Kavanaugh School Bred Champs

Do you know the Kavanaugh High School story? It may be the most fascinating in all the history of education in Kentucky.

A lady named Mrs. Rhoda Kavanaugh started a high school in Lawrenceburg, in Anderson County.

Now here are the most interesting parts: The high school was in her home! It may have been the best school in all of Kentucky. She sent so many of her graduates to the Naval Academy that it became known as “the Naval Academy prep school.”

Some of her top students were from Louisville and chose Kavanaugh over the acclaimed Louisville Male High School.

Kavanaugh not only produced excellent students but also great athletes, mainly outstanding basketball players.

Try these names out: Forrest “Aggie” Sale, All-American at the University of Kentucky. Paul McBrayer, another great player who became a great coach, both on the high school and college level. Same with Ralph Carlisle, a top player for the Wildcats and the finest high school coach (at Lexington Lafayette) I have ever seen. And Earle Jones, who went on to coach a state champion at Maysville.

Mrs. Kavanaugh loved her basketball teams and players. The first time I saw her was in UK’s Alumni Gym during an 11th Regional Tournament in the mid-1940s. She camped under the northernmost basket and had a rolled-up umbrella under her arm.

Once, when referee, Frank “Trader” Lane, slapped one of the Kavanaugh players on the butt to signal he had fouled, Mrs. Kavanaugh swatted him with her umbrella! And told him, “Don’t touch my boys!”

Lane, who officiated the game by himself, went on to become a general manager for a Major League Baseball team, and that’s where he earned the name “Trader,” because he traded so many players. One more thing: Referees in those days officiated games by themselves – just one official because the game was much slower in those days.

I learned much of the lore of Mrs. Kavanaugh from Carlisle and McBrayer and a granddaughter, Jane Ellen Hurst, who is now a family friend and neighbor in Louisville.