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15 Melvin Brewer

Melvin Brewer
Hometown (Last School)
New Albany, IN (High)
1940-41, 1941-42, 1942-43
June 28, 1919

Melvin Brewer was born Melvin Charles Brewer on June 28, 1919, in New Albany, Indiana, to Calvin Brewer and Olive Myrtle Shoemaker Brewer.  He was a New Albany Bulldog, University of Kentucky Wildcat and part of the Greatest Generation as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army during World War II.

Brewer excelled at track, but at 6-foot-5 he made a big impact on the basketball court for the Bulldogs, leading New Albany to sectional championships in 1936-37 and ‘37-38 — during a five-year title run. Playing for Charlie McConnell, Brewer was known as a fine offensive center and, according to a story in the New Albany Tribune, “was adept at pivot pokes from the front and was a past master at tipping in rim-spinners.”

A starter as a junior, Brewer was named team captain in 1937-38. Perhaps his biggest moment as a high school player — besides the sectional titles — came in January of 1938 when the Bulldogs played archrival Jeffersonville in the Red Devils’ new Jeffersonville Fieldhouse. It was Brewer who led the way in rebounds as the Bulldogs notched a hard-fought 21-19 win.

All of this caught the attention of legendary UK basketball coach Adolph Rupp, who was still in the process of building the Wildcats into a national power.

When Brewer graduated from New Albany in 1938, he became a member of the local Indiana National Guard and took his hoop talents to Lexington, Kentucky.

At UK, Brewer began playing for the Wildcats’ varsity in the 1940-41 season. Over time he became nationally-renowned as one of the best centers in college basketball. He averaged 4.7 points per game his first season, 7.1 in his second and 8.3 as a senior.

His career highlights included leading UK to its first Final Four appearance in 1942 and making the Southeastern Conference All-Tournament team in 1943. His career high was 20 points against Georgia Tech on January 20, 1942.

Brewer joined the military in 1942 and finished his college work while in the Army. He married Jacqueline Bir on December 5, 1942.  They had a daughter, Vicki Lynn.  He left Kentucky in 1943 and received his officer’s training at Ft. Benning, Ga.

In May of 1944, he was sent to Camp McCain in Mississippi before being shipped to Fort Meade in Maryland the following month.

Three weeks after D-Day (June 6, 1944), Brewer was deployed to Europe. He was with the 116th Infantry, 29th Division in Viers, France when he was killed on Aug. 6, 1944.

In his obituary, the Tribune reported that news of his death was sent by telegram from the war department and received by his wife, Jacqueline Bir Brewer at 1301 E. Main, where she had been residing with her parents, James and Ella Bir during her husband’s absence.

In August of 1948, four years after his death, Brewer’s body was returned home and buried at Fairview Cemetery.

College Stats:

Season G FG FT F PTS
1940-41 23 44 21 40 109
1941-42 25 69 39 44 177
1942-43 23 71 49 49 191
Total 71 184 109 133 477


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