Class of 1939
Born on July 10, 1916, in Bluit, N.M., a small farming village 20 miles southeast of Portales, young Pecos Uvalde Finley suffered the unfortunate death of his father at an early age. Raised by his mother, Ada, he was a handsome, hard working boy who grew into a strapping 6-footer by his sophomore year at Floyd High School. As a junior, Pecos was already the best basketball player in the state. As a senior he was class president and captain of the state champion Broncos.
Aggie Coach Jerry Hines recruited Pecos from Floyd High School in 1935. Pecos was soon playing on a team destined to set records. In 1937, the squad finished with a record of 22-5 and the Border Conference Championship. It was the first conference crown ever won by the Aggies.
In 1938 and 1939, the Aggies went 42 and 7, won two more Border Conference crowns and appeared in the 1938 NAIB tournament in Kansas City and the prestigious NIT in New York in 1939. Pecos led the conference in scoring in both 1938 and 1939.
During their stay in Manhattan for the NIT Tournament at Madison Square Garden, the Aggies played the role of rogue cowboys. They wore crimson silk shirts, ‘A’ letter jackets, ten-gallon hats, cowboy boots and neckerchiefs. The New Yorkers were charmed. Sportswriter Arthur Daley described Pecos as “the best all-around player to appear at the Garden.” A fan sent a letter to Las Cruces saying that no boy in New York wanted to shoot baskets with two hands again after seeing Pecos’ exciting, running one handers.
Back on campus, Pecos continued serving as president of the Student Council and as ROTC cadet leader. In his memoir, “Aggies, Oh Aggies,” classmate Michael Taylor recalled that “Pecos was selected as Most Popular Boy in only one year, 1939; but in fact was our most popular through all his Aggie years.”
Pecos Uvalde Finley graduated in 1939 from NMSU with a degree in animal husbandry.
In the fall of 1940, Pecos volunteered for duty with the Army. As a 2nd lieutenant he was assigned to Fort Lee, Va., with the 12th Quartermaster Training Regiment. Just as he had on the basketball court, Pecos worked hard and became an outstanding soldier. After training, he volunteered for assignment with the Philippine Scouts, the best division in the fledgling Philippine Army. After a brief homecoming and a car trip with a long-time friend, Pecos went back to the Philippines. After surviving a harrowing defensive struggle and the Bataan Death March, he died in the Japanese concentration camp at Camp O’Donnell in 1942. Pecos Uvalde Finley was 25 years old.