LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Adolph F. Rupp Jr or “Herky” as he was known not only played basketball for his legendary father, but was his staunchest defender. Herky Rupp died Wednesday afternoon in Lexington, one week shy of his 76th birthday.
According to Herky’s son, Adolph F. Rupp III or “Chip”, his dad had been quietly dealing with a treatable form of cancer for the last eight or nine years, before his health began to deteriorate in the last couple of months.
Rupp's family released a statement on Friday afternoon:
“ Our family is devastated and grieving the loss of our beloved father, loving husband, and doting grandfather. Our father led an exemplary life and will be forever remembered for the kindness he showed to everyone he met. He truly was the ultimate gentleman. His kind, gentle, and caring nature was unparalleled and made him loved by many. We are so blessed to have had him in our lives and we will miss him terribly. We appreciate your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.”
Herky Rupp was a 6’4” forward who played at Kentucky for three seasons from 1959-1962 appearing in a total of 14 games and scoring 11 career points. But in a little known fact, the Kentucky coach let his young son score the first ever basket in Memorial Coliseum after the construction was complete and the goals were put in place.
After graduating from UK, Herky was a high school coach with successful stints at Lafayette, Shelby County and Louisville Atherton before concentrating solely on teaching and raising cattle on the family farm. But in his later years much of his time was spent defending his father’s legacy, particularly after the release of the movie “Glory Road” in 2006. That film, starring John Voight, chronicled the 1966 NCAA Championship game when an all-white Kentucky team, lost to a Texas Western squad that started 5 African-American players.
Herky Rupp, saw the previews but refused to watch anything else.
“There has to be a good guy and a bad guy, and Kentucky’s going to be the bad guy,” he said. “How can someone believe what these revisionists have put out, and how can it grow into such a ridiculous story”, he told the Associated Press. “This has altered my father’s legacy, and not a bit of it is true.”
The younger Mr. Rupp says his beef wasn’t with Mr. Voight, other than the fact he doesn’t think he resembles his father. In fact, Mr. Voight called Herky Rupp during shooting to tell him that out of respect for his father’s career, he was going to try to make some changes to the script.
Those changes apparently were made, according to Harry Miller III, a Hollywood film editor who grew up in Lexington and saw an early draft of “Glory Road.”
WKYT’s Dick Gabriel, produced a documentary about Rupp which featured extensive interviews with those who played and coached for and against Rupp and at the time of the documentary’s release, Gabriel said the issue wasn’t home games in Lexington but Southeastern Conference road games in the Deep South. A black player for Kentucky — a disliked program already because of its immense success — would have been subjected to far greater scrutiny than one playing on another SEC team.
“The South was a dangerous place for African-Americans to begin with,” Gabriel said. “Rupp knew his teams were already hated. He said, ‘Imagine what it’s going to be like when we go down there with a black player who can’t stay at the hotel where we stay, can’t eat at the restaurants we eat?’ Had he not tried to recruit the perfect player — a superstar — then he wouldn’t have taken nearly as long.”
In 1969, Mr. Rupp signed the school’s first black player — Tom Payne from Louisville, who spent only a year at Kentucky before entering the NBA draft.
Herky Rupp is survived by his wife Linda, son Chip and daughter Farren.
Milward Funeral Directors is in charge of arrangements. Services will be as follows:
- Visitation Wed., June 29th from 4-7 pm at Milward-Broadway
- Funeral Thurs., June 30th at 11 am at Centenary United Methodist Church
- Burial Lexington Cemetery