Birthdate: November 12, 1912
Birthplace: Pittsburgh, PA
High School: Newton Falls (Ohio) High School (1931)
College: Western Reserve (1931-1935)
Year Inducted: 2020
Harry Pontius simply was ahead of his time. At a hulking 6 feet, 4 inches and weighing 230 pounds, the northeast Ohio product was a standout in basketball, football and track both in high school and at Western Reserve. He received All-Ohio honors in both football and basketball while at Newton Falls High School and twice was named all-conference in those sports at Western. He even found time to mix in with the swimming and wrestling teams.
On the hardwood, Pontius was a force who used his athleticism and guile to overwhelm his opponents. Twice he was named honorable mention All-American.
Adept at speaking multiple languages, Pontius also was quite active on campus with involvement in several student organizations and serving as class president his junior year. In addition, he was president of student council and his fraternity as well as vice president of the local YMCA. Following college, Pontius played professional basketball with the Goodyear Wingfoots in 1935-36 under Coach Smiley Weltner and also toiled on the football field for the Pittsburgh Pirates (now Steelers) under an alias name so as not to jeopardize his Wingfoots basketball contract.
From 1935 to 1940, Mr. Pontius worked in management for Goodyear, assisting in the development of tires for large off-road construction vehicles, which greatly assisted the design and performance of many World War II combat vehicles. During World War II and after, he was a member in administration of Pres. Roosevelt and Pres. Truman assisting in the creation and management of six major programs and agencies, including the War Production Board, the Manhattan Project, the Marshall Plan and the creation of the Small Business Administration. Mr. Pontius greatly contributed to the relocation of German rocket scientists, including Dr. Werner Von Braun, to the United States after the war.
In 1981, Pontius was inducted into the case Western Reserve University Athletic Hall of Fame. He’s still considered one of that school’s best all-around athletes. He also is a member of the Trumbull County Sports Hall of Fame. Pontius enters the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame posthumously. He passed away on March 5, 2009 at the age of 96.