Thursday, September 06, 2001

'Voice of the Wildcats' succumbs to cancer at 75




By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        “The Voice” is now silent, except in the memories of thousands of UK fans.

        Known as the “Voice of the Wildcats” from his 39 years announcing University of Kentucky sports, Cawood Ledford died of cancer early Wednesday at Harlan Appalachian Regional Hospital in eastern Kentucky. He was 75.

        Reds broadcaster Marty Brennaman, who regularly broadcasts NCAA Tournament basketball games, said Mr. Ledford was “the greatest college basketball announcer who ever lived.”

        “One of the reasons why he was successful as he was, is that in a state that is probably more rabid about its college team than anywhere else in the country and doesn't particularly care for anybody being critical of their program in any manner, he could do it and get away with it,” Mr. Brennaman said.

        Villa Hills resident Daryl Evans remembers listening to Mr. Ledford as a boy lying in his bedroom at night or sitting in the barbershop his father, Chet, owned on Madison Avenue in Covington.

        “We grew up loving UK and listening to Cawood Ledford,” Mr. Evans, 43, a salesman, said Wednesday.

        “Everybody in Kentucky did. That's just the way you grew up in this state.”

        “He told it like it was,” Mr. Evans recalled of Mr. Ledford, who also called numerous Kentucky Derby races.

        “Like all good announcers, Cawood was honest,” he said. “He never had to make it up, never hyped it. He just gave you the picture of what was going on.”

        Camp Springs resident Ron Heiert, director of development at Bishop Brossart High School in Alexandria, met Mr. Ledford several times.

        The first time he met Mr. Ledford, Mr. Heiert said, was when he ran a sporting goods store in Newport.

        “He sat there for hours, signing hundreds of auto graphs. And even though it was a cold, blustery December night and he had to drive back to Lexington, Cawood sat with me for more than an hour after I closed, just talking about basketball, about (former UK coach) Adolph Rupp, about the UK tradition, about life,” Mr. Heiert, 52, recalled.

        “He was the very best in his profession surrounded by all the greatness of UK, but he never lost his respect for the common man. He was special.”

        John Erardi of the Enquirer contributed to this report.

       More Cawood Ledford coverage at Courier-Journal.com



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