Bernie Chatman gets Hall of Fame nod
HUNTINGDON — Making the right call has been an integral part in the life of Bernard L. Chatman Sr., whether laying down the law during his career wearing the uniform of a Pennsylvania State Police trooper or the striped shirt as an official inside the circle of a wrestling mat.
This year, the Mount Union Region members of the executive board were charged to make the right call in selecting an at-large inductee into the Huntingdon County Sports Hall of Fame. The responsibility comes only once every five years and there are a lot of deserving possibilities to consider.
On the cusp of being elected by the general membership each of the past three years, Bernie seemed to be an obvious and deserving choice to be included with the Class of 2021.
Bernie was born May 18, 1950, in the “Shannytown” (now Liverpool) section of Mount Union. He was one of five children born to Peter and Matril L. (Rogers) Chatman. His brothers and sisters are Michael, Martin, Theresa and Marcia – all with the middle initial L.
He says, “My fondest memories of growing up in Mount Union was having freedom to enjoy life. We had a whole village of people watching over us while growing up and they made sure we were well behaved when out of the house.”
He played football, wrestled, played baseball and ran track from 1964 to 1968 when the Trojans went under the banner of both Captain Jack and Mount Union Area, lettering in three sports from his sophomore through his senior years.
Bernie compiled a three-year varsity wrestling record of 23-8-2 with six falls, going 7-2-1 as a 120-pound senior with one pin. He ran 93 times for 320 yards and three touchdowns as a senior in 1967 and also caught four passes for 16 yards.
After graduating from Mount Union in 1968, he attended Stevens Tech in Lancaster from 1968 to 1970, where he was first team in both football as a running back and defensive safety, and wrestled at 147 pounds.
Bernie has been a wrestling official for 38 years and is still active, starting with the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association on Dec. 23, 1982.
In addition to countless dual meets, Bernie has officiated 10 PIAA state championships, 15 PIAA regional tournaments and 30 PIAA district tournaments.
Bernie’s experience isn’t limited to high school. He has also officiated in two National Collegiate Athletic Association national championships (2004 and 2005), 15 NCAA regional tournaments, NCAA Division II and III tournaments and various other venues. He has been a member of the Eastern Wrestling League Officials Association since 1985 and served on its board of directors.
Bernie authored what has become known in wrestling circles as “The Chatman Rule” in 2008 to establish policy and guidelines of general requirements for NCAA officials’ conduct and board authority to deal with unbecoming situations.
“Wrestling is an individual sport and you are your own man on the mat. You have to earn everything you get, whether in the practice room or competing in a match. It’s tough and nobody hands you anything — you have to earn it,” Bernie comments.
Bernie was a coach and president and member of the board of directors in the Juniata Valley Midget and Pee Wee Football League from 1980 to 1987. His Lewistown team went undefeated and unscored upon en route to the 1983 league crown.
Bernie served 25 1/2 years with the Pennsylvania State Police, graduating from the PSP Academy in Hershey July 27, 1973, and retiring in January 1998 with the rank of corporal. His last duty station was with Troop G in Huntingdon.
Bernie served in various capacities with the state police, completing numerous trainings and certifications to serve as a supervisor and manager. In addition to several letters of commendation and awards, the highlight of his distinguished career was receiving the Pennsylvania State Police Medal of Honor for service above and beyond the call of duty for heroic actions under fire during an incident May 18, 1987, in New Lancaster Valley while stationed at the Lewistown barracks. Two firemen were shot and killed during an ambush situation and Bernie pulled a wounded trooper out of the line of fire while returning fire in self-defense.
His citation reads: “Corporal Bernard Chatman. In recognition of conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity about and beyond the call of duty and at the imminent risk of life, thereby, exemplifying the highest traditions of the Pennsylvania State Police, and gaining great honor and respect for himself and the Pennsylvania State Police.”
Bernie remembers, “I wanted to be a state policeman since I was 12 years old. A lot of folks tried to temper my enthusiasm since they didn’t see any Black troopers. I was told I couldn’t do it. There were seven Black cadets in my class and six of us graduated. We would often study together, along with a few white cadets, to maintain our grade level.”
Bernie ended up being one of the first 50 Black state troopers and the first to earn the Medal of Honor.
During and just after his years with the state police, Bernie worked toward earning a Bachelor of Science degree in criminal justice from Elizabethtown College and a Master of Education degree in curriculum design from Wilkes University, both completed in 1999.
Bernie recalls, “My mother drummed into me the importance of getting an education. She was the first out of 11 kids in her family to finish high school and I was the first of her children to get a four-year degree.”
Since retiring from the state police, Bernie worked as a behavior modification specialist with the Juniata County School District, program manager and day treatment supervisor at Bethesda Day Treatment Center (alternative education), behavior specialist and drug free safe schools mobilizer and SAP team program coordinator for the Juniata County School District.
He served as an instructor for the criminal justice police science program at the Mifflin-Juniata Career Technology Center in Lewistown from 2005-2010, which he calls his most rewarding experience outside of athletics.
“Our kids scored in the 97th percentile among career and technology students across the country,” he cites.
Bernie then received training and certification and was a chief agent licensed investigator for Rampart Protective Service. Since Jan 1, 2015, Bernie has been the owner, chief executive officer and director of operations for Keystone Investigations and Security Specialists LLC, based in Hollidaysburg.
Asked about his advice to athletes, Bernie states, “You have to be disciplined and keep your slate clean because those lessons stay with you the rest of your life and can be a key or a deterrent to your success. Take the lessons you learn and apply them to life and career so you can make a positive difference.”
Bernie and the former Joan Marie Henry celebrated their 52nd wedding anniversary in May. They are the parents of two sons, Bernard L. Chatman Jr. and Nathan Chatman, who has followed his father’s footsteps as a noted wrestling official.