Ernie Drew “Black Jack” Barrett dies at 93

Mr. K-State, Ernie Barrett, stands up after being recognized at the Kansas State pep rally Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013. (Archive photo by Evert Nelson | Collegian)

Ernie Drew “Black Jack” Barrett died Friday, April 21, 2023. He was 93. 

Barrett was affectionately known as “Mr. K-State” by many Wildcats fans across the state of Kansas and throughout the country, and also known for his trademark firm handshake.

“Ernie Barrett has always been a shining example of what it means to be a K-Stater,” Kansas State President Richard Linton said in a statement to K-State Sports. “Ernie embodied the work ethic, dedication and tenacity that are hallmarks of the Wildcat spirit. We will always celebrate and hold dear the legacy of Mr. K-State and all he accomplished for our great university.”

Barrett began his collegiate career at K-State in 1947 where he played under legendary head coaches Jack Gardner and Tex Winter. 

In 1951, Barrett was a consensus second team All-American as he led K-State to its only National Championship game. His success in Manhattan led to his number 22 jersey being retired and the Boston Celtics taking him with the No. 7 pick in the 1951 NBA Draft.

Barrett was a two-time graduate of the university, receiving a bachelor’s degree in physical education in 1951 and a master’s degree in journalism in 1956.

In his over seven decade association with the university, Barrett spearheaded several athletic facilities on campus such as Bill Snyder Family Stadium, Tointon Family Stadium, Colbert Hills Golf Course and R.V. Christian Track and Field Complex. He was also instrumental in the 1970 hiring of legendary head basketball coach Jack Hartman.

“Ernie was the dearest of friends,” Hall of Fame head football coach Bill Snyder said in a statement to K-State Sports. “He was one of the first individuals I met when I visited Manhattan and was as significant as anyone in formulating my decision to come to Kansas State. Never in my 40-plus years here have I met anyone who meant more or did more for the university than Ernie.”

In 1990, Barrett was inducted into the K-State Athletics Hall of Fame, and in 1999, a statue of him extending his right hand for his trademark handshake was placed outside of Bramlage Coliseum. In 1996, he was named to the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame.

Barrett is survived by his wife Bonnie of 72 years, his son Brad and a grandson Ryan wife Lauren. A memorial service commemorating his life was held at 1 p.m. on Thursday, April 27, at Bramlage Coliseum, followed by a reception at the Shamrock Zone.