For those of you who have made the journey to Fayette Station, traveling the winding road to the New River, you are all-to-familiar with the smaller bridge “down below,” the one with the sign that reads “Tunney Hunsaker Bridge.” Originally built in 1889, closed to traffic in 1978 and then rebuilt in 1997, the Tunney Hunsaker Bridge was the first vehicular bridge constructed in Fayette County and for a long time was the only nearby way to get across the river.
But have you ever wondered, who is Tunney Hunsaker? Well my friend, I am here to answer that question for you.
At the age of 27, Fayetteville Chief of Police, Tunney Morgan Hunsaker, became the youngest to hold that position in West Virginia history, an honor that would eventually land him a place in the Law Enforcement Hall of Fame. During the process of writing this blog, I heard a number of warm and wonderful stories regarding Tunney. The most common (and my favorite) is that oftentimes, during rush hour and after high school football games, he would turn off the traffic light and then direct traffic. Residents of Fayetteville looked forward to seeing him under the light because he was quite animated in the task.
Tunney’s most famous moment came not under a West Virginia traffic light, however, but across a boxing ring from none other than Muhammed Ali.
On October 29, 1960 at Freedom Hall in Louisville, Kentucky, Hunsaker became the first professional opponent of the young Ali, who was still boxing under his given name, Cassius Clay. Ali notes in his biography that Hunsaker dealt him one of the hardest body blows he ever took in his career. But the punch wasn’t enough to defeat Ali, as Hunsaker lost to him in a unanimous six round decision. Although Ali dominated Hunsaker in the ring, it did not deter the men from forming a friendship that would last for years.
Hunsaker ended his ten year career as a heavyweight journeyman in 1962 after a severe head injury that left him in a coma for nine days. His health would be impaired for the rest of his life from that event. His boxing record was 17 wins with 15 defeats—8 wins by way of KO.
Sadly, Tunney Hunsaker passed away in 2005 after a long battle with Alzheimer’s.
Do you have a Tunney Hunsaker story? We would love to hear it!
Want to just see more pics of this beautiful and iconic bridge?