Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)


March 2, 2008

Tall Tales of ‘Big Chief’ Bowling

Rags to riches story for unique character

What makes a legend?

Memorable stories.

Successful career.

Great nickname.

Check, check and check.

Say hello to Orb “Big Chief” Bowling, a 6-foot-10 giant of a man who trudged up and down hollows and up and down the basketball court for Sandy Hook High School some 50 years ago.

While a half-century has passed since the “Big Chief” played for Sandy Hook, he’s still one of the town’s most memorable characters — maybe as much for the stories told about him as his actual basketball abilities.

And even though he now lives in a suburb of Memphis, Tenn., “Big Chief” is still a fan of basketball in Sandy Hook, especially the brand being played by Elliott County High School these days.

He follows the team through the hometown newspaper he receives in the mail every week, from the school’s newsletter and with phone calls back home. Like so many others who played at Sandy Hook High School and then Elliott County High School, last year’s 16th Region championship — the first in school history — was a triumph for anyone who ever wore a Lions uniform.

Sandy Hook High School was changed to Elliott County High School in 1973. But the change was in name only. There was no consolidation like was going on in so many other surrounding counties.

Sandy Hook and Elliott County are one and the same.

But there has been only one “Big Chief,” the biggest player to ever play basketball in that town and, in 1959, the biggest player on a Kentucky high school roster.

Fifty years from now, it could be this current group of Elliott County players that are likely to be revered with such legendary status in Sandy Hook, but, more than likely, the “Big Chief” will still be talked about, too.

“He’s still a legend,” said Elliott County superintendent John Williams. “We have his picture hanging in the gym.”

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