It must be hard for a man like Jon MacDonald to come up with a favorite memory or even portion of his life to look back on, simply because he has so many of them.
The Millinocket native, three-sport high school star, and University of Maryland men’s basketball co-captain has another honor coming to him as a member of the Maine Sports Hall of Fame’s induction class of 2009.
“I was excited when I found out. It’s really special,” said the 62-year-old MacDonald, now retired and living in his hometown. “I’m at the age now where I understand better and appreciate the significance of things like this, and it truly is a special thing.”
That’s saying something, given MacDonald’s already special background.
He was a member of Stearns’ 1963 New England championship basketball team that was inducted into the New England Basketball Hall of Fame, which he also entered as an individual in 2002.
MacDonald had already accomplished much before he’d even graduated high school as a four-year starter, 1,223-point scorer, Parade Magazine High School All-American and member of two state and one New England championship team in basketball. He was also a four-year starter in baseball and a two-time All-Eastern Maine quarterback who helped Stearns win a state title in football.
He played college basketball on a full scholarship for the University of Maryland before embarking on a 20-year career in the U.S. Secret Service and 14 more years as a high school social studies teacher before retiring five years ago.
Both as a participant and a spectator, MacDonald was fortunate to be a first-hand witness of many historical events. He was part of presidential protection and security details for Presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and George H. Bush. He also was assigned to protect Shirley Chisholm, the first black female member of Con-gress and 13-year member of the U.S. House of Representatives and first black female to run for president, and Sen. Edward Kennedy during their respective presidential campaigns (1972 and 1980).
He also worked with the Secret Service’s investigative teams to track down counterfeiters and other monetary thieves and con artists in Tennessee, Pennsylvania and Maine.
MacDonald returned to Maine to teach at the high school level at Cony High School in Augusta for either years and at Stearns for six.
Social studies and government were appropriate courses for MacDonald to teach because even when he wasn’t working or playing ball, he managed to witness prime historic events.
“One of the best things was one semester in Maryland, they played the 1966 NCAA championship in College Park and it was Adolph Rupp’s Kentucky team against Texas Western and an all-black lineup,” he said. “Of course. I wasn’t really aware of the significance of that game at the time.”
The game, won by upstart Texas Western 72-65, marked the first time an all-black lineup played for the NCAA basketball title.
MacDonald experienced the civil rights movement of the 1960’s firsthand as he was a teammate of Billy Jones, the first black player in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
“In 1965, I was a freshman and Billy joined our team,” he said. “We also later had another black player, [Julius Pete] Johnson.”
MacDonald didn’t even need a second to think about the best player he ever saw.
“Tiny Archibald is the best player I ever saw or played against,” he said. “We went down to the Sun Bowl in El Paso and I got in the game and played against him. He just went by in the blink of an eye.”
Even with his impressive background, MacDonald is humbled by his Maine Sports Hall of Fame induction.
“It’s a great group of people,” MacDonald said about the nine-member class of 2009. “I’m very excited and proud to be a part of this group.”
The other inductees are longtime Bangor broadcaster George Hale, University of Maine and Lawrence High School start Cindy Blodgett, former UMaine baseball coach and major league scout Jack Butterfield, former Bangor High baseball coach Bob Kelley, former Ellsworth High three-sport star Richard “Dick” Scott, former Brewer and John Bapst football and baseball coach Ken Perrone, former Georges Valley of Thomaston boys soccer coach Charles “Sam” Pendleton, and Bangor High and UMaine football star and Fitzpatrick Trophy winner Pete McCarty.
The MSHF dinner and ceremonies start at 12:30 Sunday at the Bangor Motor Inn.