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Albert D. Kirwan

Albert D. Kirwan

Frank Furlong Mathias
Copyright Date: 1975
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Albert D. Kirwan
    Book Description:

    The name Albert Kirwan is inextricably bound with the University of Kentucky -- in sports, scholarship, and administration. His skills and interests were so many and varied that his accomplishments in one area could not long satisfy his restless nature; he captained and later coached the U.K. Wildcats, took degrees in law and history, wrote or edited six books, taught a full load of classes, became dean of students, graduate dean, and finally, was unanimously installed as seventh president of the University.

    Under his guidance, the UK graduate program was improved and strengthened; he presented the University's case before the National Collegiate Athletic Association council concerning the 1948--49 basketball gambling scandals; he helped to see the University through its first tense period of integration; and he was able to handle student activism in the 1960s with both courage and understanding.

    Beyond this, he was a gentle, devoted family man. His wife, Betty, his sons, and his sister have shared their memories of Albert Kirwan, providing much of the material included in the biographical section of this book; and Kirwan himself left a tape, "Some Memories of My Life," recorded in 1971, which Frank Mathias has blended with information culled from letters, files, and interviews.

    During his lifetime, Albert Kirwan was often invited to speak before historical associations, at commencement exercises, athletic assemblies, on television, and on radio. Records of these speeches document his far-ranging thoughts on history, education, athletics, politics, the South, the Civil War, and civil rights, revealing him as a responsible and responsive liberal Kentucky gentleman. He was a man of many moods, and had a wry, tongue-in-cheek humor that enlivened his lectures and talks. The second section of the book is a selection of his speeches, letters, and excerpts from his articles and books, including a chapter fromJohn ]. Crittenden: The Struggle for the Union, which won the Sydnor award. Reproduced here are Kirwan's analysis of the Kentucky court struggle of the 1820s and his statement before the Southeastern Conference on the penalty assessed against Kentucky's basketball team; and, here too are the more casual banquet speeches, the bantering affection of a warm, sensitive man among friends.

    "Here is a man who has given his whole life to [the University of Kentucky]," Happy Chandler said of him, "... surely he must love it as perhaps no other person could."

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6355-0
    Subjects: History, Education

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Clement Eaton

    Albert D. Kirwan, affectionately called “Ab” by his colleagues, was distinguished by a capacity for continuing growth in mind and personality until the very end of his life. In the academic world he was a “late bloomer,” just as Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis were. The early part of his career was spent in practicing law, coaching, and university administration, but these professions did not offer him the satisfactions for which he longed. He never made the pursuit of money a goal in life. He longed for culture and the satisfactions that university teaching, research, and writing brought him. His...

    (pp. xiii-xiv)

      (pp. 3-18)

      There was one thing about young Albert Dennis Kirwan that his brother Will, two years his elder, did not like—and that was his name. Try as he might, “Albert” always came out “Abbert.” Catherine and Patrick, the two younger children, shortened this to “Ab.” This simple yet distinctive name stuck with Kirwan throughout his life, forever baffling acquaintances who tried to derive “Ab” from either “A. D.” or “Albert.”

      The Kirwan name probably first appeared in Louisville around 1850, when Patrick Nolan Kirwan, Albert’s grandfather, came down the Ohio River with his brother Edward looking for a place to...

      (pp. 19-31)

      Coach Murphy hired Ab as his backfield coach in 1926. Kentucky had graduated many veterans in addition to Kirwan, and the 1926 season was to end with two wins, six losses, and one tie. Though explainable enough, this poor record brought Kirwan’s first experience with disgruntled alumni. The weekend before the annual Thanksgiving Day game with Tennessee, some of the alumni members of the athletics board persuaded the president to call an athletics board meeting and ordered Murphy to turn over his job to an interim coach.

      However, the alumni coup turned sour when the team found out what had...

    • 3. DEAN KIRWAN
      (pp. 32-41)

      Shortly after their return from Duke, the Kirwans moved into their new Bowman Hall quarters. And several blocks away, in his Administration Building basement office, Ab was getting used to being called Dean Kirwan. He was located directly under President Donovan, and soon he would become Donovan’s right-hand man. The explosive little president, opposed by many as a “nonscholar” when appointed in 1940, had just ended a long fight in gaining a Court of Appeals decision that college teachers did not fall under the $5,000 salary limit placed on state employees by Kentucky’s 1890 constitution.⁴²

      Donovan could be very hard...

      (pp. 42-66)

      By 1954 Kirwan was extremely tired and worn from his seven years in the dean’s office; he was looking for a reason to change directions again. It came when several Kentucky football players beat up a Lexington policeman. Ab called the players into his office and suspended them after due process, whereupon Donovan probated their sentence. This completely exasperated the tired dean, and when he arrived home, he told Betty that “when you get to this point it is time to quit.” And he did, a few days later, reentering the history department. Donovan made him a full professor, and...

    • Illustrations
      (pp. None)
    • NOTES
      (pp. 67-72)

      (pp. 75-78)

      Albert D. Kirwan’s influence reached far beyond his classroom, for he touched the hearts and minds of the thousands who read his books and articles on Mississippi politics, the Confederate home front, the statesman John J. Crittenden, the soldier Johnny Green, and the South since the Civil War. In addition to the use of the printed word, Kirwan spread his ideas almost continually over a thirty-five year period through addresses before historical associations, banquets, high school and college commencement gatherings, athletics assemblies, and radio and television audiences.

      As author or speaker Kirwan seldom strayed far from the subjects that most...

      (pp. 79-112)

      Now, commencement speakers have from time immemorial, been addicted to philosophizing and giving advice to their young listeners, knowing all the time that they will little note nor long remember what is said. But it is a worthy tradition, and one that I do not wish to depart from. So, I will make my message as brief and clearcut as I can.

      In the first place I would urge you to read books. You have been introduced to some great literature in your high school years. Build on this. Life is too short and the universe is too large for...

      (pp. 113-136)

      An agricultural revolution had occurred in the ante-bellum South through the development of cotton culture. In the late eighteenth century, when South Carolina was its focal point, 50,000 bales of 300 pounds each had been the annual crop. From this modest beginning the culture had spread so that by 1860 it was the chief staple from North Carolina to Texas. Decade after decade, production increased in geometric proportion. The crop in 1860 was the biggest ever: that year 4,000,000 bales of 500 pounds were harvested. It was a soil-depleting crop, and in a day when extensive fertilization and crop rotation...

      (pp. 137-156)

      The ante-bellum South had been a land where individuals settled their difficulties by personal encounter, whether by the code, or by less genteel standards. The Civil War rather accentuated this characteristic. Postwar Southerners delighted in arming themselves with the pistol and the knife, and crimes of violence filled the news columns. Stories of “murder, rape, robbery, arson, assault and battery, thievery, and malfeasance in office were as commonplace as notices of camp meetings and barbecues.” In less than a twenty year period around the turn of the century there were more than 2500 “unofficial executions” in the South, or three...

      (pp. 157-186)

      Henry Clay, to whose leadership Crittenden was to give unquestioning loyalty for more than thirty years and to whose fortunes Crittenden’s were so inextricably bound, had learned Republicanism from his mentor, Chancellor George Wythe of Virginia. Indeed, one of the reasons Clay decided to cross the mountains to Kentucky in 1797 was to escape the “Mock Republicanism” of Washington and to find a place “endowing naturally its owners with ease & affluence as well as preserving them from the infection of prodigality & the poison of Aristocracy,” a place that "gave promise of freedom from a corrupt and enslaving past.”...

  7. Index
    (pp. 187-190)