Billy Mack Lovelace, a three-year starter at guard for the University Tennessee basketball teams from 1952-55, died Sunday at his home in Dandridge following a brief illness. He was 79.
Mr. Lovelace came to Tennessee after a stellar career at Central High School, playing for coach O.C. Lloyd and earning 1951 all-state honors. He was part of many of the legendary games between Central and Knoxville High.
At UT under coach Emmett Lowery, Mr. Lovelace averaged 6.2 points per game in 1952-53, 7.0 in 1953-54, and 6.9 in 1954-55, playing alongside such notables as Ed Wiener, Carl Widseth, Herman Thompson, and Hank Bertelkamp. He wore No. 12 during his career and played at 6-foot-1, 170 pounds.
"Billy Mack was a good as they come," teammate Elvin Little said Monday. "We competed for the same position, but we remained friends all these years. Sometimes I'd start. Sometimes he'd start. He was a good college player."
Known as an amusing storyteller, an avid golfer and for his pancake breakfasts, Mr. Lovelace graduated UT in 1956.
He was the founder and owner of Top Flite Oil Inc., a company that distributed petroleum products and operated convenience stores in Tennessee and Kentucky. He was a member of the U.S. Army Reserves with 15 years of service.
"He was a very emotional kind of player, with a lot of energy, very much a 'team guy,' " said Ben Byrd, who covered UT for the Knoxville Journal during Mr. Lovelace's career. "He was quick and strong and a good defensive man."
Funeral services will be held on Thursday at 7 p.m. at the First Baptist Church in Dandridge, Dr. Robert Brown and Dr. Robert McCray officiating. Interment services will be Friday at 11 a.m. at the French Broad Baptist Church Cemetery in Dandridge. The family will receive friends Thursday from 5-7 p.m..
The family suggests that memorials be made to the First Baptist Church Building Fund, P. O. Box 246, Dandridge, TN 37725, or to the French Broad Baptist Cemetery Fund, P. O. Box 1577, Dandridge, TN 37725.