Last night, during the premiere of the “Pat XO” documentary on ESPN as part of their Nine for IX series,
author blogger radio host SEC fan Fox Sports columnist human Clay Travis tweeted out what he thought was the “Mount Rushmore” of Tennessee:
If you were doing a Mount Rushmore for state of Tennessee, I go Andrew Jackson, Davy Crockett, Elvis, & Pat Summitt. Any debate?
— Clay Travis (@ClayTravisBGID) July 10, 2013
I admittedly do not know nor care enough about the state to our south to argue with Travis’ list. It did, however, pique my interest into attempting to choose the “Mount Rushmore” for our great state of Kentucky. For starters, Abraham Lincoln, born in Kentucky and our 16th president, is not eligible because his face already adorns the original Mount Rushmore. Second, the person necessarily doesn’t have to be born in Kentucky to make the list; their accomplishments and legacy could be tied to Kentucky or their fame has brought attention to the state because it is where they are from (like Lincoln). I know that everyone is going to be in 100% agreement with my list and the comments will be nothing but praise for my ingenuity so let’s dive on in.
Any KY Rushmore isn’t complete without the great Adolph Rupp and since this is a blog about Kentucky sports, there is no one better to start than with the Baron of the Bluegrass. Rupp was originally born in Kansas, where he learned the game of basketball from legendary coach Phog Allen and some commoner named James Naismith (who happened to invent the sport) before taking his talents to the coaching ranks himself. Rupp made the jump from high school basketball to the University of Kentucky in 1930, where he proceeded to stay for 41 years, winning 876 games and 4 NCAA National Championships. Rupp was forced into retirement at the age of 70 and later passed away in 1977. As college basketball has progressed and its history grown much deeper, there are many mixed emotions about Adolph Rupp and his legacy in the sport, but without Adolp Rupp there simply wouldn’t be Kentucky Basketball.
The King of KFC is up next on KY Rushmore. The Colonel, born in Indiana, enlisted in the Army and eventually ended up in Laurel County (shout out to 606) where he began to sell fried chicken. He developed his secret recipe during this time and eventually franchised the “Kentucky Fried Chicken” chain, and the rest is history. Sanders lived his elder years in Canada overseeing the Canadian branch of KFC (we won’t hold it against him), but returned to Kentucky before his death in 1980. Without the Colonel, my hometown of London wouldn’t be able to hold the annual WORLD FAMOUS Chicken Festival, you wouldn’t be able to enjoy those delicious fried chicken dinners and artery-clogging sides with your grandparents every Sunday after church and Louisville wouldn’t be able to sell KFC Yum! the naming rights to an arena they are attempting to bankrupt in record time. Win-win-win (Michael Scott voice).
KY Rushmore’s next occupant is The Great Compromiser Henry Clay. Clay was a lawyer who practiced in Lexington before ultimately being elected to the state’s General Assembly, later appointed as Senator in the United States Congress, eventually chosen as the Speaker of the House and lastly appointed the U.S. Secretary of State. He founded the Whig Party, brokered the vastly important Missouri Compromise, was admired by Abraham Lincoln and once shot a man during a duel in Kentucky while a state legislator. Talk about a boring life. Clay attempted to win the presidency three times and was ohsoclose, but it never came to be. His estate, known as Ashland, is a historical landmark in Lexington and is open to the public. If you are a Kentucky politics nerd like myself, or even politics in general, then you know that there are few men who have served their country as well as Henry Clay.
This one might be a Wild Card for most of you. Who, you ask? No, not the founder of Twitter. This Evan Williams came to Kentucky as it was being settled and became the first commercial distiller of bourbon. The “corn liquor” as it was called back then became a staple of Kentucky’s culture from that day forward. Presently, 95% of the world’s bourbon is created in the state of Kentucky, where 4.9 million barrels are aging in the Bluegrass, a number that exceeds our own population. Because of Evan Williams, we have the Bourbon Festival, the Kentucky Bourbon Trail and an endless supply of the world’s finest whiskey. Let’s all remember Mr. Williams the next time we raise our glasses.
There are countless others that could easily be included on this list (Muhammad Ali, George Clooney, Darrell Waltrip, Hunter S. Thompson, etc.) but I attempted to choose someone from different backgrounds so as not to overlap in areas like sports, entertainment or politics. That’s my list and I’m sticking to it. Now, what say you? Who do you think ultimately deserves to grace KY Rushmore?