Picture Via UK Libraries

It’s Military History Week!

In honor of military history week at the University Press of Kentucky, here are some of our favorite books commemorating America’s  past.


In Lincoln’s Final Hours, author Kathryn Canavan takes a magnifying glass to the last moments of the president’s life and to the impact his assassination had on a country still reeling from a bloody civil war. With vivid, thoroughly researched prose and a reporter’s eye for detail, this fast-paced account not only furnishes a glimpse into John Wilkes Booth’s personal and political motivations but also illuminates the stories of ordinary people whose lives were changed forever by the assassination.


In For Slavery and Union, Patrick A. Lewis uses Benjamin Buckner’s story to illuminate the origins and perspectives of Kentucky’s conservative proslavery Unionists, and explain why this group eventually became a key force in repressing social and political change during the Reconstruction era and beyond. Free from the constraints and restrictions imposed on the former Confederate states, men like Buckner joined with other proslavery forces to work in the interest of the New South’s brand of economic growth and racial control.

9780813165639In Committed to Victory: The Kentucky Home Front During World War II, author Richard Holl offers the first comprehensive examination of the Commonwealth’s civilian sector during this pivotal era in the state’s history. National mobilization efforts rapidly created centers of war production and activity in Louisville, Paducah, and Richmond, producing new economic prosperity in the struggling region. The war effort also spurred significant societal changes, including the emergence of female and minority workforces in the state. In the Bluegrass, this trend found its face in Pulaski County native Rose Will Monroe, who was discovered as she assembled B-24 and B-29 bombers and was cast as Rosie the Riveter in films supporting the war effort.

Th9780813146928e first dedicated study of this key region, Kentucky Confederates provides valuable insights into a misunderstood and understudied part of Civil War history. Author Berry Craig begins by exploring the development of the Purchase from 1818, when Andrew Jackson and Isaac Shelby acquired it from the Chickasaw tribe. Geographically isolated from the rest of the Bluegrass State, the area’s early settlers came from the South, and rail and river trade linked the region to Memphis and western Tennessee rather than to points north and east.

9780813133843On October 8, 1862, Union and Confederate forces clashed near Perryville, Kentucky, in what would be the largest battle ever fought on Kentucky soil. The climax of a campaign that began two months before in northern Mississippi, Perryville came to be recognized as the high water mark of the western Confederacy. Perryville: This Grand Havoc of Battle is the definitive account of this important conflict. While providing all the parry and thrust one might expect from an excellent battle narrative, the book also reflects the new trends in Civil War history in its concern for ordinary soldiers and civilians caught in the slaughterhouse. The last chapter, unique among Civil War battle narratives, even discusses the battle’s veterans, their families, efforts to preserve the battlefield, and the many ways Americans have remembered and commemorated Perryville.

Cats Facts: Darius Miller

Senior Darius Miller, shooting in one of his record 152 games for UK

Senior Darius Miller, shooting in one of his record 152 games for UK

It’s no joke that the Commonwealth of Kentucky takes basketball seriously. As crazy as the support for the game is in the state, it might be surprising to hear that only one Kentuckian has had much success at the University of Kentucky in the modern game. Who is he? Darius Miller.

Winning Kentucky Mr. Basketball in high school and going on to win the Kentucky boys’ state high school championship, Miller came into UK with incredible support from local fans. He went on to be an integral part of the 2012 National Championship winning team and to this day holds the record for most games played in a UK jersey–152.

We hope you’ll enjoy this excerpt from Doug Brunk’s Wildcat Memories written by Darius Miller about his experience at UK:

The Big Blue Nation fan base really impacted me. In my opinion they’re some of the best fans in the world. They do a great job supporting the team with events like the Big Blue Madness campout every fall. Me being a hometown kid, they showed me a lot of support throughout my four years, but especially during my freshman year, when our team was struggling a bit. Every tournament game we played in a neutral setting felt like home court advantage because of how many UK fans would show up. Even some of our away games felt like home games because there were so many Kentucky fans there.

Coach Cal’s first year at UK was a completely different situation than the one I was in my freshman year. We had a really successful team that year. I learned a new system and it was a lot of fun. Of course, winning the 2012 National Championship in New Orleans my senior year was a blessing. We had put in a lot of hard work up to that point, but to finally achieve our goal was amazing. The chemistry on our championship team was unique. Nobody cared who got the credit. It was all about us winning and having fun. That’s what we did. We were just out there trying to have fun and the enjoy moments that we have. It was good for all of us. No one had a huge ego.

In May of 2012 our team was invited to the White House to be congratulated for our championship win by President Barack Obama. I presented him with a No. 1 UK jersey. It was an incredible experience to walk in to the White House and to visit the President. I was honored to be a part of it all and I’ll never forget.

Doug Brunk’s Wildcat Memories can be purchased at your local bookseller or online from the University Press of Kentucky.

Cats Facts: Dan Issel

Dan Issel, six-time ABA All-Star and one-time NBA pick Credit: Sports Magazine Archives

It’s that time of day again! This newest addition to UPK’s Cats Facts is dedicated to former UK Center Dan Issel. This Hall of Famer was named an All-American twice thanks to him being the all-time leading scorer with a record of 25.7 points per game between the years 1967 and 1970.

Beyond reaching an average of 13 rebounds per game and achieving the title of ABA Rookie of the Year in 1971, Issel gives his own, more personal, account of being a successful player under Coach Rupp’s guidance at UK in this excerpt from Wildcat Memories:

“A few people in particular had an influence on me during my career at UK. One was Coach Rupp. You don’t find may people who are lukewarm on Coach Rupp. They either loved playing for him or they hated playing for him, for a couple of reasons. Today, you have to coach the individual; you have to understand which player you have to pat on the back to motivate and which player you have to kind of kick in the pants to motivate. Coach Rupp’s philosophy was that you kicked everybody in the pants, and if you weren’t strong enough to take it, he didn’t want you on his team. I blossomed in that system because I grew up on a farm and I had a good work ethic. My mentality was I’m going to prove to you that I’m going to work hard enough be successful. So Coach Rupp’s philosophy of coaching was suited perfectly for my personality. He was tough, but he was fair. I got to know him a little better than a lot of his players did because he retired in 1972 and had a relationship with the Kentucky Colonels of the ABA while I was playing there. We also launched a basketball camp together with my former teammate Mike Pratt called The Rupp-Issel-Pratt Basketball Camp. That camp took place at Centre College in Danville for a couple of years and then moved to Bellarmine University in Louisville.

I really grew to appreciate Coach Rupp. He was an amazing man. Here was a guy who never made more than $20,000 a year when he was coaching at UK, but when he passed away his estate was worth millions of dollars. He had a strong work ethic and he influenced me a great deal, the notion of being able to accomplish something if you worked hard enough at it. To this day, in my wallet I carry a typewritten quote from Theodore Roosevelt that Coach Rupp was fond of and often quoted. It reads: It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.

In a nutshell, that was Coach Rupp’s philosophy.”

To read more, Wildcat Memories is available at your favorite bookseller or online from the University Press of Kentucky.

General John R. Galvin Fighting the Cold War

General John R. Galvin, 1929–2015

We were saddened to learn this week that General John R. Galvin, USA (Ret.), former NATO Supreme Allied Commander, dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, and winner of the Legion of Merit and Army Distinguished Service Medals, passed away at his home in Jonesboro, Georgia.

General Galvin’s recently released memoir, Fighting the Cold War: A Soldier’s Memoir, is a record of not only his uncommon leadership on the battlefield and in affairs of state, but also his service as an historian, mentor, and teacher.

As the Washington Post noted in an obituary posted today, “his leadership ability and scholarship earned him friends in high places, which aided in his rise. He contributed to writing the Pentagon Papers, the Defense Department’s secret multi-volume history of the Vietnam War, and played roles in reshaping the Army after the post-Vietnam era.

“Thinking beyond large-scale, conventional warfare with the Soviet Union and other nation-states, he wrote influential reports and articles on counterinsurgency strategy and guerrilla warfare that would define conflicts in the Middle East after the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq.”

The New York Times also praised his contributions to US military historiography and the major role he played in bringing about the end of the Cold War as Supreme Allied Commander of NATO forces in Europe.

In Fighting the Cold War, General Galvin recounts fascinating behind-the-scenes anecdotes about his interactions with world leaders, describing encounters such as his experience of watching President José Napoleón Duarte argue eloquently against US intervention in El Salvador; a private conversation with Pope John Paul II in which the pontiff spoke to him about what it means to be a man of peace; and his discussion with General William Westmoreland about soldiers’ conduct in the jungles of Vietnam and Cambodia. He also recalls his complex negotiations with a number of often difficult foreign heads of state, including Manuel Noriega, Augusto Pinochet, Mikhail Gorbachev, and Ratko Mladić.

General Galvin was also the author of The Minute Men: The First Fight: Myths and Realities of the American RevolutionAir Assault: The Development of Airmobile Warfare, and Three Men of Boston: Leadership and Conflict at the Start of the American Revolution.

Cats Facts: Joe B Hall

Joe B Hall, UK Basketball Alumni (1948-1949) and Head Coach (1973-1985)

Joe B Hall, UK Basketball Alumni (1948-1949) and Head Coach (1973-1985)

It’s official! Big Blue Madness has begun in earnest! Here in Lexington, Cats fans have started camping out for free tickets to watch the UK Men’s Basketball Team’s first open practice in the next few weeks. The tradition is unreal, spurred on year after year by a, as Coach Cal would say, “crazy” fan-base, but where did it all begin?

It all started in the 1982-1983 season with Joe B Hall at the helm and greats like Melvin Turpin, Jim Master, and Derrick Hord on the court. The team would go on to win the SEC, but ultimately fell to Louisville in the Elite Eight  in the meeting between rivals since 1959.

Check out this extended quote about the UK fanbase from Joe B Hall, published in Wildcat Memories:

I gained a good understanding of the UK fan base when I was Coach Rupp’s assistant. As I recruited all over the state and as I traveled for various speaking engagements, the buzz was all about UK basketball. Of course, the University of Louisville Cardinals had a big following but mostly it was confined to Jefferson County and not too much in other parts of the state. Each smaller state school had its own following, but their fans also followed UK. The early success of Coach Rupp and his four NCAA National Championship wins that spanned over two decades really built the tradition at UK.

When he retired, Coach Rupp said that he left a program that was built on a solid foundation, one that would carry itself for years to come. He was right. The fan support in this state is unequaled anywhere. I say that knowing the following that Duke University, the University of North Carolina, UCLA, and the University of Notre Dame have. They have other pretenders in their back door that Kentucky doesn’t have. Kentucky is the Commonwealth’s team, and the support goes border to border.

The fan devotion of Big Blue Nation was a stimulus to my hard work. I knew what was expected from the fans and knew that if I didn’t do my job, I wasn’t going to be here for very long. I recruited hard and did what I had to do to coach up my teams. I was very serious about what it meant to so many people. I tried not to let those fans down. The pressure was there, but there was also opportunity. When you have tradition like UK’s you don’t have any trouble talking to a recruit.

Five coaches – Coach Rupp, me, Rick Pitino, Tubby Smith, and John Calipari – have won national championships in this atmosphere. There is no other college or university that has more than three coaches who have won national championships for their institution. What does that tell you? It tells you a lot about tradition. It tells you about fans and expectations that stimulate the administration to give you the support to hire the right people who can win.

The fan devotion is incredible, from people who go to all kinds of extremes to come to games to people who line out outside of the arena days before a scrimmage to get tickets. When your players witness that kind of interest, they become serious and focused. When they know it’s so important to so many people they start grasping what their responsibility is. You don’t have to tell them. They can feel it. When you put demands on them in terms of preseason conditioning, hitting the weight room, and giving them instructions, they’re ready to listen to you. They take coaching seriously and they know the importance of what they’re doing. That’s a great tool for a coach to have. Expectation of the fans is an enormous stimulus to their focus.

UK fans place their head basketball coach on a pedestal because that person is the leader of what they love so much. It’s a rock star effect for the players and everybody associated with the program. In my case, I never dreamed of having an opportunity to play basketball at UK, let alone becoming the head coach. Growing up, I had so much respect for the players and what they accomplished; I never even pictured myself in that role. When I did earn a basketball scholarship and walked out on to the court to represent the university, I was still in awe.

When I became the head coach, it wasn’t a dream come true, because I had never dreamed that the opportunity would present itself to me. I always held the head coaching job at UK in such high regard because I had so much respect for Coach Rupp. Even to be criticized in comparison to him was an honor. I never tried to remove his shadow from the program. I didn’t try to fill his shoes. I just tried to do the best I could. I didn’t expect anything more. It was a humbling experience for me to have the honor of being associated with the program that I loved for so long.

I’m the only native Kentuckian to ever coach at UK, at least since the tenure of Coach Rupp, who was from Kansas. I’m a native son who had the opportunity to do something that I dearly believed in and loved.

Wildcat Memories is available for purchase at your favorite bookseller or online from the University Press of Kentucky,

Cats Facts: Wallace “Wah Wah” Jones

Wah Wah Jones, the only UK athlete to have his jersey number retired in both football and basketball. Credit: Kentucky Herald-Leader

Wallace “Wah Wah” Jones had many accomplishments during his tenure at UK. Coached by both Adolph Rupp and Bear Bryant, he is the sole Kentucky athlete to have his jersey retired in both football and basketball. He was a starter on the “Fabulous Five”, leading the team to 2 NCAA Championships and moving on to win a gold medal as a member of the 1948 United States Olympic basketball team.

Get a deeper insight into the life of this All-American player by reading his personal narrative about being a UK athlete in this excerpt from Doug Brunk’s Wildcat Memories:

“I had dreamed about playing basketball at the University of Kentucky for many, many years. When I was growing up in Harlan in the 1940s our family didn’t have a television set. We had a radio but the reception on that was not reliable. Sometimes we’d get reception in the attic of our house, but often we’d pile in the car and drive into the nearby mountains to listen to UK basketball games on the car radio.

I was lucky to have been part of a winning basketball program at Harlan High School. Our team went to the state tournament four years in a row (1942-45) and in 1944 our team won the state championship title. At the end of my high school career I had scored 2,398 points, which at the time was the highest total by a single high school player in the United States.

Were it not for the man who went on to become my father-in-law ‑ Alva Ball of Middlesboro, Ky. (I married his daughter, Edna) ‑ I might have ended up playing basketball for the University of Tennessee instead of for UK. In the summer of 1945 Alva overheard that I was considering signing with Tennessee. I don’t know who he called at UK but the next day a driver arrived in Harlan to transport me to Lexington to meet with Coach Adolph Rupp. After meeting with him I decided to sign at UK but basketball was not the only sport I played there. I lettered four years in football and three years in baseball.

By the time I arrived in Lexington for my freshman year the Wildcats had already played one football game. Paul “Bear” Bryant was the head football coach and he played me in the second game of the season, even though I didn’t know any of the plays or the signals. I played all 60 minutes of that game, on both defense and offense! George Blanda played on that team. Coach Rupp didn’t like the fact that I played football. He was worried I would get injured and he kind of held me back a little bit.

Coach Rupp and Coach Bryant were a lot alike. They both were tough on their players. During a football game against the University Of Cincinnati I got some teeth knocked loose. During a break in the game I said something about this to Coach Bryant. “Well, you don’t run on your teeth,” he said to me. “Get back in there!” After the game my teammates had a steak dinner at the Cincinnati Netherland Plaza hotel and I was sucking on a milkshake.”

If you enjoyed that excerpt, be sure to check out the rest of Brunk’s Wildcat Memories for more firsthand accounts from other Kentucky big names such as Dan Issel, Joe B. Hall, Kyle Macy, and Tubby Smith.

Cats Facts: Nat Northington

Nate Northington

Nate Washington, the first African American football player in the SEC. Credit: Louisville Courier Journal

This afternoon, the University of Kentucky announced a plan to build four statues honoring the lives and legacies of Greg Page, Nat Northington, Wilbur Hackett, and Houston Hogg–the first four African-American football players at UK and in the South Eastern Conference (SEC). Who were these young men? Two of them were Kentuckians by birth.

To celebrate this announcement, we hope you will enjoy learning a little bit about Nat Northington from his entry in The Kentucky African American Encyclopedia.

Northington, Nate “Nat” (b. 1947, Louisville, KY), football player.

Nate “Nat” Northington was born to William E and Flossie in Louisville, Kentucky on October 17, 1947. He was an outstanding high school football player. His junior year at Thomas Jefferson High School in Louisville, he led the team in touchdowns. His senior year he excelled in academics as well becoming an officer and member of the Beta Club and National Honor Society. He was recruited by the University of Kentucky (UK) as a wideout receiver alongside Greg Page, also African-American, with the intent of being a model for other Southern schools to integrate their athletic teams. The recruitment process was led in part by former Kentucky Governor Edward T. Breathitt, who at the time was the Chairman of the Board of Trustees at UK.

In 1967, Northington’s roommate Greg Page suffered a neck injury during practice which left him paralyzed from the nose down. Page would die thirty-eight days later from his injuries. The next afternoon, Northington would break the SEC color barrier as a wideout receiver for UK in a home loss to the University of Mississippi. On September 30, 1967, he became the first African-American football player to play in a game in the Southeastern Conference, an athletic conference openly reluctant to racially desegregate.    Northington would then leave the UK in the following weeks after the Mississippi game. Being the only black varsity player, Northington expressed the loneliness and distress that he felt, “I can tell you every brick in my room. All I do is talk to my walls.” Shortly after leaving the team in 1967, he transferred to Western Kentucky University where he received a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

After graduation, Northington headed the Bowling Green Housing Authority and later was a staffer at the Louisville Housing Authority. He would eventually become the regional director of property management with the Louisville Metro Housing Authority and serve as licensed minister at his church.

The Kentucky African American Encyclopedia is available now from your favorite bookseller or www.kentuckypress.com.