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Duke Burnett was born and raised in Elizabethtown, but it was a trip to Cadiz that made him realize the town was missing something.
Burnett, who was the high school basketball coach in Cadiz from 1959 to 1967, was inducted into the Trigg County Athletic Hall of Fame in early 2012. He made the trip from Elizabethtown to Cadiz for the January ceremony.
“When I got back up here I thought, ‘Why don’t we do that in E’town?’” Burnett, 80, said.
That thought became reality after Burnett began gauging interest from community members.
“Everybody I talked to was very receptive,” he said.
In July 2012, the Elizabethtown Independent Schools Board of Education approved creation of an athletic hall of fame after Burnett presented the suggestion. The first induction ceremony is slated to take place April 21 at the Elizabethtown Country Club and will honor about 15.
“E’town has a great history of athletics,” he said.
The categories of inductees are athlete, coach and contributor.
“We’ve had so many people help out they need to be recognized,” he said, referring to the contributor category.
With the addition of the role of chairman of the board for the hall of fame, Burnett has a full schedule. As owner of Awards and More, Burnett works at the store that one of his three daughters operates.
“Between that and the hall of fame, it keeps me pretty busy,” he said.
Burnett previously started three other Elizabethtown businesses: Duke’s Sporting Goods, The Chenille Store and Home on Mulberry.
Born in Elizabethtown in 1932, Burnett recalls growing up in a town with a population of 5,000 or 6,000 people.
“You knew everybody in town,” he said.
His days in high school provided an influence that shaped his future.
“I thought the high school coach was the greatest guy in the world,” Burnett said. “So much so, I wanted to be a high school coach.”
It also was while he was attending Elizabethtown High School on West Dixie Avenue he met his future wife, Jane Gregory. She was at a basketball tournament in which he was playing.
“She ran across the floor, and I said, ‘I like that gal,’” Burnett said. “One of the guys heard me and told her.”
At the time, Jane was in seventh grade. She’s now 78, and the couple celebrated their 59th anniversary Dec. 28.
Burnett credits Jane with contributing to his success and being a great influence in his life.
Before starting his first business in the ’70s, Burnett was a city recreation director. He then began teaching at T.K. Stone Middle School in Elizabethtown prior to his coaching stint in Trigg County.
Upon returning to Elizabethtown, Burnett took on the role of principal at Valley View Elementary School. He started Duke’s Sporting Goods afterward.
“I think this is my last one,” Duke said of his current business.
In addition, he expects to be on the hall of fame board for only the next two or three years.
“To start something at 80 years old is very crazy,” he said.
The hall of fame board should install new members on a regular basis, including those who are younger, to ensure it continues and provides a wide representation of the community, Burnett said.
Halls of fame, he said, are becoming popular around the country, so it was only natural Elizabethtown should be included.
“People like to be recognized,” he said.
Burnett sees the hall of fame as something that will bring the community together. And by the response he’s seen, he believes the timing is right.
“Everything has fallen in place because the community was ready for it,” Burnett said.
Robert Villanueva can be reached at (270) 505-1743 or email@example.com.
SOME FACTS ABOUT DUKE BURNETT:
Town of birth and residence: Elizabethtown.
Family: Wife, Jane, and three daughters.
Favorite music: Country music.
Favorite TV shows: Sporting events (He’s a UK fan.).
Favorite movie: “Dr. Zhivago.