The Legacy of James E. Hunter
(March 8, 1954 – August 2, 2010)
James Edward Hunter (March 8, 1954 – August 2, 2010) was a defensive back for the Detroit Lions in the National Football League. He was the 10th player picked in the 1976 NFL Draft. Hunter is 7th all-time for interceptions in Lions’ history. He attended Grambling State University where he majored in marketing with a concentration in management, and was a member of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity. Nicknamed “Hound Dog” for his long-striding running ability, he made an instant impact in the NFL. In his seven seasons with the Lions (1976-1982), Hunter led the Lions in three seasons in pass interceptions (1976, 1977 and 1980) and had 27 career interceptions. He played in 86 Lions games before a neck injury sustained late in the 1982 season ended his football career.
In 1985, Hunter joined Anheuser-Busch Companies, Inc., a professional move that spanned more than 25 years. In his last position, as the Geographic Marketing and Community Outreach Manager for the Midwest area, he developed numerous programs with the Detroit Tigers, the Detroit Pistons, as well as the Detroit Lions. His big smile and warm personality enabled him to reach people from all walks of life. He was a good “ambassador” and was able to build the bridges needed to bring people together and make them feel good about themselves and the endeavor they were involved in with him. In 2009, Hunter and former teammate William Graham returned to Southeast Texas, where they became the first Silsbee High alumni placed on the school’s wall of honor.
“It was always a joy to talk to Hunter because he was a man of great humor and a warm smile. For years, he would come back and attend Lions’ practices to keep up with his old team. Even all those years later, it was my contention that he was still the best cornerback on the field. Interestingly, the only time I saw him the last couple of years was at the airport where we always seemed to end up on the same flight to the Super Bowl. Hunter, who traveled to the game as part of his work for Anheuser-Busch, was always engaging, smart and funny. He was one of the guys you always looked forward to seeing.” – Tom Kowalski, sports writer
James was a passionate philanthropist who gave unselfishly of himself to a number of causes, making a difference in the lives of others, especially youth. He even volunteered to have a surgical procedure videotaped to assist Henry Ford Hospital in training other doctors. James was a co-chair of the “Boys to Men Mentoring Program at his church, and it was because of his dedication and drive that the James E. Hunter Golf Classic was formed as a means to raise funds for causes dear to his heart. A loving husband and father, his legacy is carried on by his wife Emmalene, son Javin, daughter Marissa and three grandchildren.
- High School: Two time All District and All State Offensive Running Back, and Defensive Back, Team Football Captain 1971-72; Basketball-All State Forward in1972 where he led the team to Class AAA State Tournament and was voted All State; Tournament Team; All District Class AAA Sprinter 100 & 220 Yard Dash.
- College: Grambling State University, Grambling, Louisiana 1972-1976, BS in Marketing, Concentration in Management. He played 4 years under the legendary Coach Eddie Robinson, the all -time “winningest “ coach in college football. 3 Time Division 1A A A American Defensive Back; voted to 10 different All American Teams in his senior year, including AP and UPI; ranked number 2 all time at Grambling and in the S/W Athletic Conference; inducted into the Grambling State University Hall of Fame in 2011.
- Professional Career: 1976 runner up for Defensive Player of the Year; 1976 1st Team All-Rookie Defensive Team; 1996 inductee into the Afro-American Sports Hall of Fame Defensive Back for the Detroit Lions; 2nd team Media, all Modern Era Lion Team (second 30 years, 1964-93) Defensive Cornerback behind Lem Barney; Bayou Classic XXI Honor Team Captain, Nov 26, 1994. Plaque reads: “In tribute and recognition of his outstanding contributions to collegiate athletics, professional sports and the nation, we hereby salute this outstanding Grambling Tiger Great.”
Affiliations: American SIDS Institute, 100 Black Men – Detroit chapter; Detroit Branch of the Urban League, Life Member of the NAACP, NFLPA Detroit Lions Retiree chapter: 2nd Vice President, Member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., Caring Athletes Team for Children’s & Henry Ford Hospitals (CATCH), Spaulding for Children, The Trustee Board of John Wesley AME Zion Church, Southfield MI.
“James was bigger than life. As a little kid in Silsbee, Texas, there wasn’t much to look up to, but one guy stood out. He motivated me as a kid to want to be someone better.”
“James Hunter shall always be remembered as a consummate pro-on and off the field. He made a significant impact on the field, in the community, as a businessman, as a business partner with the Lions in recent years, and as a husband and father.”
“He was a great athlete and a great guy. I thought I had a lot of energy until I met James. He was always upbeat, and always had an encouraging word. He will be sorely missed.”