Did Tom Ever Meet Cliff?

Cliff Hagan says he never met Tom Moody, and that is remarkable considering how close their lives were intertwined—Owensboro, Lexington, and St. Louis. But one thing is for sure: what Cliff did made its mark on my dad and also on his children.

 

Cliff was born in Owensboro, Kentucky, in 1931 when Tom was starting school at Snyder Consolidated School in Daviess County. While Tom was moving through the University of Kentucky as a math major Cliff was dominating high school basketball at Owensboro High School, leading them to the 1949 state championship.

 

Cliff moved to Lexington in January of 1950 to begin his tenure as a two-time All-American ball player for Adolph Rupp; and Tom moved back to Lexington (from Covington) in July of that same year to take up gospel work at the Ashland Avenue Baptist Church.

 

Part of that gospel work was folding church bulletins on Saturday night. My parents turned that into family altar time: reading the Bible, kneeling to pray, and sitting silently to fold those bulletins while listening to the radio broadcast of Kentucky basketball.

 

The most powerful memories of my childhood were, one, listening to the fervent prayers of my mom and dad as they knelt in the living room surrounded by little children and, two, listening to the voice of Claude Sullivan provide play by play description of on-court heroics of Cliff Hagan, Cotton Nash, Randy Embry, and a cast of hundreds.

 

When Cliff Hagan was 25 years old, he took up residence in St. Louis, Missouri, and began his professional career with the Hawks. He was a six-time All Pro player and once, in 1958, part of an NBA championship team. Behind the public scenes, Cliff was raising a family and attending church—at the Florissant Valley Baptist Church. In 1966, Cliff and wife Martha and children moved to Dallas but not before that same church called a new minister of education, none other than Tom Moody; and Tom moved to St. Louis with his wife Reita and their four children, including me.

 

Tom, Cliff, and Martha had all been raised in Baptist churches in Daviess County, Kentucky: Tom at the Sorgho Baptist Church in the western part of the county, Cliff at Walnut Street Baptist Church, first, and then at Third Baptist Church (because “they had the best basketball team in the church league,” Cliff told me), and Martha at First Baptist Church.

 

While Cliff was attending the University of Kentucky, Martha matriculated at Georgetown College, just a dozen miles north of Lexington. There she met and befriended another co-ed named Martha. Martha Ross later married a UK student by the name of John Redden. John became a minister, but when he died in a tragic car accident, his widow Martha gave his library to me…because John—Uncle John—was a brother to my mother, Reita Redden Moody.

 

I graduated from Georgetown College in 1972 and was elected to their Board of Trustees in 1994. A few years later, I was elected to the faculty and to serve as dean of the chapel; a few years later Martha Hagan was elected to the Board; a few years later the college bestowed upon Martha Ross Redden (now Ozer) an honorary doctorate (to accompany her earned doctorate!); and finally, Hagan Hill, grandson to Cliff and Martha and a student at Georgetown College, joined my Chapel Leadership Team.

 

My dad never played basketball; and neither did I, except during the few teenage years when our home on North Seventh Street in Murray, Kentucky, sported a hoop. But my son played (during my days as pastor of the aforementioned Third Baptist Church); Allan played at the same school and in the same arena made famous by the great Cliff Hagan (and, like Cliff, played in the Boy’s Sweet Sixteen State Basketball Tournament, in 1992); he then went to play college ball a few miles down the road from the current Florida residence of Cliff and Martha Hagan.

 

Tom Moody never met Cliff Hagan, and that is odd given the many ways the lives and families of the two have been intertwined. But Cliff helped plant the seeds of basketball delight in the soul of that other boy from Daviess County, Kentucky, and it has born fruit unto the third and forth generation.

 

Thanks be to God!  Go CATS!