By LARRY VAUGHT
Bob Burrow was a two-time All-American at Kentucky from 1954-56 who averaged 17.7 rebounds per game, which is still a UK single-season record. He also tied the single game mark with 34 rebounds against Temple on Dec. 10, 1955. He scored 1,023 points — 20.1 per game — and had 823 rebounds in his two years playing for coach Adolph Rupp after transferring from Lon Morros Junior College in Texas.
Kentucky fan Jeremy Kemble, 49, of Franklin sat next to Burrow at a Kentucky home basketball game in December of 2014. Kemble recently recalled one question he had always wondered about, so he asked Burrow.
“I talked to this man the entire game, and was far more interested in the stories he was telling than I was the actual game,” said Kemble. “I finally got the nerve up to ask him point blank, because I had always heard stories here and there, about Coach Rupp.
“I said, ‘Was Adolph Rupp racist?’ He flat out said, ‘No, and I’d tell you if he was.’ He said he could be an ass, but never once heard him saying anything that would lead him to believe he was one.”
Kemble shared this story after the request was made by some faculty members at the University of Kentucky to to change the name of Rupp Arena because of Rupp’s alleged racism over 50 years ago.
Burrow, who passed away last year at age 84, told Kemble that people now forget how “times were back then” and told Kemble about how African-Americans were not allowed to eat in the same places or stay at the same motels as whites.
Kemble told him he had heard former players say Rupp was not racist but he wanted to hear face to face what Burrow thought.
“I did get around to asking him one more question, and that was, if he could go back, and change one thing during his time at UK, what would it be? He said he’d love to go back, and play Georgia Tech again. He said people forget, but at that time, they were in the SEC,” Kemble said. “Mr. Burrow said they came into Memorial (Coliseum) and beat us, and that was the first time we’d ever been beaten in that gym and it still upsets me. ‘I’d like to go back, and play that game over,’ he said.”