue with John Wooden.

Tomorrow is his funeral in Anderson, and it is appropriate that Purdue sports can clinch a championship on the day he is laid to rest because he was the ultimate Purdue champion. Few badasses have the resume of All-American, teacher, two-sport coach, and atomic scientist, but James Carter was clearly a unique badass.