Jim was born in Ashland, Ohio, son of Richard and Cecila Kopp. Jim attended Arthur Street School and graduated from Ashland High School, where he was the recipient of the first “Athlete of the Year” award in 1959.
Jim grew up on the playgrounds of Ashland and was active in the YMCA where Stu Martin taught the values of competition, fair play, leadership, and sportsmanship. In 1952 and 1953, Jim was a member of the YMCA Whiz Kids basketball team, under the coaching of Sam Clark. Jim was always “under sized” for sports that he played and was especially grateful for the coaching of Bud Plank, George Valentine, and Tony Marley. Their encouragement and support helped Jim realize that he could compete with bigger, stronger, and faster athletes through hustle and quickness.
A three-sport athlete, Jim earned seven varsity letters during his career at Ashland High School. During his junior year, Jim broke his right wrist in the second football game of the year but continued to play until the break was discovered during preparations for the upcoming basketball season. With a cast of the right wrist, Jim played the season, scoring 10 points in the final three minutes in the sectional tournament finals versus Mansfield.
In Jim’s senior year, he was voted the most valuable defensive player on the football team, the most valuable player on the basketball team, and was the leading hitter on the baseball team. In 1959, Jim was named to the Western Ohio All-star baseball team and was an alternate to the East/West All-Star Classic at Jet Stadium in Columbus.
Jim attended Baldwin-Wallace College, receiving five varsity letters, four in baseball, and one in basketball. In his Senior year, Jim led the baseball team in hitting and fielding, and was named to the first team Ohio Conference as first baseman. Coach, Lars Wagner, proclaimed Jim as the finest fielding first basemen in B-W history. During the summers, and after graduation from B-Win 1964, Jim played for the Faultless fast pitch softball team with other Hall of Famers, Jack Purtell, Rip Riley, Gaylord Meininger, Lorne Green and Ron Bowie.
In August 1964, Jim entered the U.S. Army and received the commission of 2nd Lieutenant, Infantry. Landing in Vietnam in June 1966, Jim joined up with the 25th Infantry Division. Serving one year, Jim returned from Vietnam after being awarded the Combat Infantry Badge, Vietnam Campaign Medal, two Bronze Stars with “V” Device, and the National Defense Service Medal.
Jim has remained active in sports through his ownership of Sports Surfaces International, Inc. They manufacture surfaces for tennis courts, basketball courts, running tracks, and football/soccer fields. Jim’s companies, have applied the surface to two Davis Cup Ties, the Wightman Cup, ATP Tour Events, and numerous NCAA Tournaments at the University of Georgia, along with football/soccer fields in the Southeast.
Jim resides in Marietta, George, and has been married to his wife, Joan, for thirty-seven years. They have one son, Peter, a daughter, Molly, and three beautiful grandchildren.
Nominator: Molly Hay