Chuck Taylor was an original all-star himself. No one has done more to naturally promote a product, and in so doing Taylor became the very first athletic shoe endorser. Charles "Chuck" Taylor was born June 24, 1901, and grew up outside of Columbus, IN where he was a high school basketball star. After finishing high school, Taylor played professionally, before the organization of leagues as we now know them, with teams in Ft. Wayne and Detroit. He also barnstormed around the country with the original Celtics and played for the Buffalo Germans and Akron Firestones basketball teams.
Luckily for Converse, Taylor chose the All Star® as his athletic shoe. His interest in the sneaker and the sport of basketball brought him to the Converse Chicago sales offices in 1921 in search of a job. S.R. "Bob" Pletz was in charge of the Chicago sales office at the time. Pletz was an avid fisherman and sportsman and always took an interest in other sports-minded people. His hiring of Chuck led the way for future basketball players to become part of the Converse management team.
Within a year, Taylor's input led to a slight re-styling of the All-Star, making the sneaker even more suitable for playing basketball. Two years later, in 1923, Chuck Taylor's signature was added to the All-Star ankle patch in recognition of his significant contributions.
During World War II, Taylor served in both the Navy and the Air Force as a consultant on physical fitness and as the coach of the Wright A.F.B. basketball team.
Right from the beginning of his Converse career, Taylor took his sneakers on the road, driving to small towns all over America, conducting basketball clinics and selling shoes. "Chuck's gimmick was to go to a small town, romance the coach and put on a clinic. He would teach basketball and work with the local sporting goods retail, but without encroaching on the coach's own system. He drove a big car, a Cadillac. And his home was the back of the car. He was a pipe smoker and talked with an Indiana drawl. I was fond of Chuck," recalls Steve Stone, former Converse president.
Gib Ford, former Converse chairman and Joe Dean, former Converse vice president of promotions, worked directly with Chuck Taylor, during their years as salesman. They respected his marvelous ability and unfailing enthusiasm to promote both the game of basketball and Converse shoes.
"Chuck's route never varied. He would stay at the same motels, meet with the same friends, eat at the same restaurants. He would also play golf 365 days a year. He was a down-to-earth, regular guy who had a charming way about him. People liked Chuck because what he was doing was great for them and great for the sport," asserts Ford.
"Chuck knew every basketball coach in the country. He drove cross-country giving clinics and promoting Converse constantly on the road. He never had a home. He kept his things in storage in a locker in the Chicago warehouse and to him, Christmas was just another day. Chuck paved the way for Converse to be what it is today," recalls Joe Dean.
Basketball and improving the game for players, spectators and coaches was Taylor's aim in life. Throughout his career with Converse, Taylor received numerous awards for his achievements and outstanding contribution to basketball including being elected to the Sporting Goods Hall of Fame in 1958.
In 1968 Taylor retired. That same year he was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame, and was formally inducted the following spring of 1969 along with Arnold "Red" Auerbach, Henry "Dutch" Dehnert, Henry Iba and Adolph Rupp.
Taylor was the first endorser and spokesperson for Converse and rightly earned the moniker, "Ambassador of Basketball." He died in June of 1969 at the age of 68.