Former Middie great, Harlem Globetrotter dies after long illness

A former standout basketball player at Middletown High School and the University of Cincinnati who later traveled the world playing with the Harlem Globetrotters has died.

Jesse Jemison, a 1970 Middletown High School graduate, died Friday at Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton after a long illness, his family said. He celebrated his 65th birthday the day before he died.

Jemison had been sick and in and out of the hospital for months, said his younger brother, Doug. A diabetic, Jemison had his legs amputated and was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and had liver issues, his brother said.

“He was suffering a lot,” his brother said. “He was struggling, man. It was one thing after another.”

Jemison scored the first points in the Paul Walker Gym at Middletown High School and was a standout for the Middies, his brother said. He played on the freshman team at UC, then lettered for three seasons.

He played for several years with the Harlem Globetrotters and was on the same team as Meadowlark Lemon, his brother said.

When his brother played at UC, Doug Jemison and Butch Carter, both Middie standouts, often watched the games and that drove them to want to play college basketball. Jemison later played at the University of San Francisco and Carter played at Indiana University.

“We wanted to be on the big floor,” Jemison said. “My brother laid the track, and I wanted to ride the train.”

Jemison, four years younger than his brother, was asked about their relationship. They were tight, he said. Only one time did they fight, he said.

Jesse got into an argument with his father and decided to run away from home. So he took his brother along. Only one problem: They were 6 and 2 years old.

By the time they got around the block in their little red wagon, neighbors told them they better get home because their mother was fixing chicken and dumplings for dinner, Doug’s favorite meal.

“Back then,” he said, “neighbors knew what every neighbor was doing.”

He said the boys got spanked by their neighbor and the punishment was repeated when they got home.

The worst part? Doug missed dinner.

“I never did forgive Jesse for that,” he said with a laugh.

He is survived by his wife, Marcia Jemison; three sons, Philip Jemison, Jonathon Jemison and Donovan Jemison; his mother Pearlie Mae; two brothers and four sisters.

The visitation will be from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at United Missionary Baptist Church, 719 18th Ave., followed by the funeral service with the Rev. Gregory Tyus officiating.

About the Author