H. V. Porter
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H. V. Porter (October 2, 1891-October 27, 1975), born Henry Van Arsdale Porter, was an athletic administrator, inventor, and coach. He served at the top of his profession for almost 30 years and was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1960. In spite of all his practical contributions, his most enduring legacy to the world of sport was the result of a simple essay he wrote in 1939 entitled “March Madness.”
Porter was born in Spring Lake Township in Tazewell County, Illinois and grew up on a farm near Washington, Illinois. After attending the Illinois State Normal University, he taught at high schools in Mount Zion, Keithsburg, and Delavan. From 1919 to 1928 he served as principal of Athens High School, where he also achieved success as a basketball coach, his team finishing second in the state in 1924.
In 1928, Porter was hired as assistant manager of the Illinois High School Association, where his career blossomed. Among his first orders of business were to organize a department to license and train officials in football, basketball, and baseball, and to serve as editor of a new monthly magazine, the Illinois High School Athlete. He also set about developing new state tournament series in tennis, golf, swimming, and wrestling.
The executive officer of the Illinois High School Association, Charles W. Whitten, was also the general manager of the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), and he actively involved his assistant in national matters. Within a short time, Porter was a member of several influential committees. As a member of the National Basketball Committee, Porter helped develop the fan-shaped backboard that was used at the high school level from the 1930s through the 1990s and the molded basketball that, free of the laces that made dribbling difficult, revolutionized the game. Porter also spearheaded the effort to write basketball and football rule books specifically for high school competition.
As editor of the IHSA's magazine Porter showed a particular flair for prose and verse. Nearly every edition contained a new Porter composition. In 1939, near the end of his tenure at the Association, he penned an affectionate essay about fans of the state's high school basketball tournament, which during the 1930s had grown into a statewide cultural icon. "When the March madness is on him," Porter wrote, "midnight jaunts of a hundred miles on successive nights make him even more alert the next day."
Soon afterward Porter left the IHSA to become the executive secretary of the National Federation of State High School Associations, but in 1942 he had time to make one last literary contribution to the IHSA's magazine. That piece, a poem entitled "Basketball Ides of March," ends with the final stanza:
With war nerves tense, the final defense
Is the courage, strength and will
In a million lives where freedom thrives
And liberty lingers still.
Now eagles fly and heroes die
Beneath some foreign arch
Let their sons tread where hate is dead
In a happy Madness of March.
- Porter, H. V. H. V.'s Athletic Anthology: Highlights of Gridiron, Track, and Court in Verse and Prose (n.p.: 1939).
- Whitten, Charles W. Interscholastics: A Discussion of Interscholastic Contests (Chicago, 1950).