- Paul Noel
- Hometown (Last School)
- Midway, KY (High)
- August 17, 1924
Obituary – NBA Star became Versailles mayor, Lexington Herald-Leader (November 17, 2005) by Jennifer Hewlett
Paul W. Noel, a former Versailles mayor who, as a young man, became one of the first University of Kentucky basketball players to play the sport professionally, died Wednesday at his home in Versailles, apparently of complications from cancer. He was 81.
Known in the 1980s for helping improve fire protection and keeping down utility costs as Versailles’ mayor, Mr. Noel was better known in the 1940s and 1950s as a member of the New York Knicks and Rochester Royals professional basketball teams. He helped the Royals capture the 1951 NBA championship.
Mr. Noel was a forward on the UK basketball team in 1943. But he had to drop out of UK after a year on the team because his tenant farmer father became ill and Mr. Noel was needed to help out on the farm, said his son, Paul W. Noel Jr. of Versailles.
Several years later, Western Kentucky University basketball coach Ed Diddle approached Mr. Noel about trying out for the New York Knicks, his son said.
Mr. Noel, an All-State basketball player at Midway High School, was coached by Diddle in a Kentucky-Indiana all-star game, Paul Noel Jr. said.
“Diddle knew the people with the Knicks – and they asked him if he knew of anybody in the area, or anyone period, that could play,” he said.
The 6-foot 4-inch Mr. Noel played for the Knicks in 1948, 1949 and 1950 and the Royals in 1951 and 1952.
“He was one heck of a basketball player, and I mean really one of the best,” said UK basketball All-America Ralph Beard, who played against Mr. Noel in the NBA. “He was a natural basketball player. … He was not one-dimensional.”
In later years the two men teamed up together working for a wholesale drug company.
“If I would say one thing about Paul W. Noel, it would be if I had to go to war … I would certainly want him on my side,” Beard said. “It comes from the heart.”
Mr. Noel officiated at Kentucky high school basketball games after he left the pros.
Mr. Noel ran Corner Drug Store in Versailles for several years, selling the business in the mid-1980s. He was a member of the Versailles City Council before he became mayor. He was defeated in a bid for a third term as mayor in 1989.
Mr. Noel was a member of the Woodford County Chamber of Commerce Hall of Fame. He also was a baritone in the Versailles Barbershop Chorus and at Versailles First Christian Church.