LIMA — Jim Baugh had been a second baseman and an outfielder, a halfback and a point guard. In 1960, the year he graduated from Lima Senior High School, The Lima News judged the three-sport star one of the finest athletes the school had ever produced.
In 1973, he added another title.
“James E. Baugh, former Lima Senior star athlete, knows what it’s like to be young, talented, poor and black,” The Lima News wrote May 20, 1973. “But when he graduated in 1960, he was determined to be more than just another ex-high school star. Now, 13 years later, Jim Baugh, the black kid who led the fortunes of Spartan basketball, baseball and football teams has become Dr. James Baugh. He was awarded a Doctor of Philosophy degree from the University of Wisconsin Saturday.”
Baugh would go on from there, compiling a lengthy list of achievements in life to rival his athletic feats. He would hold academic and administrative positions with the University of Wisconsin, serve as assistant secretary for the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development and as policy consultant for the National Commission in Severely Distressed Public Housing.
Before any of that, however, Baugh, who was born Dec. 17, 1941, in Florence, Alabama, was finding his footing on athletic fields and classrooms in Lima.
Although he was born in Alabama, Baugh’s family moved to Lima about 1950 and it wasn’t long before his athletic ability was noticed. On Dec. 31, 1953, the News, in a story wrapping up the year in youth sports, noted that the “1953 season in the American Legion sandlot baseball program will be remembered as ‘no hit’ year.” Eleven-year-old Jim Baugh, the newspaper noted, had helped make it so.
By the fall of 1956, Baugh had moved on to South Junior High, starring at quarterback on the school’s football team. “South Junior High School’s freshman football team yesterday climaxed its second consecutive undefeated and untied season by defeating rival Central frosh 19-0 at the Stadium,” the News noted on Nov. 4, 1956.
Nineteen fifty-seven saw Baugh excelling in a different sport but with almost predictable results. A little less than four months after crushing Central in football to complete an undefeated season, Baugh and the South basketball team thumped their city rivals in late February to finish with an unblemished record.
Rivals soon became teammates and Baugh joined a throng of former South Tigers and Central Dragons in the heat of late summer to pursue a common dream. “Eighty players are trying to gain varsity berths on the Lima Senior High football team, which is holding twice daily workouts at the Horace Mann field,” the News reported on Aug. 23, 1957.
Baugh would play both defense and offense for a Spartan team that competed in the Greater Ohio League against teams from Middletown, Hamilton, Springfield and Portsmouth, and regularly drew crowds of 5,000 or more to Lima Stadium for their games. In October 1959, some 500 fans took a special train from Lima to Toledo for a game against non-league rival Libbey High School.
As he had at South, Baugh also played basketball and baseball at Lima Senior. Baugh, a 6-0 guard on the basketball team, was moved up from junior varsity to varsity in January 1958, halfway through his sophomore year and just in time for a mid-February game against a Middletown team led by future NBA star Jerry Lucas. The Middies hadn’t lost for a long time, and wouldn’t lose that night against Lima Senior, but Baugh showed he belonged, scoring 10 points.
When the 1958-‘59 basketball season arrived, Baugh was the acknowledged floor leader of the Spartans and often was honored as player of the week by the News. On one such occasion, on Jan. 26, 1960, the News declared that “Baugh dazzled Hamilton Taft and Portsmouth with his speed, ball-handling, passing and scoring.”
At the end of his senior year, Baugh was chosen second team All-Ohio in Class AA by United Press International and “ruled as Lima’s basketball standout of 1960,” according to the Jan. 1, 1961, edition of the News. “The Lima Senior star sparked his team into the district tournament and repeated as an All-Greater Ohio League performer.”
Baugh also starred in baseball during his years at Lima Senior, playing the outfield and second base on a Spartans’ baseball team which finished second in the state in 1960. On May 18, 1960, News sports columnist Bud Worsham opined that “Jim Baugh may be Lima’s best pro baseball prospect in a number of years. The Spartans’ outfielder would like very much to become a professional ballplayer, and he’s received some encouragement from major league scouts.”
But, Worsham wrote, should Baugh decide to attend college “he’ll probably play basketball — as do most baseball players to stay in shape during the winter months.” Worsham added that “College football is out for Baugh, although he could hold his own in this sport.”
“Baugh held and still holds the record of receiving nine varsity letters in three sports,” the News wrote when Baugh died. “In 1987, he was one of the first 12 members to be inducted in Lima Senior’s Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame.”
Baugh received a scholarship from Division I Western Michigan in Kalamazoo, Michigan, to play basketball, although he continued to play baseball in Lima’s recreational league during the summer. He was graduated in 1964 from Western Michigan with a degree in political science and took a job teaching middle school in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
In the late 1960s, Baugh moved to Madison, Wisconsin, to head the Five-Year Program at the University of Wisconsin. While at the university, he earned his master’s in 1971 and Ph.D in 1973. In 1974, he was named assistant vice-chancellor-academic affairs/assistant professor at University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh. He would serve in a number of posts at the university before moving on to the HUD position during the administration of President Ronald Reagan.
Baugh also served on a lengthy list of commissions and boards in Madison. In 1981, he received the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Award from the city of Madison. In 2007, he received the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Lifetime Achievement Award and was inducted into the Then and Now Hall of Fame.
Baugh died on April 20, 2017, in Reston, Virginia.
Reach Greg Hoersten at firstname.lastname@example.org.