Community remembers a coaching legend

By: Kendall Downing Email
By: Kendall Downing Email

He's a coaching legend in Harlan. E. R. Gray, known to most as Doc, died on Sunday.

What Doc Gray called a one-year job, turned into a lifetime.

"When I came in this community, I told them I was going to stay one year because I had a job waiting on me. But I liked this community so well, I told my wife I was going to stay here and raise my kids," said Gray, in an interview years ago.

"I think he drew a lot of strength in being around the kids, as they did from him," said Kevin Ball, Harlan Athletic Director.

That strength - one thing all were looking for Monday.

"I feel like he's in a better place, so it makes it a little easier," said Casey Lester, Boys Basketball Coach.

Folks at Harlan High remembered the man who proudly wore his green.
Gray's legacy as a coach and teacher is unmatched throughout Eastern Kentucky.

He helped break the racial barrier of the 1960s and continued coaching until about ten years ago.

"While he was with me coaching, probably six of the best years of my life," said Lester.

Doc coached track and basketball, leading his lady dragons to numerous district and regional titles.

With a gentle yet competitive spirit, he influenced countless lives.

"Doc really was a very easy person to get along with, anytime you had questions, he had an answer, just for everything," said Lester.

"Cinnamon gum, oh he hated cinnamon gum. And when I was younger everybody would ask him if he wanted a piece of gum. And he's say, what kind. And then you'd say, well it's Big Red, and he's say spit that out, get rid of that cinnamon," said Betsy Burkhart, a former student.

And he will always be remembered at his home gym, in Harlan.

Doc Gray was 82 years old.

His visitation will be Friday morning beginning at 10:30 at the Harlan Baptist Church. Funeral services will begin at 2:00 Friday afternoon.

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