Julius L. McCoy, 76, of Harrisburg, died peacefully at home surrounded by his family last Friday, the final chapter in a life filled with basketball heroics, civic involvement, and a commitment of being kind and respectful of others.
He was born Feb. 21, 1932, in Cheraw, SC, to the late Rufus and Estelle (Fleming) McCoy. He has been a resident of the Harrisburg area for decades, but the span in both space and time didn’t diminish his popularity in Farrell, where he grew up and attended school.
He led Coach Ed McCluskey and his Steelers to basketball prominence in 1952 when they won their first of seven big-school state championships. In his three years at Farrell, McCoy scored 1,471 points, including a phenomenol 726 as a senior when he led the team to a 29-1 record and a victory over Coatsville for the state crown.
His 1,471 points remain a record in Farrell’s fabled history. Gravelle Craig, who played at Farrell for four years in the 1980s, came closest to breaking the mark with 1,425. In McCoy’s three years as a player for McCluskey, he led the team to a record of 80 wins against a mere 6 losses.
After high school, McCoy had an illustrious college career at Michigan State University. He was the president of the Excalibur Honorary Society of Michigan State in 1955, and was Michigan State Athlete of the Year in 1956 for his excellence in football, basketball and track, where he held many records for decades.
After college, he was drafted for the St. Louis Hawks in the 1956 NBA draft, but ended up being drafted into another league, the U.S. Army, where he served until he was honorably discharged in 1958. During his service career in Germany, he excelled in track and basketball.
From 1958 to 1962, he served as director of physical education for the YMCA in Harrisburg, and from 1962 to 1968, he was a teacher and coach in the Harrisburg School District. He served as director in the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Equal Opportunity and from 1983 to 2004, and he served as special assistant to the secretary for PennDOT, from where he retired with 33 years of service.
He was a 12-year veteran in the Eastern Professional Basketball League, toured with the Harlem Globetrotters, and in 1996 was named to the Continental Basketball Association all-time team.
McCoy was a devout member of the Capital Presbyterian Church, where he served as an Elder. He has a long list of community service in the Harrisburg area and has been the recipient of many awards and honors. His memberships included the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Zeta Theta Lambda Chapter; Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, Beta Pi Boule; the board of trustees of the Harrisburg Area YMCA; and Halls of Fame in Dauphin and Mercer counties.
In addition, he was a lifetime member of the NAACP and a member of its executive committee. Other memberships included the board of directors for the Harrisburg Boys Club; the executive board of Fellowship of Christian Athletes; the Minority Business Committee of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh; the Tri-County United Way board of directors; and the AAA Central Pa. board of directors and chairman of the board.
McCoy was a member of the Keystone Area Council, Boy Scouts of America and former chairman of National YMCA Health and Physical Education Coordination Council. During his years of service to the community, he received many honors, including 1998 Michigan State Distinguished Alumnus Award and the all-time leading scorer of the Eastern Basketball Association. He was awarded the 2003 Lifetime Achievement Award Minority Business Committee of Pittsburgh, and in 1973-76 member of United States Olympic Basketball Committee.
He was an affectionate husband, father and grandfather and enjoyed spending time with his family and friends. He is survived by his wife of 46 years, Betty J. McCoy, who he met 49 years ago on the basketball court of the YMCA; his daughter, Judith “Judy” McCoy-Jordan; his son, Julius L. McCoy Jr.; and his four grandchildren, Justin and Julian Jordan and Amber and Leo McCoy, all of Harrisburg.
In addition, he is survived by his sisters, Vivian Williams, Sharon, and Jean Sims and her husband, Thomas, Farrell; his brother, James “Jim” McCoy and his wife, Nadine, Pittsburgh. He was preceded in death by his brother, Rufus McCoy.
McCoy and his wife shared a very close relationship with Betty’s sister, Stella House, and her three children, Richard House, Robbin Cox and Leslie Irvis, as they reared their families together. He leaves his wife’s other sisters, Caroline Leach, Doris Williams, Mary Harper and Yvonne Booker and his wife’s brothers, William Miller and Gary Miller, and a host of other family members and friends.