Pineville 2019 Hall of Fame inductees

Published 1:51 pm Thursday, September 26, 2019

George Brittain Cunningham

Pineville Schools Hall of Fame Inductees of the 1930s are joined by a third teammate from that era of dominant Mountain Lion football, basketball and track: George B. Cunningham.

George was born in Corbin, Ky., Dec. 2, 1914 to Maggie Gibson and Selwyn Cunningham. In the early 1920s they moved to Pineville with his two sisters, Adella and Sarah, where his father was employed by the L & N Railroad. They lived on Holly Street when George first attended Pineville Elementary School, and as a twelve-year-old, he arose early each day to deliver the Courier Journal to the many homes and businesses of Pineville.

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Coach Grabruck arrived when George began his freshman year at PHS, and sports became his priority. The next four years he lettered in football, basketball and track, earning honors in all three sports. He threw the shot-put and the javelin, and ran the 440 Relay for the Mountain Lion track team, which won back-to-back Cumberland Valley Conference track championships in 1933 and 1934.

He placed first with the javelin throw in 1932, ‘33, and ’34. In the spring of ’34, he won the shot put, and the 440 Relay. #77 played center for the Lions Basketball Team that finished 3rd in the CVC in ‘33, and first in the CVC in ‘34. The ‘34 team defeated High Splint 56-15 in the first game of the 63rd District and Lynch in the second round 36-27, but were defeated by Benham in the finals 30-20.

As District 63 Runner-Up the Lions qualified for Region 16 playoffs in Hazard, defeating Carr Creek 33-11 and Fleming 24-12. George’s team was defeated in Region finals by Hazard 20-14, missing a state berth by 6 points.

George was a strong halfback, who also played defensive end, and the ‘33 Lions depended on him for the kicking game: he punted, kicked-off, and also kicked PATs. An article in the Nov 11th News Sentinel describes the’33 team as: “The smallest team in the conference, starting this season with what fans called a great backfield, and a tissue paper line. However, that alleged tissue paper line played nobly on defense and offense making holes for Harp, Green and Cunningham.”

Defeating Lynch, Middlesboro, and Somerset, this team finished 2nd in the CVC in a three-way tie that went down to the wire in the last game of the season.

Coach Walter Grabruck

The winning tradition of the Mountain Lions in the decade of the 1930s, when the players wore leather helmets and with wool jerseys, gave us our Friday afternoon heroes like Red Harp and Cecil Rice. If there had been a “Man of the Year” in those days, no doubt coach Walter Grabruck would have been selected.

He was born Oct. 1, 1908 in Hillsboro, Ill., the son of Reinhart and Emma Menk Grabruck. He graduated Staunton High School in 1927, where he played all sports. As a halfback, he was named to the Illinois All-State Football Team. As fate would have it, Grabruck, known to his teammates as “Grabby,” became one of Kentucky’s finest athletes, when he accepted a scholarship to Centre College in Danville and lettered four years in football, basketball and track.

Captain of the Colonels his senior year, he was selected “Little All-American” halfback, honored 3 years in the All-State SIAA Conference, and led his team to SIAA Conference Championships in 1929-1930. He graduated class president, Phi Kappa Tau/Omricon Delta.

In 1932, Walter Grabruck accepted a job at PHS as Athletic Director, football, basketball, track coach and history teacher. One year later, the ‘33 football team became runner-up of the CVC. The ’34 basketball team became runner-up champs in the 63rd District, went to the region in Hazard, won the first two games and lost in the final, missing a state berth by six points.

His Lions won another 51st District championship in 1937. His ‘38 Lions were undefeated CVC football champions, and finished seventh in the state. Grabruck coached the East-West Shriners All-Star Game and was named “most outstanding football coach” in Kentucky, with a nine-year record of 60 wins and 19 losses.

The ‘38 track team won the CVC district/region championships as well as the 63rd District basketball championship. In 1933, he married Hazel VanBever; they have one daughter, Joan, and two sons, Ronald and Walter. He served on the Kentucky State Track Commission, was president of the CVC and vice-chairman of the Kentucky Coaches Association.

In 1942, he began coaching at Frankfort, and served in the US Navy during WWII from 1943-1945. After the war, he began an insurance business in Louisville/Bowling Green. He, Hazel and his children often visited Pineville. In 1984, he served as “Grand Marshall of the Kentucky Mountain Laurel Festival Parade,” and later the good people of Danville named “Grabruck Street” in his honor. Coach Grabruck passed away June 25, 1997. He received final honors in Pineville, where he is buried in the Memorial Cemetery.