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11 Carl Combs

Carl Combs
Hometown (Last School)
Hazard, KY
1939-40, 1940-41
May 26, 1919

Obituary – Lawyer a player, announcer for UK, Lexington Herald-Leader (February 26, 2007) by Art Jester


Carl Luther “Hoot” Combs, a University of Kentucky football and basketball player who became a sportscaster in Lexington and a public address announcer for UK sports and the state high school basketball tournament, died Saturday at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center. He was 87.

A stroke and pneumonia were the causes of death, said his son, Carl Salyer “Hooter” Combs of Lexington.

A lawyer and well-known sports personality, “Hoot” Combs was 60 when he moved from Lexington to Hilton Head, S.C., in 1979. He returned to Kentucky in 2006. He lived at the Thomson-Hood Veterans Center in Wilmore until he was taken to the VA Medical Center after he was stricken last Thursday, his son said.

In his early years at Hilton Head, Mr. Combs briefly sold real estate. But he devoted most of his time to tennis and, after he became a certified tennis professional, he gave tennis lessons occasionally.

“He was like a Kentucky ambassador down there, always greeting people from Kentucky,” said Russell Rice of Daytona Beach, Fla., a retired UK sports information director and former sports editor of The Lexington Leader.

Mr. Combs was amiable and witty — qualities that gave a lilt to his voice.

“He was a very personable man, very outgoing,” Rice said.

As a public address announcer, Mr. Combs made sure he was neither loud nor flamboyant.

“He didn’t take the play away from the players,” Rice said.

Mr. Combs became UK’s public address announcer in the early 1960s and served for about a decade during the Wildcats’ final years at Memorial Coliseum in basketball and Stoll Field in football.

He was a familiar figure around UK sports, and he claimed to be UK’s oldest living letterman, Rice said.

Mr. Combs made honorable mention All-Southeastern Conference as a guard for basketball coach Adolph Rupp. He was running back and defensive back for coach A.D. “Ab” Kirwan.

When Mr. Combs graduated from UK in 1941, he had attained the rank of second lieutenant in UK’s ROTC program. In World War II, he served with the Army’s 1st Armored Division in North Africa and Italy in World War II and earned several decorations — the Purple Heart, Combat Infantryman Badge and EAME Ribbon with four battle stars. He was ultimately promoted to major.

After the war, he returned to Lexington and worked briefly as a part-time sports information director at UK.

But he envisioned a more lucrative future as a lawyer and earned a law degree at UK in 1950. But even as a law student, he kept close ties with UK sports — as a scout for Rupp and as a graduate assistant to then-football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant.

Mr. Combs spent about two decades in private law practice until he became legal adviser to the Lexington police department in the 1970s. He was also the first president of the Homebuilders Association of Lexington.

But his greatest visibility to the public came during the ’60s and early ’70s, when he was a sportscaster and a public address announcer.

For several years he called Keeneland’s feature race of the day for WBLG-1300. He was the first sports announcer for WBLG-TV, which became WTVQ-TV.

He frequently went to the track with his close friend, retired Circuit Judge Armand Angelucci.

“He was a good horse handicapper,” Angelucci said.

Mr. Combs first gained statewide attention on the Hazard team that went to the semifinals of the 1937 state basketball tournament. He was picked for the all-tournament team.

Mr. Combs was born May 26, 1919, at Index in Morgan County, and grew up in Perry County. He got his nickname because he liked the cowboy film star Hoot Gibson, and as a youngster would try to portray his hero.

In addition to his son, Mr. Combs’ survivors include two daughters, Carla C. Lowry of Lexington and Shannon Combs of Greenville, S.C.; two grandchildren and several nieces and nephews.

Services will be at 11 a.m. Thursday at W.R. Milward Mortuary-Broadway. Burial will be in Camp Nelson National Cemetery in Jessamine County. Visitation will be from 3 to 6 p.m. Wednesday at the funeral home.

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