I once was honored to speak to about 30 top students at a high school near Morehead State University.
I wanted to know how many planned to go to college. Only about half of them did. One was headed to UK, the rest all to Morehead. That was no surprise because I knew that it served more mountain residents than any other of our state schools.
And I knew that a mountain student had been a graduate of Morehead’s first graduating class. His name: Russell Williamson of Inez.
He went back to Martin County and bought a toll bridge over the Big Sandy River that was the only way people could drive – or take a wagon – across the river. He made a lot of money and soon owned a bank.
The last time I was in his office he wanted me to go see some of his coal mines and oil wells. Coal operators have been trying to get me inside a coal mine since I was a tyke.
I wanted none of that, thank you.
A huge success
No doubt Russ was one of Morehead’s most successful graduates. In addition to his successful businesses, he coached a state championship basketball team at tiny Inez High. He later was president of the Kentucky High School Athletic Association.
Morehead has had some great athletes, including a Super Bowl-winning quarterback, Phil Simms.
Phil “Whitey” Simms, a native of Lebanon, Ky., and a graduate of Southern High in Jefferson County’s Okolona area, guided and passed the New York Giants to a Super Bowl title.
Steve Hamilton, a Kentucky native who played high school basketball at Charlestown, Ind., High School, is one of the few men who played basketball in the NBA and pitched in the Major Leagues.
Swartz a Celtic
Dan Swartz of Bath County was an outstanding basketball prospect who went to UK, but was injured, dropped out of school and wound up at Morehead. He was another Morehead product who made it in the NBA with the Boston Celtics.
Sonny Allen, home-grown basketball star, led Bob Laughlin’s Breckinridge Training Eaglets (Morehead’s high school where teachers trained) to the 1946 state championship.
Morehead also had a great coach, Ellis Johnson, who coached the Eagles in both football and basketball after starring in both sports at UK.
One night when so many Eagles fouled out that only four were left, Coach Johnson played in his sock feet (the other coach didn’t complain because he was so far ahead).
Now Morehead is blessed with a basketball player who is attracting a steady array of scouts from the NBA. His name is Kenneth Faried, from Newark, N.J., and he devours rebounds like a hungry dog goes after a bone. He is now the record holder, having broken Tim Duncan’s record of 1,570 rebounds. Faried has 1,576.
NBA teams could save a lot of money if they would just call Billy Donovan, the Florida coach who owns two national championships. Faried lit up Florida by dominating the backboards. He made a believer out of Donovan, who praises him whenever he is asked by NBA representatives. Faried is a muscular 6-foot-8 and can touch the top of backboard.
Some of Morehead’s games are televised by WAZ00 Sports on cable. Check your daily TV listings and see for yourself.
About the Author (Author Profile)
Earl Cox, Sports Columnist
Earl doesn¹t just write about sports legends, he counts many of them as his
friends. A member of the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame, he has been writing
about sports for 60 years. Incidentally, that¹s about how long it’s been
since he¹s cleaned his desk but he knows where everything is.