, Corbin, KY

June 24, 2013

Legend Lost

James Calvin Bird 1938-2013

The Times-Tribune

CORBIN — Corbin, UK sports legend dead at 75

The Corbin community and sports fans across the state lost a legend as Corbin native and University of Kentucky legend Calvin Bird passed away Wednesday at the age of 75.

Bird, one of a quartet of brothers who are all famous when it comes to athletics (Jerry, Rodger, and Bill), was a superb high school athlete while playing for the Corbin Redhounds.

Calvin Bird received 10 letters while suiting up for Corbin in various sports, and he made the All-Tournament Team in every tournament, district or region, that he ever participated in.

As good of an athlete as he was, Calvin Bird’s nephew and former Redhound, EKU and NFL player Steve Bird, said he was an even better family member.

“As much as he cared about sports and trying to do things the right way, he cared even more about his family,” Steve Bird said. “It didn’t matter what the situation or the reason, if you needed Calvin, he was always there with a helping hand or a kind word or two to help get you through whatever it was you were dealing with.”

Bird left Corbin as one of the school’s most prolific scorers in basketball, and he was a member of the undefeated and state championship football team in 1955. The Redhounds won the state title with a 27-21 victory over Newport Public in the Recreation Bowl.

While playing football for the Redhounds, Bird was an All-State and High School All-American in both the 1955 and 1956 seasons.

After his career as a Corbin Redhound, Calvin Bird went on to have a prolific career as a football player at the University of Kentucky where he had his jersey number retired (#21) at the Wildcats’ 1996 Kickoff Luncheon in Lexington.

A profile of Calvin Bird on the UK Athletics website refers to him as one of the most versatile players in Wildcat history.

Bird played from 1958 to 1960 for coach Blanton Collier, excelling as a running back, pass receiver, defensive back, kickoff returner and punt returner. He once held five school records in the categories of kickoff returns, all-purpose yardage and scoring. He was chosen as the SEC Sophomore of the Year in 1958 when he led the league in pass receiving and was named to the All-SEC team following his junior and senior seasons.

He led the team in receiving and all-purpose yardage for three consecutive seasons and played in three all-star games following his senior year and was the most valuable back in the All-American Bowl. After his senior season at Kentucky, Bird was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in the 17th round of the NFL Draft.

There’s no doubt that the Bird family’s impact on sports in Corbin will be felt for years to come. Steve Jewell, the current coach of the Corbin Redhounds football team, said the accomplishments of Calvin Bird and his family are something that will live on in history when it comes to sports conversations.

“I know there were a lot of people that came before the Birds, but when you talk about Corbin sports, the name Bird always comes up,” Jewell said. “Those guys were a large part of the groundwork as far as tradition is concerned.

“This is a big loss for sports and tradition and I’m sure Calvin will be missed,” Jewell added.

Locally, a memorial service and reception will be Saturday, June 29, at Central Baptist Church in Corbin from 3-5 p.m.

For Calvin Bird’s complete obituary, see page 6A.