Cotton Top was 12 years old, living in an orphanage when he became a University of Louisville devotee. The kids hated the word orphanage, calling it a children’s home. A loving aunt lived in Louisville, and Cotton Top knew he would go there after high school.Â The “home” was in Versailles, 12 miles from Lexington.
He took a great interest in everything Louisville, saving his money for subscriptions to The Louisville Times during football and basketball seasons, keeping meticulous scrapbooks.Â Between Sunday school and church, he slipped down to the corner drug store to get the Courier-Journal’s Sunday editions. During the early years, he also clung to every word of the stoic George Walsh or the zany Ed Kallay calling the games on WHAS or WAVE radio. He adopted UofL, helping him to escape some of the realities of the orphanage.
As a Cards’ fan in Wildcat country, Cotton Top was often a target, having to step outside a few times to meet challenges. The orphanage’s activities director even got in on the act at times, loudly proclaiming that the University of Louisville would never win a national basketball championship or be any good in football.
As an adult, Cotton Top would travel to Indianapolis and see the UofL basketball win a national basketball championship, and then again in Dallas six years later, this time with his 9-year-old son. He would also see the football team become a top 10 football team and win a BCS Orange Bowl in Miami. He would see the beginnings of a dramatic new basketball arena in downtown Louisville and the expansion of the football stadium to over 55,000 seats.
Among Cotton Top’s regrets is never having gotten back in touch with the activities director at the orphanage to make him eat his words before he went to his eternal reward. Another minor irritation was that his blond hair has long since gone by the wayside.