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September 30, 2010

ULM’s Tarbutton digital collection enhanced

Officials at the University of Louisiana at Monroe Library Special Collections received a personal scrapbook on Friday, Sept. 24, brimming with details about the history-making career of Coach Edna “Tiny” Tarbutton, who helped place the tiny northeastern Louisiana town of Baskin on the women’s basketball map after an incredible 218-game winning streak that set records yet to be broken.

William J. Kramberg, Tarbutton’s nephew and also a ULM alum, donated the scrapbook along with other personal items belonging to his aunt, including Tarbutton’s 2005 Women's Basketball Hall of Fame Trophy, for research purposes. Tarbutton attended ULM (formerly Northeast Louisiana University) for two years before completing her degree at then-Normal College in Natchitoches. She ended her coaching career in 1977 with a record of 654-263-2. The team’s 218 consecutive victories were between 1947 and 1953, and eight consecutive state championships were achieved between 1948 and 1955.

Tarbutton died in 2009 in West Monroe at the age of 87, following her retirement at the end of a 33-year coaching career that was spent entirely at Baskin High School.

“These items representing Coach Tarbutton’s victories greatly enhance our research capacity and adds to the three collections now in the digital library,” said Cynthia Robertson, ULM’s special collections coordinator. “This donation is not only of local and regional interest, but also national in scope.”

Robertson said for the avid researcher the items complement the current Tarbutton collection at the library, and she thanked Kramberg for traveling from Houston to make the contribution that will help tell an important story in the history of women’s basketball in Louisiana. ULM’s Special Collection archives is the only such research repository in northeast Louisiana and its growing digital collection has been supported by grant funding.

ULM Coach Mona Martin shared with a packed room, which included former players coached by Tarbutton, about the evolving history of women’s athletics, especially women’s basketball, since Tarbutton first took her team to championship levels in the late 1940s and 1950s.

“We’ve come a long way,” said Martin. “The game has changed tremendously from conditioning, strength training, the size of the ball, the three-point line and most importantly, the ability to get a great education and play professionally ... The history of the sport is filled with women who have opened the door for today’s great athletes. Coach Tarbutton was a big part of that.”

Martin introduced Frances Lyles, a former Tarbutton player who eventually went on to a coaching career of her own, and who was visibly moved by Friday’s ceremony honoring the memory of her mentor as she described being a sharecropper’s daughter who attended college through Tarbutton’s support.

“She was really like our mother,” said Lyles, as several other women in the audience nodded in agreement. “She was content to walk in our shadows – little did she know she was the wind beneath our wings.”

Lyles read the words of a Baskin English teacher at the time the team was on their winning streak, describing in precise detail the hushed silence and respect the young women commanded from the time they entered the high school gym for a game, wearing their washed and polished white canvass Converse shoes, starched uniforms and socks that were either gold-topped, if the game was at home, or purple-topped, if the game was away.

“We were to set a good example for our schools, as well as for ourselves,” said Lyles. “She would accept nothing less ... We were taught ‘if you can dream it, you can achieve it.’”

ULM Interim President Stephen Richters kicked off the ceremony by welcoming the many out-of-town visitors and thanking Robertson and Dean of the Library Don Smith for their efforts in making the collection so unique.

“You know Coach Tarbutton touched so many lives,” he said. “I was blown away by her achievements. At any level of athletics, to be that consistent, deserves recognition.”

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