By RON JENKINS
Don Shelton, one of Henderson’s all-time great athletes who later coached two state football champions at Henderson City High, died early Tuesday morning at his home in Ocala, Fla.
Shelton, 83, had been in declining health in recent months.
However, poor health couldn’t keep him from attending this year’s University of Louisville-Murray State football game, where he was honored during halftime ceremonies, accompanied by several of his former players.
A four-sport star at Barret High School, Shelton was a standout halfback for four seasons at U of L and, after an illustrious coaching career at Henderson City High, became head coach at Murray State in 1960.
His 1955 Henderson City High team posted a 10-0 record and laid claim to the mythical state championship. His 1959 team went unbeaten in 12 games and captured the Class AA state championship in the first year of the KHSAA playoffs.
James Biggs, one of the key players on the 1959 squad, also played for Shelton at Murray State. Later, as superintendent of the Covington Independent School District, he hired his former coach as one of the school’s administrators.
Reached Tuesday by phone in Florida, Biggs recalled advice his former coach gave him several years ago upon the dedication of the James E. Biggs Early Childhood Center in Covington.
That advice: “Don’t ever forget how much you’ve worked or how many people have helped you get from Ward’s Service Station (in Henderson) to where you are standing today.”
Biggs was among several former Henderson City High and Murray State players who gathered with Shelton last month at festivities surrounding the Louisville-Murray State football game. (Host for the festivities was Louisville attorney Ron Sheffer, quarterback of City High’s undefeated 1955 team.)
The halftime ceremonies and his entourage of former players represented “a great and fitting tribute” to Shelton, Biggs recalled Tuesday. “He was waving and beaming, especially when his picture flashed across those giant screens.”
Shelton is survived by his wife of 62 years, JoAnn; two sons, Don Jr. and Doug; and a daughter, Marla Watts.
Following his wishes, Shelton’s ashes will be spread on the Watts’ horse farm at Ocala.
A memorial service will be held later, his daughter said.