UK Happenings

Kentucky Wildcats to be inducted into the Lexington African-American Sports Hall of Fame

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 13, 2023) — The Lexington African-American Sports Hall of Fame Inc. (LAASHOF) will host its second annual Induction Ceremony and Gala 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 23, 2023, at the Central Bank Center in Lexington.

Former University of Kentucky Wildcats and Lexington natives have been nominated by the public and hand-selected to be inducted into the 2023 Hall of Fame by LAASHOF’s planning team members.

Inductees include the following UK alumni: former track and field star Bethel Ward; former UK football players George Adams, Cornell Burbage and Chris Chenault; former UK cheerleader and dancer Dawn Duncan Walters; former UK men’s basketball players Leroy “Baby Magic” Byrd III, Leslie Nichols Carter, Belitta "BeBe" Croley and Melvin Turpin; and former UK baseball player Derek Bryant. 

In addition to the UK alumni, two of the 23 inductees — Oliver Lewis and Isaac Murphy — will set the stage as two trailblazing Black jockeys from the late 19th century.

At the age of 19, Lewis won the very first Kentucky Derby aboard Aristides in 1875.  The two minute and 37 second race set an American record naming it “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports”. He rode for McGrathiana Farms and Oliver Lewis Way is named in his honor. Beyond that success most of Lewis’ life went undocumented. LAASHOF is taking this opportunity to share Lewis’ story.

Isaac Murphy made 11 Kentucky Derby appearances and won “The Run for the Roses” in 1884, 1890 and 1891. These successes made Murphy the first jockey to win three Kentucky Derby’s and the first to win back-to-back Kentucky Derby’s. Murphy’s riding and training style credited him as the one of the best jockeys in America. Winning 628 races out of 1,412 mounts, Murphy’s career spanned until a year before he passed.

The LAASHOF gala will display Keeneland Library’s “Heart of the Turf: Racing’s Black Pioneers” exhibit which features Lewis, Murphy and more than 80 African Americans whose efforts helped coin the Bluegrass Region as the “Horse Capital of the World”.

The inductees will be jacketed and honored at the black-tie, red-carpet gala. The first-class dining experience, cocktail hour, live entertainment and after-dinner dancing gives attendees an opportunity to celebrate their glory days.

Tickets to attend the event are available at and are available to purchase until Sept. 15. Those unable to attend can support the Lexington African American Sports Hall of Fame by donating at

LAASHOF is a nonprofit organization which strives to commemorate the local African American sports heroes who have made an impact in our community. You can learn more about the organization here.

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.