FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Behind the spacious gymnasium of North Side’s By Hey Arena is a narrow hallway, lined by relics of the school’s boys basketball program.

Lit by the overhead lights, the tiled walls have a hint of yellow, matching the black-and-white team pictures of a dominant era of North Side basketball. Towards the back of the hallway are the smiling, celebratory faces that led the basketball program in the early 1950s.

Among those faces is the late Henry Chapman, one of the top high school basketball players during a golden era of Hoosier Hysteria.

When reflecting on the 1950s, avid fans may first think of NBA Hall of Famers Oscar Robertson, Dick Barnett or even Milan’s miraculous state title run in 1954. However, what many don’t know is that Chapman more than held his own when going toe-to-toe against those legendary names.

During his time at North Side, Chapman broke the Allen County scoring record, while also breaking barriers for the Black community.

Born in 1936 in Marion, Alabama, Chapman moved to Fort Wayne at a young age and attended what used to be Harmar Grade School. Former teammates remember Chapman as friendly, a guy that made no enemies.

Henry Chapman attended Harmar Grade School before enrolling at North Side High School.

“Henry was laid back a little bit,” said Don Tepin, a North Side grad who played with Chapman. “Slow, easy going. Everybody liked him. I don’t think he had a bad friend or anything that I can remember.”

That friendly personality was nonexistent on the basketball court. Ask any of Chapman’s teammates what he was like as a player, and they all utter the same word: competitor.

“He loved competition, he was a good teammate, he was unselfish as a player which made our team super well because of the unselfishness,” said George Taylor, another former teammate of Chapman.

Chapman began his high school career at North Side in 1950, competing as a multi-sport athlete in cross country, basketball and track. After playing on the freshman basketball team his first year, Chapman earned a varsity spot in his sophomore season.

Alongside fellow teammate Charlie Lyons, Chapman broke the color barrier during a tenuous time of the Civil Rights movement. Chapman and Lyons were the first Black athletes to play varsity basketball for North Side.

Chapman (41) and Lyons (40) were the first Black student-athletes to play varsity basketball for North Side.

“He broke some barriers and stereotypes,” said Gary Brooks, a cousin of Chapman. “He was smart, he was good in school and athletic at the same time, and he handled himself very well.”

Former teammates add that they embraced Chapman and Lyons as brothers.

“It didn’t affect our relationship at all,” Taylor said. “In fact, it mad have brought us closer together.”

In his three seasons of varsity basketball, Chapman earned a reputation as one of the best players in Fort Wayne and the Hoosier state. In a time when a 3-point line did not exist in basketball, Chapman routinely scored on opposing teams with his jump shot. Sportswriters at the time nicknamed Chapman, “Hustlin’ Henry” or “Hurrin’ Henry” for his frenetic style of play.

“Everybody else could play good basketball and had good sharpshooters, but Henry was the guy that led the charge,” said Bill Townsend, another former teammate of Chapman.

Other teammates were impressed with Chapman’s ability to get teammates involved on offense.

“He was unselfish, playing ball just like he was a regular person, and we all just enjoyed each other on and off the court,” Tepin said.

Jim Hinga served as head coach during Chapman’s high school career

Led by legendary basketball coach Jim Hinga, who went on to be inducted in the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame, North Side enjoyed an era of dominance in Fort Wayne, winning three consecutive City Championships.

North Side also enjoyed deep postseason runs in the state’s non-class tournament. In 1954, Chapman’s junior season, North Side advanced to the state semifinals before falling to eventual state runner-up Muncie Central. The following year, Chapman’s senior season, North Side earned a trip the state finals before falling to eventual NBA Hall of Famer Dick Barnett in the morning game against Gary Roosevelt.

By the time Chapman graduated in 1955, North Side earned a pair of sectional titles, regional titles and a semi-state championship. Individually, Chapman was a unanimous selection for the All-City team in his three varsity seasons.

Accolades poured in for Chapman long after wrapping up his basketball career. Sixty years after graduating from his alma mater, Chapman was part of the inaugural North Side Athletics Hall of Fame class in 2015.

While attending the induction ceremony, Brooks learned that several of his cousin’s games weren’t documented, leaving an incomplete picture of what Chapman accomplished during his career at North Side.

Over the next three years, Brooks and his wife sought out to document Chapman’s high school basketball career. The couple poured through any available footage and reached out to several schools that competed against North Side from 1952 – 1955.

The final stats further demonstrated how dominant of a player Chapman was at North Side. Chapman became the first Allen County player to score 1,000 career points, finishing with 1,124.

“Everybody should know that he put North Side on the map,” Brooks said. “He and Charlie Lyons.”

Chapman passed away in November at the age of 86. However, his legacy will be immortalized alongside the best to play basketball in the Hoosier state.

Next spring, the late Chapman will be inducted in the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame. Joining Chapman in the next hall of fame class are former Bishop Luers boys basketball coach James Blackmon Sr. and Huntington High School graduate Richard Butt.

Chapman’s former teammates are proud that Chapman is receiving this recognition, joining Hinga, Robert Cowan, David Riley and Dick Hickox as the Hall of Fame inductees from North Side.

“He’s very deserving for one thing, and it’s very great that he’s from North Side High School,” Townsend said.

“I felt very fortunate that I was a teammate and a friend of his. I’ve known a lot of great athletes in my time, and I’ve been very fortunate, and I’ve been very blessed,” said Dean Baughman, another former teammate of Chapman.

To say that Chapman’s surviving relatives would be proud is an understatement.

“It puts a little pep in my step, makes me put my shoulders up a little bit, stick my chest out to say, ‘that’s my uncle Henry!’ said Deontrai Matthews, a great nephew of Chapman. “When I was younger everyone said I looked like him, so that just made me better.”

“I wish I could be the one to tell him face-to-face, but I’m just glad that it happened,” Brooks said. “And I’m sure he’d be up there knowing and approving.”

Chapman will be inducted into the 18-person men’s basketball Hall of Fame class on Wednesday, March 22, 2023 in New Castle.