Small College Basketball is excited to announce the winner of the inaugural Larry Smith Award to former Kentucky Wesleyan stand out men’s basketball player, George Tinsley Sr.
The award was given to Tinsley at the 2017 Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at the Doubletree by Hilton in Evansville, Indiana.
The Larry Smith Award is presented annually to a former Small College Basketball player who has used the game of basketball to learn and apply life lessons that have significantly enhanced their life and then given back to impact the lives of others and change the world for good.
"George Tinsley's personal story is incredible,” said Larry Smith. “I was truly moved by how George has overcome such adversity and hardship, and through a tremendous work ethic and a remarkably positive attitude, he is now living the American Dream. I am so impressed with how George has used his platform to impact the lives of young people, his alma mater (Kentucky Wesleyan) and various charities. For me, it's a true honor to recognize George Tinsley as the inaugural Larry Smith Award Winner!"
George Tinsley Sr.’s road to success could be likened to that of a rags-to-riches story. His is a life story of faith, tenacity, education and a white-hot desire to succeed. George’s unyielding determination and strong work ethic are the true gifts that catapulted him to a lifetime of multiple careers, professional achievements, business success and meaningful contributions to improving the lives of others.
George William Tinsley grew up in Smoketown, an inner-city neighborhood one mile southeast of downtown Louisville, Ky. He was raised by his adoptive mother, Mrs. Willie Tinsley who was 65 years old when she adopted him. He later came to Kentucky Wesleyan College with everything he owned in a small bag.
Despite many obstacles, Tinsley capitalized on his athletic gifts and was recruited on scholarship to Kentucky Wesleyan College in 1966, and as a freshman he led the team to the first of 3 Division II NCAA National Championships. He quickly earned the rep of being a ‘defensive demon’. and would take the Panthers on to 2 national titles in 1968 and 1969, for which he was twice named All-American, selected as an alternate to the 1968 U.S. Olympic Team, and would soon be drafted to the old American Basketball League to play for the Oaks, Washington Capitals, Miami Floridians, Kentucky Colonels and the New York Nets.
After his basketball career ended, Tinsley transitioned to the education arena. Utilizing his leadership skills, he served as a high school teacher and basketball coach at Louisville Male High School for several years, before joining the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center as an events coordinator. In 1976 he began a successful eight-year career with Kentucky Fried Chicken Corporation.
Tinsley purchased and developed his first Kentucky Fried Chicken in 1984. The following year he developed another and over the next eight years he purchased four KFC’s and building another. He later sold six stores that were not profitable, to focus on diversifying. Tinsley would go on to add the title of President and Owner of several successful enterprises to his vita – Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants DBA PenGeo Incorporated (named after his two children), Tinsley LLG, SerGeo Inc., TGIFriday’s DBA The Tinsley Group, 35 Miami based restaurants DBA Tinsley Family Concessions and Home Team Sports Bar and Grill DBA Summers Penebaker LLC.
Over the years, Tinsley also developed a reputation for serving in leadership positions that promote and encourage education and Entrepreneurship. He served as founder and President of KFC Minority Franchise Association, in addition to serving on more than eight boards, several committees, councils and foundations. He also serves as NAACP Lifetime Member. In 1999 he was the recipient of the Minority Entrepreneur of the year in the state of Florida, and in 1989 he received the distinction of Premier Operator in the KFC System, the highest honor presented to a KFC franchisee. Recently Tinsley’s TGIFriday’s in Tampa received the top sales award in the nation for the sixth year in a row.
Tinsley has also received a number of awards and has been recognized as a community leader and advocate for minority businesses. He believes that community service is the cornerstone of good citizenship and that one should give more to the community in service than is received.
“Each and every day George dedicates his life to mentoring kids of all ages in so many ways it is impossible to describe his passion,” said Roy Pickerill, Kentucky Wesleyan Sports Information Director Emeritus. “He does not want any one youth to have the huge challenges and obstacles he faced growing up in the toughest neighbor in Louisville.”
Larry Smith is an American success story. Larry grew up poor – very poor – in a suburb of Boston, and got his break through in the game of basketball. Because of his basketball talents, he was afforded the opportunity to attend college at Suffolk University in Boston.
There at Suffolk, he excelled on the court to the point where he was eventually invited to a tryout with the Boston Celtics and was eventually inducted into the Suffolk University Athletic Hall of Fame.
Because of the game of basketball, Larry was able to further his education, which combined with his incredible work ethic, completely changed his life.
After he obtained his degree, Larry and his brother, Michael, started their own insurance business in 1962, which later became Nation Safe Drivers. The company has been an incredible success, and Larry and Michael recently sold the company back to the employees after running the company for 52 years.
The award also includes a $5,000 donation to the Kentucky Wesleyan men’s basketball program.
George Tinsley accepts the first annual Larry Smith Award at the 2017 SCB Hall of Fame ceremony