George W. Tinsley, Sr.
GEORGE'S STORY: “Faith, tenacity, education, and a white-hot desire to turn obstacles to opportunities.``
The summarization of George Tinsley, Sr.’s continued road to success could liken to that of a rags-to-riches story. But faith, tenacity, education and the white-heat desire to not accept settling or complacency are the true gifts that catapulted his life to where it is today.
Born George Penebaker (1946), Tinsley grew up in Smoketown, an inner-city neighborhood one mile southeast of downtown Louisville, Kentucky.
While Tinsley’s single mother worked, he was cared for by an elderly woman, Willie Tinsley. At the time, Tinsley said, Willie Tinsley was about 60 years old. During the 40s, she and her husband had been business people in the Louisville area, but because of the depression, “they lost everything”. “She had one leg and walked on a crutch. After her husband passed away, she relocated to another area [Smoketown] in which she could afford to live.” One day, after spending the day with Willie Tinsley, his mother did not return. He was 7 months old and Willie Tinsley took him in and raised him in her home; “a one-room place; with a kitchenette, that was no bigger than 8’x10’.
One day, after spending the day with Willie Tinsley, his mother did not return. He was 7 months old.
When Tinsley was 13, Willie Tinsley died, and he was taken in by her son, Clarence Tinsley, and his wife.
At that time, Tinsley’s self-esteem and confidence level was low. He said that he was an average student because “I really didn’t apply myself. I had nowhere to do homework and was not motivated. No one wanted to see my report card.” Tinsley added that he could not remember a time when anyone questioned him about a C, D of F. “But it was not cool to be an A student or to be at the top,” he said. “You were a square, and picked on. So early on, I was probably considered more of a clown. I wanted to be a part of the in-crowd.” However, Tinsley’s athletic skills and height began to open doors for relationships within his neighborhood and his school. He was playing basketball, football and running track on several teams.
The teachers and coaches began to take a great interest in Tinsley from the standpoint of his athleticism. “They knew a little bit about my circumstances,” he said.
Tinsley’s reputation for having a big smile and great personality opened doors in the late 50s and early 60s. “Some adults in the neighborhood and a few of my teachers took active interest in guiding me,” he said.
Tinsley’s athletic skills and height began to open doors for relationships within his neighborhood and his school.
An average student and above average athlete, Tinsley, who graduated high school in 1965, received a number of basketball and track scholarship offers. He accepted the basketball scholarship to Kentucky Wesleyan College, a small NCAA division II school in Owensboro, Kentucky. That first year, Wesleyan won the national basketball championship. “We had very successful program where we won three national championships in four years.
“When you win a national championship as a freshman and you are a starter, you have some nice things happen to you,” he continued. “The pictures in the paper, the parades, speaking engagements; you suddenly feel a lot better about yourself and my confidence grew.”
“The whole picture changed.” Tinsley’s participation in college athletics offered unexpected rewards. He had the opportunity to experience traveling throughout Europe and Africa, with his team, to act as ambassadors, to teach basketball and interact with state departments in other areas.
“Graduating from college, playing in the ABA, marrying Seretha, and finding my family are major life markers.``
It was during his fourth year at Wesleyan that Tinsley began to excel in academics and increase his involvement in the school. He began to work harder, to try harder.
“I joined a fraternity and made the dean’s list. I started to date my future wife, Seretha.”
All of those things, he said, “made me want to be more and more successful, both academically and from a college community standpoint.”
“I also had to face my personal situation and become formally adopted into the Tinsley family. At the same time, I had to face the idea that I did have another family out there.” At age 27, Tinsley found his mother, father, and 17 brothers and sisters. “That was a defining moment,” he said.
“Graduating from college , playing in the ABA, marrying Seretha and finding my family. These, Tinsley said, “are major life markers that shaped his future.
Today, Tinsley leads PenGeo, Inc. and Tinsley Family Concessions, Inc. which own and/or operate over sixty (60) restaurants in Florida and Kentucky.
He has received two honorary doctorates, had his Ky. Wesleyan College basketball jersey retired, and has been inducted in several athletic and business hall of fames. He has received a plethora of awards and recognitions, and has been featured in local and national media numerous times. He is a highly sought-after motivational speaker, coach and consultant. Tinsley and his wife reside in Winter Haven, Florida and have two adult children, George, II. and Penni.