Who is Tunney Hunsaker?

Original blogpost can be found on the Adventures on the Gorge website:  http://www.class-vi.com/rafting/

Who Is Tunney Hunsaker?

For those of you who have made the journey to Fayette Station, traveling the winding road to the New River, you are all-to-familiar with the smaller bridge “down below”, the one with the sign that reads “Tunney Hunsaker Bridge”.  Have you ever asked yourself, who IS this Tunney Hunsaker?  Well my friend, I am here to answer that question for you.

Tunney Morgan Hunsaker was the police chief of Fayetteville, West Virginia.  On October 29, 1960 at Freedom Hall in Louisville, Kentucky, Hunsaker became the first professional opponent of a young boxer by the name of Cassius Clay who would later be known as Muhammed Ali.  Ali notes in his biography that Hunsaker dealt him one of the hardest body blows he ever took in his career.  But that body blow was not enough to defeat Ali as Hunsaker lost to him in a unanimous six round decision.  Although Ali dominated Hunsaker in the ring, it did not deter the men from forming a friendship that would last for years.  Hunsaker ended his ten year career as a heavyweight journeyman in 1962 after a severe head injury that left him in a coma for nine days.  His health would be impaired for the rest of his life from that event.  His boxing record was 17 wins with 15 defeats / 8 wins by way of KO.  (The video of his bout with Ali can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dVPy8fzZ5w8)

Tunney passed away in 2005 at the age of 74 after a long battle with Alzheimer’s.  His battle with Ali was not his only historical moment – at the age of 27, he was the youngest police chief in the history of West Virginia.  From that honor, he was elected into the Law Enforcement Hall of Fame.  During the process of writing this blog, I heard a number of warm and wonderful stories regarding Tunney.  The most common (and my favorite) is that oftentimes, during rush hour and after high school football games, he would turn off the traffic light and then direct traffic.   Residents of Fayetteville looked forward to seeing him under the light because he was quite annimated in the task.

So… the bridge “down below”.  The Fayette Station Bridge was built in 1889 and was the first vehicular bridge to cross the New in Fayette County.  The bridge deteriorated over the years and was closed to traffic in March, 1978 (around the same time the New River Gorge Bridge was built).  Two decades later, the original bridge was dismantled and as much of the original material was used as possible during the 1997 reconstruction.  The bridge was named The Tunney Hunsaker Bridge (former U.S. 19 Bridge) in honor of Tunney and his lifetime of service to Fayette County.

Do you have a Tunney Hunsaker story?  We would love to hear it!

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