By Eric PilgrimJanuary 18, 2019
"I was honored to be Mr. Burrow's secretary for many years before his retirement. He was an easy man to like and work with. His gruff voice masked a generous and kind heart. I am so sorry for your loss. He will be missed by many." ~ Reta K. Adkins, Radcliff, Kentucky (from the Elizabethtown News-Enterprise obituary guestbook)
With Bob Burrow, what you saw was what you got.
That's how some have described the giant of a man who passed away Jan. 3 in Franklin, Tennessee at the age of 84. Burrow, who devoted 39 years of his life to Fort Knox schools, was first hired on in 1958 as a teacher and basketball coach, and later as principal and superintendent until he retired in 1997. He was known and loved by many in the community.
Standing at 6'7" and weighing 230 pounds, the Malvern, Arkansas native first started college in 1952 at Lon Morris Junior College in Texas before transferring to the University of Kentucky in 1955. According to various news articles, Burrow soon established a legacy of excellence on the court that included a school record 17.7 average rebounds in a season and eventually led to the school retiring his jersey - number 50.
After college, Burrow joined the NBA for a few years before showing up on the doorstep of Fort Knox High School in search of a job. Some of those who knew him remember the impact he left on so many lives.
One of those was Lee Bishop, from Radcliff, who arrived at Fort Knox in 1973 to take a job as a teacher. The superintendent at that time led him down to Burrow's office for an introduction.
"[The superintendent] asked Mr. Burrow if he was interested in having me as a teacher. We went through some things, and he said yes," said Bishop. "Thirty-eight years later I was still there."
Bishop said first impressions of Burrow were not lasting ones.
"Everybody saw him at first sight as a big grizzly bear but once you got to know him, he was just a fine fellow who had the best interest of the kids and faculty at heart," said Bishop.
Two years before Bishop had arrived, Gary Thompson showed up also looking for a teaching position.
"He did a great job as a principal. He had a great relationship with the students and faculty," said Thompson. "He was a man I respected utmost. I thought a lot of him. My dad was my greatest role model but Mr. Burrow was a role model, too."
Thompson also agreed that first impressions about Burrow soon faded as people got to know him.
"He was an imposing figure," said Thompson. "He demanded a lot of respect from kids and his physical presence demanded a lot of respect from them, but he had a kind heart and was just a great person."
Thompson said Burrow's legacy will continue.
"He meant a lot to Fort Knox. Just think of the number of kids' lives that he touched," said Thompson. "People don't realize how many kids go through there; here one year and gone the next. They used to have a thousand kids at the high school back then."
Bishop said the one trait he will always remember Burrow having was his heart for others.
"He was a gentle giant; what you saw is what you got."