Big 100th birthday bash set for former coach Jim Cullivan

Henry County High School’s first head football coach Jim Cullivan (right) shakes hands with the Patriots’ current head coach James Counce Jr. during a 2019 game played at Patriot Stadium. Cullivan coached the Patriots during the 1969 and 1970 seasons. 

Family, friends and former players are invited to help former Grove School and Henry County High School football head coach Jim Cullivan celebrate his 100th birthday today at First United Methodist Church, 101 E. Blythe St.

Today’s celebration is from 3-6 p.m. Another picnic celebration is scheduled for Saturday starting at 1 p.m. at the fishing club located next to Jones Bend Lake on Jones Bend Road.

Cullivan is a Paris native who played football at the then-Grove High School. He was a starting left guard on the 1940 team that outscored its opponents 266-51 in winning the West Tennessee championship.

After serving three years in the Army during World War II, Cullivan attended Murray State University. He earned a starting position on the offensive line and played on the school’s first Ohio Valley Conference championship team.

The 1949 Murray State team played in the Tangerine Bowl where Cullivan lined up across from Dan Blocker of Sul Ross State of Texas. Blocker went on to television fame as Hoss Cartwright on “Bonanza.”

After earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Murray State, Cullivan began a coaching career that spanned 38 years through the high school, college and professional levels.

His high school stops included schools in Tennessee, Kentucky and North Carolina. Those stops include Fulton, Ky., Covington’s Byers Hall High School and Stanley County, N.C.

He returned as defensive coordinator and head coach at Grove. He was the last coach at Grove and when that school closed, he became the first coach at Henry County High School for two years. While coaching at Grove and HCHS, Cullivan coached all three of his sons.

He finished his career as the head coach at Cawood High School in Harlan, Ky., where he was known as the “Old Man of the Mountains.” He posted a 65-21 record at Cawood including two undefeated seasons and carried his team to the state playoffs seven times. He also coached baseball, track and girls’ and boys’ basketball during his high school coaching career.

In addition to serving as a high school coach, Cullivan spent eight years at Murray State as a line coach and head coach. He was the defensive coordinator at Eastern Kentucky University where one of his defensive ends was William Elkins, who at one time was the president at Bethel University. The other end was named Lee Majors — yes, the same Lee Majors of television fame who most people remember as the “Six Million Dollar Man.”

Cullivan also worked at Appalachian State, Guilford College and Tennessee Wesleyan College. Cullivan’s professional coaching career was completed with a brief coaching stint in the old United Professional Football League in Indianapolis and Greensboro, N.C. 

Cullivan was elected to the Paris-Henry County Sports Hall of Fame in 1995 and served for several years on its board of directors.

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