State

Freddie Maggard, who helped Carr Creek win Kentucky basketball championship in 1956, dies

E.A. Couch (33) helped carry Freddie Maggard of Carr Creek after Maggard scored the winning basket for Carr Creek over Wayland during the state tournament at Memorial Coliseum on March 16, 1956. Sharing in the postgame celebration were Bobby Shepherd (41) and Jim Calhoun (29).
E.A. Couch (33) helped carry Freddie Maggard of Carr Creek after Maggard scored the winning basket for Carr Creek over Wayland during the state tournament at Memorial Coliseum on March 16, 1956. Sharing in the postgame celebration were Bobby Shepherd (41) and Jim Calhoun (29). Herald-Leader archives

Freddie Maggard, a guard on the legendary 1956 state champion Carr Creek Indians basketball team, died Sunday of pneumonia and heart failure at Baptist Health Hospital in Corbin, according to his son, Freddie Maggard II.

Maggard, 78, was surrounded by family and died peacefully, his son said.

His accomplishments on the basketball court were like something out of the movies. Twice during the 1956 Sweet Sixteen — against Central City in the opening round and against a vaunted Wayland team that included Mr. Basketball “King” Kelly Coleman, in the semifinals — Maggard won games with last-minute shots. He then scored 20 points in the finals to help Carr Creek beat Henderson 72-68 and win the school’s only state title. Cheering crowds followed them all the way from Memorial Coliseum to the Phoenix Hotel in downtown Lexington.

Despite his efforts, Maggard was not named to that year’s All-State team. The Kentucky General Assembly had a special session to mandate that he be placed on the team, a measure of his accomplishments.

“Carr Creek was nothing but a post office,” Maggard said in a 2012 interview on the importance of basketball in Eastern Kentucky in the 1950s. “No restaurant, no theater … nothing but the school. … And the only thing going on was Carr Creek basketball.”

The Knott County school closed in 1974.

Maggard said in a 2005 interview that he honed his skills with “a foam ball and an oatmeal box that I cut the bottom out of.”

But don’t compare the Indians to Hoosiers, Hollywood’s Cinderella basketball story: Freddie Maggard II, who himself was a high school hall of fame football star who played quarterback for the University of Kentucky, said his father and teammates “hated that comparison because they thought they were the best team in the state.”

The team was good enough for his father and three teammates to win scholarships to play basketball at Division I colleges, according to Maggard II.

The elder Maggard went to Virginia Tech but soon left college and basketball when his father died.

“He started working in the coal mines to support his family,” Maggard II said.

He was drafted into the Army and after basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.. He became an engineer and was put on alert during the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961.

‘Even through his accomplishments in athletics, the Army, coal mining and his family, he was the most humble man I’ve ever known. He made others feel special.

Freddie Maggard II, speaking of his father

After the Army, Maggard returned to the Eastern Kentucky coal fields, where he worked for 40 years, first as an engineer, then a superintendent, eventually becoming an executive vice president of TECO.

After retiring about 20 years ago, Maggard devoted his time to golf, his family and his church, his son said.

In addition to his son, who lives in Versailles, Maggard is survived by his wife, Patricia; a daughter, Samantha Burton of Corbin; and four grandchildren.

“Even through his accomplishments in athletics, the Army, coal mining and his family, he was the most humble man I’ve ever known,” Maggard II said of his father. “He made others feel special.”

Visitation will be 1 to 4 p.m. Tuesday at Immanuel Baptist Church in Corbin, followed by services at 4 p.m. In lieu of flowers, contributions are suggested to the Immanuel Baptist Church Building Fund.

Crowley Funeral Home in Williamsburg is in charge of arrangements.

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