Sports were definitely a major part of the life of Bill Present whether it was as a player or a supporter. For parts of eight decades, Present was a fixture in the area scene at Jamestown High School and Chautauqua County athletic events.
Present was born in Jamestown on April 20, 1923, and was a 1941 JHS graduate where he played his favorite sport, basketball. The 6-foot-2, 185-pound Present played on several excellent teams for the Red Raiders and one compiled an impressive 13-5 Bi-County League record under late coach Rolland Taft in his senior year.
Present was known as Jamestown's fast-break star while Rhoe Benson was the top scorer. He kept in touch with his former teammates with reunions many times over the years and the last time it was held in Bemus Point where they had a shoot-a-round.
After graduation from high school, Present went to Allegheny College where he again excelled in basketball and in the classroom. Present held an Allegheny record for several years of making the most consecutive free throws. That record was only broken within the last 25 years. He was a key member of the 1942-1943 Allegheny team that went 10-3 and on the night before he was to leave for the Army and World War II, he hit the winning shot at the buzzer to defeat Carnegie Tech, 49-47.
While in the service, Present first served with the medical unit from Duke University and later as a driver on the Red Ball Express where he drove vehicles filled with gasoline supplies and other dangerous explosives to the front lines in Europe. For a brief time, Present and his brother, Jess, who became well-known as a New York State senator, were on the same base in Europe. Later, he ran several political campaigns for his brother. While in the service, Present continued to play and follow sports whenever it was possible. Later, he attended many annual reunions of his troop at Duke University with the group being honored by the school for its outstanding service during World War II.
After returning home, Present continued to play basketball in several leagues at the Jamestown YMCA and was a regular at Vikings games. At a fund-raising event within the last 20 years, a foul shooting event was held at the YMCA and Present showed he was still a remarkable foul shooter as he made almost all of his 20 attempts in beating several of the area's top players.
Present played golf on a regular basis even after suffering quadruple bypass and two valve replacements in 1996. Years later, he participated in the YMCA cardiac rehabilitation program. He attended most of the JHS home and away games for several years in addition to supporting such schools as Southwestern, Falconer, Frewsburg and Maple Grove. Present was also a supporter of Jamestown Community College and was there with the men's basketball team when it played in the NJCAA Tournament at Hutchinson, Kansas.
Additionally, he was a supporter of the Buffalo Bills by chartering buses to the games for the Kharram Grotto Club. He also went to Super Bowls in Los Angeles and Atlanta. Present was involved in many organizations such as the YMCA, the Chamber of Commerce, the Kharram Grotto Club, the American Legion, a past master of Mount Moriah Lodge 145, Jamestown Consistory, Jamestown Shrine Club, Lakewood Rod & Gun Club, Jamestown Coin Club and the American Legion.
He also was a board member of the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame for several years and served as co-historian. Present was very happy that the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame was able to relocate in downtown Jamestown in 2002 where he saw the location as one where more people could take advantage of seeing the area's sports history on display. The business that Present was involved with was Present's Jewelry, which was located in downtown Jamestown for more than 50 years. Once Present returned from World War ll, he took over the family business from his father, Abe, who started it in 1909.
With his passsing the area lost one of its most loyal supporters, who now will get his due recognition in the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame for which he served so faithfully for many years.
Bill Present died in 2002. He was inducted into the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame in 2006.
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