For The Independent
The day after his 90th birthday the Rev. Jimmie Rose delivered the sermon at the First United Methodist Church in Cynthiana.
Not only is this a milestone celebration but also a sports celebration. Rose is a basketball coaching icon in Kentucky high school laurels as well as a minister/evangelist of renown.
At the age of 20, Rose led the Olive Hill High School Comets basketball team to the state tournament semifinals where they lost to Wallace “Wah Wah” Jones and Harlan 29-26. In the quarterfinals of that tournament the Olive Hill team defeated the team that was favored to win the title, the Brooksville Polar Bears.
Rose is the youngest coach ever to coach a team in the state tournament. But that is not the only record that Rose and the Olive Hill team holds in the Kentucky High School record books.
The 1946-47 Olive Hill team had a mark of 49-4, which is the record for wins in a season. Rose said the year after this season the Kentucky High School Athletic Association set a limit on the number of games that could be played in the regular season.
“My boys just wanted to play ball and I found some games for them to play,” said Rose. Another example of finding a game to play came in a move that was actually against state law when Rose scheduled a home and home series with Booker T. Washington High School of Ashland. In the 1940s it was illegal for a public high school to play against an all-black school, which was the case with Booker T. Washington.
“We were never treated any better by any school we visited,” said Rose. “I was never criticized at all for this by anyone.”
Rose went on to coach in Paris in 1948 where his team won the 10th Region in 1949, going on to the state tournament where they finished fourth. In those years the state tournament had a consolation game to determine third and fourth places. The Greyhounds under Rose defeated Madisonville and star Frank Ramsey in the quarterfinals before losing to Cliff Hagen and the Owensboro Red Devils in the semifinals. Louisville St. Xavier defeated Paris in the consolation game.
This Paris team featured three of the players that Rose calls his “all-time best players.” Rose’s brother, Gayle Rose, who went on to play for Adolph Rupp at the University of Kentucky, Eugene Cain and Dr. Bobby Blake. The remainder of Rose’s “best” comes from his Olive Hill team, Dr. Lonnie Howerton, Jr., and Jack Holley. All five of these gentlemen were in attendance Sunday in Cynthiana.
Other players who were also in attendance Sunday were Price Huston and William ”Hot Shot” Hudnall of Paris and “the best manager a team could ever have,” Charles Rogers of Olive Hill High School. The former players came from as far away as Wilson, N.C., and Beaver Creek, Ohio, to honor their former coach.
Former players were not the only admirers who were in attendance Sunday, both for the church service and the birthday dinner celebration that followed the service. Three former Paris cheerleaders each of whom appeared able to lead the cheers today came to Cynthiana to honor Rose.
Patsy Harney Coons, Marjorie Forsythe Wornall and Susan Allen Williams came to Cynthiana to honor Rose. His sister, Carol Sue Wile, and his wife of many years, Jo Ann, were also in the church for the celebration. Jo Ann, who was ”the prettiest girl in town” (Olive Hill), has been along side of Rose for his basketball and his experiences as a minister and an evangelist.
The 1950 season was the last year that Rose coached basketball. In February of that year Rev. Earl Curry, who was once the minister in Cynthiana’s First United Methodist Church, drove Rose and some friends to a revival at Asbury College in Wilmore, Ky. Jimmie Rose, whose previous meaningful church experience was the year he sat behind Jo Ann at church to attract her attention, was won over by Jesus that night and gave up coaching to become whatever the Lord wanted of him. Rose remarked in his sermon on Sunday ‘that my fellow coaches thought I had lost my mind.”
On April 6, Rose preached on the day after his 90th birthday. The number of people in attendance from a career that lasted only a few short years was a testimony to the man that Jimmie Rose was when he coached and after his coaching days were over. The Sunday afternoon birthday celebration was attended by former players, cheerleaders and family members as well as the adopted family members of the First United Methodist Church.
Jimmie Rose, at 90, was able to greet each person and call them by name. Each person was a special friend to Rose and he was sincere in his appreciation of each person who attended. I am sure that there was no place they would have rather been.
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