Henderson County, Kentucky



"This is the finest thing that can be done for a boy. Being honored by the hometown folks … the people who know you best, is something to be proud of." -- The legendary Paul "Bear" BRYANT, in a tribute to Wilbur "Shorty" JAMERSON on January 15, 1951.

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BRYANT, then the football coach at University of Kentucky, made his remarks as the principal speaker at a banquet honoring JAMERSON on "Shorty JAMERSON Day" in Henderson.

Only two weeks earlier, JAMERSON had scored both of UK's touchdowns in one of college football history's biggest upsets, the Wildcats' 13-7 victory over top-ranked Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans.

That upset stopped Oklahoma's winning streak at 32 games, dating back to the opening game of the 1948 season.

The Associate Press account of the game hailed the "jet-like passes" of UK quarterback Babe PARILLI and the "vicious line play" of tackle Walt YOWARSKY. PARILLI completed nine of 12 passes, including a 23-yard touchdown strike to JAMERSON, and YOWARSKY made 20 tackles and recovered two fumbles.

But JAMERSON was clearly the hero of the game to the homefolks in Henderson, where he won the hearts of the community four years earlier as a star athlete and popular student at Barret Manual Training High School.

And they threw one big party for him on January 15.

The banquet, sponsored by The Gleaner and Journal and the Henderson Junior chamber of Commerce, drew approximately "700 chicken-eating gridiron boosters" to Moose Hall in what a headline termed the "biggest banquet in city history" for the UK co-captain.

As sports writer Jack HUDGIONS reported: "Praise was piled high on JAMERSON and the speakers didn't spare the words in telling of the former Barret player."

Here's what BRYANT had to say: "Shorty has been such a brilliant football player that the sports writers haven't been able to say all they want to about him.

"It has been a privilege for me to have been associated with JAMERSON for these past four years. Shorty made the grade, and better still, he made me like it.

"Ermal ALLEN, my scout, came back to Lexington after seeing JAMERSON play Paducah. He had a long list of long tales on JAMERSON. I thought they were hard to believe.

"Finally, I came to Henderson and went to JAMERSON'S home. It was there that I learned why JAMERSON is of such strong character.

"I met Mr. and Mrs. JAMERSON and I found that Shorty JAMERSON had some good bringin' up." (Applause interrupted BRYANT at that point, HUDGIONS reported.)

"He has good Christian parents and came from a good Christian home. It's the kind of family that says the blessing at the supper table and reads the Bible after supper. He's the kind of boy who takes a walk with his father and kisses his mother. I only wish that more families were like that."

"One Saturday afternoon in JAMERSON'S first or second year at Lexington, Mr. and Mrs. JAMERSON were there to see the game. Mrs. JAMERSON, like any mother, told me, 'Shorty is so little. I'm afraid he will get hurt." I told her not to worry, that her Shorty wasn't going to get hurt.

"That night about 11 or 12 o'clock Mrs. JAMERSON and I were in the campus hospital as doctors worked on Shorty. We looked down at him, his eyeball hanging down to his chin. Now I know Mrs. JAMERSON is a good Christian woman, but when I looked up at her I'd hate to say what I thought I read in her face.

"JAMERSON is the best ball carrier I've had in the past five years. Had he not been injured in the early part of the season, he would have been All-American. Although he is a good football player, I'm prouder of him for his other activities. He is one of the finest leaders any team could have."

When it came his turn to speak, JAMERSON said that the special day for him made him "the envy of all the (UK) players left there."

"There's one thing I want to set straight," he said. "I hear an awful lot of talk about me, and that I was the whole team here at Henderson. I would not be here tonight if it wasn't for such boys as Jimmy FEIX (who would become an All-American at Western) and John SEHLTON (who quarterbacked at Louisville after his Barret days)."

The banquet followed a day in which JAMERSON was honored with a downtown parade, was appointed honorary mayor, police chief and sheriff and was greeted by a "tremendous ovation as he strode out to greet the student body" at BMTHS.

"It isn't just because Shorty is a great athlete that we honor him today," said Principal Archie PIEHL. "It's because of his personal characteristics that made him achieve success against the handicap of his small size (160 pounds)."

After graduation from University of Kentucky, JAMERSON coached for a period at Morehead State University and then was a high school educator.

In 1988, he was honored as one of the original 13 inductees into the Henderson County Sports Hall of Fame and came from Bypro in eastern Kentucky, with his family for the induction ceremonies.

His humility had not deserted him.

"My feelings are beyond words," he told a reporter. "It is quite an honor. This exceeds all the accomplishments at UK. Being able to experience this is a once-in-a-lifetime thing."

JAMERSON died in December 1994 at age 65.

Reprinted with permission.
Progress Edition, The Gleaner, Henderson, KY, Saturday, March 30, 1996
Written by Ron Jenkins

Contributed by Netta Mullin, HCH&GS
Copyright 2002 HCH&GS