James Calvin Bird

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James Calvin Bird

James Calvin Bird James Calvin Bird, 75, passed from this life on June 19, 2013. Calvin lived a very full life characterized by optimism, resilience, pragmatism, faith and humility. His wife of 53 years, Okeh Jean and children Brenda, Jamie, Kevin, their spouses, grandchildren and friends will dearly miss him. Calvin, born to Bonnie and Rueben Bird, was well known in Corbin and across the Commonwealth of Kentucky for his athletic accomplishments. In high school he lettered in multiple sports and was a member of the 1955 Corbin team that won the Kentucky State Football Championship. The ’55 and ’56 football teams in Corbin were loaded with great talent enabling Calvin to set a state scoring record his junior year in ’55 and national and state scoring record in ’56. He was selected first team All-Conference and All-State his junior and senior years. At the University of Kentucky, Calvin excelled at five positions and helped lead the Wildcats to many impressive victories. He was particularly proud that his Wildcat teams never lost to Tennessee while he played at UK. Calvin scored every point for the Wildcats in victories against the Volunteers in ’58 and ’59. He continues to hold five UK school records, was selected as “SEC Sophomore of the Year,” selected to All-SEC teams his junior and senior year, and played in several college all-star bowl games. Calvin was selected by the San Diego Chargers in the 1961 pro football draft and played briefly with the New York Jets before hanging up his cleats. His jerseys from Corbin (#66) and the University of Kentucky (#21) are retired and he is a member of the Corbin High School and University of Kentucky Halls of Fame. In a recently released book titled “The Boys from Corbin, America’s Greatest Little Sports Town,” author Gary West profiles the athletic accomplishments of many great Corbin Redhounds and describes Calvin as “the best there ever was” to wear a Corbin Redhound jersey. Calvin was humble about his accomplishments and was quick to give credit to his teammates, or as he put it “the guys who looked out for me.” The unique bond among the men he had the honor of playing with continues to this day through various functions such as the annual “Gathering of the Hounds” on the Cumberland River. He often reflected on the generosity of the townspeople of Corbin that provided him with basic essentials while he attended UK and early in his professional career. Calvin relocated to Tennessee after retiring and was active with his church, worked on his golf game, cared for animals and volunteered his time to assist neighbors and friends. Those who knew Calvin well knew there was much more to him than football. He was genuine; he loved life, and had boundless energy. He cherished his siblings (Shirley, Jerry, Nancy, Billy, and Rodger) and valued the close relationship with players and classmates from Corbin and UK. His network of close friends extends across the southeast from his career with ITT. He stressed the importance of balance to his children of academics and athletics to achieving success in life. Calvin was well known for his athletic prowess and will be missed by all who knew him. He was a true gentleman with a big heart, a generous spirit, and warm smile. Calvin is survived by his wife Okeh Jean Bird; a daughter, Brenda Lee Bird; two sons, James Calvin Bird II and wife Stasia and Kevin Rodger Bird and wife Beth; six grandchildren, Corbin, Griffin, Jack, Matthew, Tyler and Spencer; a sister, Nancy Carroll, of Corbin; and two brothers, Jerry, also of Corbin, and Rodger, of Henderson. A memorial service will be held on Sunday, June 23rd at the Colonial Heights Baptist Church in Kingsport, Tenn. from 2-4 p.m. A memorial service and reception will also occur Saturday, June 29th at the Central Baptist Church in Corbin from 3-5 p.m. In lieu of flowers the family requests that you choose a cause important to you and your family and donate your time or make a monetary contribution and reflect on and celebrate Calvin’s life. Donations can also be made in his honor to the Redhound Varsity Club in c/o Redhound Varsity Club, P.O. Box 1026, Corbin, KY 40702.
Published on June 24, 2013
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