Jack Gant: A Fan for Life

There are fans, there are super fans and then there’s the Hon. Jack Gant (J.D. ’54).

The retired Jackson County Circuit Court judge has at- tended 74 NAIA Basketball tournaments. No, that’s not a typo: 74. That’s even after he broke his neck in six places earlier this year.

“They play their guts out in the NAIA,” said Gant, who is 87. “These are young people who are probably never going to play pro ball but they dive for balls. To me, that kind of hustle and hard work is important and what keeps me going.”

Gant’s appreciation for hustle, hard work and sports can be traced back to when he was nine, when his father died. This was during the Depression, so Gant went to work to help support his sister and mother, selling magazines and working for a pharmacy in Independence, Mo. Gant loved sports and en- joyed playing catch with his dad, but couldn’t officially play on a team because he worked for four hours every day after school.

“But I asked the high school track coach to run against his fastest runner, and I beat him,” Gant said.

“In life, we compete constantly, against siblings for attention, against students for grades, against candi- dates for jobs, even against others for a spouse. Winning is everything. What sports teaches you is that you’re going to win and lose, and what makes the difference, what makes you win is hard work.”

Gant started attending NAIA tournaments with his friends in 1941 when he was 13. He hasn’t missed a tournament since the late 1940s when he spent two years in the Marines. He tried to get a leave of absence to see the tournament but letters to a politician didn’t work.

Gant tries to watch most of the 31 games in the tournament. When he was a senator, he’d speed back and forth between Jefferson City’s capitol building and Kansas City’s Municipal Auditorium. When he was a judge, others knew not to bother him at tournament time.

These days, he attends his grandkids’ sporting events just as he did for his five children. The grandkids play it all: basketball, baseball, soccer, golf, even horseback riding. Gant attends UMKC basketball games, gives to student athletic scholarships and advocates for improved sports venues at UMKC and throughout the metro.

“I don’t know what we’d do without sports,” Gant said. “It’s what brings people together.”