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Ted Wade, second row far right, and the rest of Bellarmine College's first basketball team

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Ted Wade: Pioneer of sport and science

Fall 2021

By Jonathan Saxon 

Louisville Courier-Journal 

Louisville is known for having its legends casually walk the streets, but what if someone told you Bellarmine's first Black basketball player walks beaches in Thailand? 

Ex-pat Theodore "Ted" Wade, 89, is a man of many talents who describes himself as a "retired gentleman of leisure" after a multi-decade career in the computer sciences field. 

"I've written five science fiction novels," Wade said in a Fourth of July video chat over Facebook. "I've been accused of thinking like (a) computer. I was on the leading edge of computer technology until my retirement in New York City. I worked for the Department of Defense for about 12 years" —1955-1962, according to his Facebook page. 

"He was certainly right there in the beginning," added Michael Wade, 66, Ted's oldest son, who is also retired and pursuing a degree in astrophysics at the University of Louisville. "Apparently, it's genetic because that's what I did my entire career." 

"He's never, ever accepted any limitations. We can all learn from that." -- Men's Coach Scott Davenport

Wade's been living in Thailand since 2015, following the passing of his second wife, Linda. He said living in the States without her was too much to bear, given the life and times they had carved out for themselves during their 56 years of marriage.  

"I couldn't walk the streets without having a memory," said Wade, as he recalled how he and Linda traveled everywhere together and created so many memories. "Walked here: We were here. She was a gambler, high roller. We went to all of the casinos, as far away as Las Vegas and as far east as Virginia. Every three months, we would go somewhere to a casino. After she died, I tried hard. But I can't do it. So I decided I just needed to get out of here. I went to Japan, and then to Thailand."  

'They protected me.' 

Before meeting Linda and traveling around the world, Wade was the first Black basketball player to play on a predominantly white college basketball team in Kentucky state history when he enrolled at Bellarmine University (then Bellarmine College) in 1950.  

"For me, it was a typical continuation of life," Wade said. "We all played basketball every day. I had a basketball court 50 yards from my house growing up. When Bellarmine opened, most were not athletically inclined or interested, but we had enough volunteers to form a team. I leaped at the opportunity. There was the problem of the new school not having a gymnasium. We had to borrow gym time from all of the Catholic schools around the community." 

While Wade says he doesn't recall anything on the court that was particularly impactful for him, he remembered that his teammates and coach never let the racist and prejudicial conditions of that era touch him. 

"Racism at the university? Zero," he said emphatically. "As a matter of fact, there was a lot of racism I didn't know about because they protected me so much. They wouldn't let that **** come in my face from the coach on down. They protected me 100 percent from the racism."  

He takes great pride in being part of the Pioneer Class at Bellarmine, the first group to attend classes when the college opened in 1950. While he was the only Black student in the class, he claims he never felt out of place at the school, in any context. He recalls an incident where an opposing coach suggested that he wasn't particularly welcome to play at his particular gym.  

"We played a college in Kentucky, and the coach said to our coach (Norb Raque), 'When you come down here, don't bring that n----- with you.' He said that to my coach. I wasn't aware of this at the time; I was told this after the fact. We went down there, and I played in the game." 

"Racism at the university? Zero. As a matter of fact, there was a lot of racism I didn't know about because they protected me so much."

Wade, who graduated from Central High School, also respected that Bellarmine kept its word regarding the promise made to students about the kind of education they would receive.  

"(The college) advertised, 'We do not teach you what to think, we teach you how to think," Wade said. "That impressed the hell out of me." 

Bellarmine men's basketball coach Scott Davenport hopes that people everywhere can learn from Wade's example. "He's never, ever accepted any limitations," Davenport said. "We can all learn from that." 

'Who is Admiral Miller?' 

While being the first Black student and basketball player in Bellarmine's history is noteworthy, so too is the story behind how Wade's outspoken candor and willingness to step up and speak out-landed him a job with the Olivetti Corporation of America. 

After receiving an honorable discharge from his service with the Air Force, Wade returned to Louisville to work for a now-defunct company called Louisville Medical Depot that was doing contract work for the Defense Department through the Defense Medical Supply Center. While working on one of the system's engineering projects, Wade noticed that the new programming instructions he received from an individual he identified as "Admiral Miller" could use some improvements.  

Wade expressed his concern with the new instructions and continued to implement his changes for two years before the disagreement with Admiral Miller came to a head. 

"They were sending down documentation for computer programming," he said. "And I'm reading through this stuff. I said, 'This is all [crap].' And I changed it for about two years. They interviewed me for about four days, and I really lost it near the end." 

Wade went back and forth with Admiral Miller for four days about why he kept adjusting programming instructions he was sent, even though Wade knew everything that one could know about programming languages at that point. On the fourth day, he let Admiral Miller know his true feelings. 

"I'm talking to this guy every day for about four or five days," he said. "And he kept saying, 'Admiral Miller says this….' And I said, 'Well, I'm looking at this [stuff]. I didn't do it, but I looked at it, and I did it better.' He said, 'Admiral Miller says this….' After about four days, I said, 'Who is Admiral Miller?' F--- Admiral Miller.'" 

The man leaned back and crossed his arms, Wade said, and said, "I'm Admiral Miller." 

"That day, I told my wife, 'I think I just lost my job,'" Wade said. 

But it turns out somebody respected the stand Wade took when it came to his work.  

"A week later [Olivetti] called down to Louisville," he said. "They said, 'We want you to come to New York City and do with [us] what you have done for the Department of Defense and Defense Medical Supply Center.' I said, 'I'll come, but you have to give me New York City money.'" 

Since then, Wade had used his Bellarmine education (he studied Business Administration while at Bellarmine before his college career was interrupted by service in the military during the Korean War; he also dabbled in Archaeology, Egyptology, History, and Cosmology) to come up with theories that he's discussed with scientists such as Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, the world-renowned astrophysicist, and director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.  

One theory is called the Repetitive Big Bang Theory, Wade said. "I have actually talked to Dr. Tyson about it. He laughed at me and said, 'You can't prove it.' How do you prove something that takes 14 million years to happen? So I laugh about it."  

Now, Wade spends his days collecting the latest movies and driving around his adoptive land in his Tuk-Tuk.  

"There are only two or three Pioneers left," he said. "I've been fortunate and healthy enough to survive." 

This story originally appeared in The Courier-Journal and is reprinted with permission. In the photo above, which was published in The Concord, Ted Wade is in the second row, far right.

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