Kentucky Sports

UK football great James Calvin Bird dies at age 75

University of Kentucky football great James Calvin Bird, 75, died Wednesday.

Mr. Bird was one of four athletic brothers who grew up in Corbin, and all played sports at UK.

He was a halfback and kick returner from 1958 to 1960 who set five school records. He was MVP in the All-American All-Star game and led the SEC in pass receiving during his sophomore year.

During the 1958 and '59 seasons, he scored every point the Wildcats made in their games against Tennessee, both of which they won.

His jersey was retired in 1997.

"He was absolutely one of the best football players that you can imagine," said his brother Rodger Bird, who lives in Henderson and also had his UK football jersey retired. "Along with that, he had a great personality."

After his football career ended, Mr. Bird went on to a career as a telephone systems sales representative for ITT, and he later ran his own business before retiring and moving Kingsport, Tenn., said his son Jamie Bird.

Mr. Bird is survived by his wife, Okeh Jean Bird, three children and six grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday at Colonial Heights Baptist Church in Kingsport, Tenn. A second memorial service and a reception will be held from 3 to 5 p.m. June 29 at Central Baptist Church in Corbin.