UK Men’s Basketball national champion Ed Beck dead at 83

National Champion served in the ministry for more than 50 years


SUN CITY, Ariz. (UK Athletics) – Ed Beck, a men’s basketball national champion, died Wednesday. He was 83.

Beck was a two-year captain (1956-58) under legendary head coach Adolph Rupp and was a tremendous leader for the Wildcats, particularly for the 1958 “Fiddlin’ Five,” who would go on to claim the national title.

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A menace around the rim, Beck averaged more than 10 boards per game during the 1958 season. He logged 11.6 rebounds per game during the championship season and contributed 5.6 points per game. His best season came during his junior campaign when he averaged 9.6 points per game and 14.1 boards. Beck and the Wildcats captured Southeastern Conference titles during each of his final two campaigns.

Beck was voted an All-SEC Second Team performer by the Associated Press in 1957 and the SEC Defensive Player of the Year in 1958. He finished his career with an average of 10.0 rebounds per game, the third-highest total in UK history at the time.

“Ed Beck was an important member of the Kentucky basketball family,” UK athletics director Mitch Barnhart said. “He cemented his place in UK lore as one of the great rebounders in program history and a leader of one of our most beloved teams. Seeing him and his teammates return home for the reunion of the 1958 team reunion earlier this year was truly special. We offer our condolences to Ed’s family and friends.”

Beck was known for overcoming adversity, which is why his leadership skills during the 1958 season became so vital. Following a loss in the 1957 NCAA Tournament, Beck lost his first wife, Billie, to Hodgkin’s disease in the offseason. Rupp and assistant coach Harry Lancaster attended Billie’s funeral in Georgia and returned to Lexington in time to speak at the team’s banquet. Rupp discussed at length what Billie meant to the team and dedicated the upcoming 1958 season in her memory.

Following his time with the Wildcats, Beck turned down an offer to play professional basketball with the New York Knicks, instead to join the ministry. He attended Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky, for one year following graduation at Kentucky. He then preached at local churches to earn enough money to attend Candler Methodist Seminary at Emory University in Atlanta.

Beck served in the ministry for more than 50 years. In June of 1983, Colorado’s governor, Richard Lamm, proclaimed June 12 as Ed Beck Sunday in his honor for his dedicated work and service in the United Methodist Church, in the community and for his work in the organization of the Warren Village in Denver. Warren Village was constructed to support single-parent families endeavoring to become self-sustaining. At the time of its inception it was a unique ministry and one of the first of its kind.

Beck recently returned to Rupp Arena in February for the 1958 national championship reunion. He spoke glowingly of the team chemistry the 1958 team had that propelled the Wildcats to the national championship.

“You can imagine back in the ‘50s how close this team was,” Beck said in February. “You have to remember we had 11 people on that team who graduated in 1958. … It was the main reason we won the tournament because we had played together for four years and knew each other’s moves. I know what Vernon (Hatton) was going to do before he was going to do it. … It all came together. The maturity of the team was a big, big part of the championship.”

He is survived by his Faye, and sons Jon Ed, Stephen, Bradley and Daniel. Funeral arraignments are pending.

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Bryan Kennedy hails from the Bluegrass State. He was born and raised in Owensboro, KY where he graduated from Apollo High School in 2006. Bryan graduated from the University of Kentucky with a degree in Broadcast Journalism and a minor in Spanish in 2010. He also received his master's degree in Sports Media and Branding from Western Kentucky University. While at UK, Bryan was the general manager of the on-campus TV station. He also did sports reporting, anchoring, producing and even the weather for UK Student News Network. While working for UKSNN, he also had the pleasure of covering Coach John Calipari's first press conference when he was introduced as the new head coach of the Kentucky Wildcats; easily one of his favorite moments as a young sports reporter. Before coming to ABC 36, Bryan was a morning anchor and reporter at WXXV News 25, our sister station in Gulfport, MS. He anchored more than four hours of news every day, including morning shows on NBC and Fox. While down south, Bryan had the opportunity to cover the Sugar Bowl, New Orleans Saints and the New Orleans Pelicans. After spending a little more than two years at WXXV, Bryan is extremely excited to return home. In his spare time, Bryan enjoys playing sports, especially rugby. He also enjoys crossfitting and watching sports (obviously). He's extremely excited to cover Central Kentucky. Feel free to say hello and send story ideas