Barney McCallum – A Wonderful Life

The pickleball world has lost its last living founder, inventor and a pioneer of this great sport. Barney McCallum passed away at his home in Seattle, WA on Monday, November 18, 2019. He was 93 years old.

I will miss his sharp wit and humor, our in-depth conversations, his amazing storytelling, and his true friendship and positive outlook on all things. Barney had an amazing memory, often recalling and sharing his life experiences as he interweaved them into the conversation. I’m going to miss those chats!

Barney lived an interesting, full life that held many chapters. One chapter of his life began in 1965 when Barney was one of the three founders and creators of the sport of pickleball. At that time, Barney was 39 years old, married with four kids, and was busy running one of the businesses he started in Seattle, the McCallum Envelope Company.

Fast-forward to Barney’s last pickleball chapter, Summer 2013 – November 18, 2019:

In 2013, Barney had long sold Pickle-Ball® Inc. to his son and had not been to a pickleball event/tournament in decades. At Jennifer Lucore’s urging, to which Barney exclaimed, “Let’s check out what pickleball is up to!”, he attended the popular SeaTac indoor tournament held in Washington state.

Later that year, Barney attended his first USAPA Nationals in Buckeye, AZ. Barney sat courtside for several matches and was a special guest speaker at the USAPA Ambassador Dinner. Barney said his visit to Nationals was “overpowering” and “just a thrill.”

For the next several years,  Barney would get constant updates with the happenings of pickleball from Jennifer Lucore, Alex Hamner, and his many pickleball friends and family via phone calls, mail, and personal visits. Jennifer and Alex visited Barney periodically and stayed with him in Bainbridge Island every July (usually right after the Canadian Nationals) for six years in a row… priceless!

2017 brought the creation of the Pickleball Hall of Fame and Barney was one of the first inductees that year.

In 2018, Barney returned with family to Nationals when it was held for the first time at Indian Wells Tennis Garden in the California desert. He had been there many times for big tennis tournaments, but to enter such a prestigious venue that had a week full of only pickleball – he could not believe it. He was impressed.

Throughout 2019, the monthly talks about pickleball and the things that are happening continued. His hope was to attend Nationals again but decided it was best to stay closer to home. In September he celebrated his 93rd birthday, and hundreds of pickleball players from around the world sent him birthday wishes. Barney shared that he spent many hours reading all the notes he received and how much he appreciated receiving them. He was overjoyed with the outpouring of love and the various uplifting and life-changing pickleball stories people shared with him.

2013. Left: Jennifer hanging out with Barney. He is holding her paddle which highlights Bainbridge Island (Legacy paddle) and she is holding his original wood paddle. Right: Barney with USAPA’s Justin Maloof and David Jordan.
2013 Nationals in Buckeye, AZ, Barney giving advice to Jennifer and Alex.
2018 Nationals at Indian Wells Tennis Garden, CA, Barney giving advice to Jennifer and Alex.
2018 Nationals on center court, Barney truly enjoying the action and celebration.


An early chapter of Barney’s life was shared in this Around the Post column printed in the Sept/Oct 2019 issue Pickleball Magazine:

Not Just Your Everyday Veteran Pickleball Player

It was 1944, and like many boys his age, Barney McCallum joined the U.S. Navy in order to serve his country during World War II.  Told that he needed to finish high school first, Barney reported to Recruit Training just two days after graduating at the age of 17.

Assigned to a ship for the next two years as a Deck Seaman (deck seamen are charged with managing the ship while going into and out of port, as well as maintaining the ship’s appearance and keeping the deck secure), Barney was recognized as being a very strong guy who was not afraid of heights. So he was tasked with climbing the 70-foot-high mast to pull the boom up and secure it whenever the ship would leave port. This could be particularly dangerous when the ship was already in motion. Barney remembers one of the most challenging climbs leaving port in San Francisco as the ship went under the Golden Gate Bridge in a storm – it was just him and the elements 70 feet in the air.

Most of Barney’s Naval service was spent traversing the Pacific Ocean. His last wartime travel turned out to be during the last battle in Okinawa when his ship picked up 1,000 Japanese POWs to take to the United States. By the time the ship had reached Hawaii, the war had ended. Barney and his shipmates then went back and forth between Japan and the U.S., bringing soldiers home.

The final voyage for Barney was through the Panama Canal (during a hurricane!) and back to Norfolk, VA, where the ship was decommissioned.

Barney can count three separate times during his short Naval career where he almost lost his life. Honored to have served, Barney wonders if he should have stayed in the Navy rather than return to Washington state to attend college. We’ll never know how pickleball history may have been altered if Barney, the last living creator of our great sport, and founder of Pickle-Ball Inc., had taken a different course in life.

Thank you, Barney McCallum, for both your service to the country as well as for helping to create pickleball!

RIP Barney McCallum, you will be missed by millions!


Excerpts of Barney McCallum’s life are from History of Pickleball – More Than 50 Years of Fun!

(Thank you to Alex Hamner for her help in putting this post together. She and I experienced so much with Barney; it was the three of us talking pickleball all day long and exploring Bainbridge Island on those long car rides with Barney driving while he shared stories and posed “What kind of man …..” questions. Cheers to priceless memories forever!)

Bainbridge Island … spending the days with Barney.


41 comments on “Barney McCallum – A Wonderful Life”

  1. My wife Gerry and I visited Barney over a weekend in 2009 and we toured the island to visit the history. I recorded a video interview with him and was amazed at his wonderful stories of the beginning of the game. The total interview was nearly an hour long but an edited version for Youtube and USAPA was edited to 15 minutes. A good source to see how the game began

  2. Joel Pritchard and Bill Bell are no longer with us but the USAPA was honored to have Barney attend the National V tournament in November, 2013 where he was court side for a number of matches and was the special guest speaker at the ambassador’s dinner.  We were grateful to Barney for taking the time to attend and provide us not only with the history, but the reasoning behind many basic rules of the game.  Unfortunately Barney McCallum passed away in November of 2019 and here is a great article on his life and his contributions to our sport .

  3. Thank you for such a beautiful tribute to Barney. His legacy will live on forever. Rest in peace, Barney. You will be missed by millions!

    1. Uncle Barney…your Christmas Card came back to me today, with ‘DEC’ written on it.
      It seems like we just spoke on the phone 2 months ago. I will miss you so very much. You always made me feel special with the conversations we had.
      Such an interesting and intelligent man. Fairly certain you are playing Pickle Ball with your wife, Carol. It was my pleasure to have had the opportunity to know you. You are loved!

  4. I met Mr. McCallum several years ago in Arizona but I did not realize I was meeting a founder of this wonderful sport.
    RIP Sir.
    Barney Biggs.

  5. God Bless Barney & his entire family! I am so sorry to hear of his passing! A friend, Gene Click from OKC was in Seattle and had pictures taken of him and Barney. They were celebrating 50 years since the beginning of pickleball. Gene took pictures of all the events and I felt like I was there! I just got home from playing with my two sons, grandson & a grandson by choice, plus several friends! Barney you and your friends have started something that is just now catching on to the fullest extent and getting larger than life! We have laughed more together since starting pickleball than any other sport we play! Glad you got to live 93 wonderful years!!

  6. Barney thank you for sharing this game of pickleball with the millions of people you have brought us together in a nice friendly game all the people I’ve met AR so nice thank you rest in peace

  7. Rest in Peace sir. Honored to read your story and play the game you brought to us with your friends. The rules you guys put together show how honorable you were. The world needs more like you. Go Navy

  8. Thank you for your service to country and sport, so that we, the future generations, can enjoy such a wonderful sport, given to us, by a member of the greatest generation.

  9. Rest in Peace Barney. Your ideas and contributions, have brought Fun! Joy! and Happiness to millions and many millions to come. Thank you!

  10. Thank you Barney for a wonderful legacy you left to your pickleball family. Jennifer – that was a beautiful tribute – and I’m positive Barney enjoyed your friendship and love as much as you did his!

  11. Barney, thank you for blessing not only your children and friends, but all of humanity with inventing this great game of Pickleball. You have provided all of us youngsters (I’m 74), but all ages with a way to have fun, exercise, meet so many people so easily, and live a happier and healthier life. There couldn’t be a better addiction to give to humanity- than you!!
    PB Rocks!!!
    Rocky Myers

  12. David & Nancy Jordan

    Thank you Barney for all you did. Your influence is and will be far reaching. A true PB Hero. We were honored to get to know you and visit with you throughout the past few years. RIP

  13. Barney, you will be missed. We will be forever grateful that you not only invented the game but you also popularized it. Bainbridge Island became a little smaller today.

  14. Miss him so much! ?? So very grateful to be able to call him a dear friend. Thank you Jennifer for cultivating such an amazing relationship! ??

  15. What a wonderful post. Thanks to you and Alex for encouraging his attendance at Nationals so he could see how many people have embraced the sport he helped create.

  16. RIP, Barney. Thank you, Jennifer & Alex for bringing his personality to life & to only know his name as one of the inventors of pickleball. May he always be remembered as the sport continue to grow.

  17. Barney, thank you for making so many lives much happier and healthier by helping to create the sport of Pickleball. I know I’m lucky to have gotten to chat with you on a couple of different occasions where your generosity of spirit and love of people showed through BIG TIME! It’s NO wonder how PICKLEBALL came in part from YOU!! Thank you, Barney. ??❤️

  18. I am so glad that Barney was around last month for the ribbon cutting for the first public courts on our own Bainbridge Island.

  19. Thank you for sharing Barney with us and thanks to him and the others for giving us the gift of PB. I’m sorry for your loss of a great friend, a big hug for you, Jennifer.

  20. Thank you Barney and the other 2 founders for creating this game that keeps me so active at 60. We will miss you yet your spirit will be with us Picklers.

    1. Thanks so much, Jennifer and Alex. I never met Barney although attending and playing in US Nationals in 2010-12. I remember watching you two outmatching your opponents then! What a legacy Barney has left us in this so-enjoyable game.
      Doug Stubbs,
      Pickleball Ambassador
      Brampton & Caledon
      Ontario, Canada

    2. Thank you Jennifer (and Beverly) for bringing Barney’s story to life for us in your book of pickleball history. And thank you, Alex, for your part in helping us see the many sides of the incredible life Barney has led. He is truly an example of living a life of service. His gift to all of us keeps getting repaid each time we share his “game”. Playing, for me, has been a life enhancing experience. One I can share with my friends, family, and people I don’t even know but hope to as I travel around the world. Thank you, Barney. Your legacy lives on.

  21. Barney was a genuine soul. Because of the founders ingenuity and resolve millions are now able to enjoy the great sport of pickleball!
    Thanks so much to Jennifer and Alex for sharing this great life story.
    Earl Hill

  22. For those of us that never met Barney wish his family all the best. We’re all grateful to Barney for this awesome game that he brought to us. We should all celebrate his life today . Rest in peace Barney

  23. RIP Barney, it would have been an honor to meet a great man such as you! Thank you for sharing this beautiful sport with us.

  24. The world has lost another true giant. The sport of pickleball has lost a big piece of itself. I had the honor of speaking to Mr. McCallum, in 2013, at the dinner in Festival. He was a very funny guy. His response to being asked about the kitchen was precious. We are all going to miss you sir! May you rest in heavenly peace!

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