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In Memory Of Kevin F. Gilmore & the Marshall University Football Team

Apr 20, 2022
Marshall University Memorial to Marshall Football Plane Crash

In Library Park in Harrison, there is a bronze plaque on a granite stone that reads “Salute to ‘Hollywood’.  In Memory Of Kevin F. Gilmore and the Marshall University Football Team.  November 14, 1970.  Gone But Never Forgotten.”  The plaque looks brand new but 1970 was 51 years ago.

The lives of Harrison's Gilmore Family would change on November 14, 1970, when a routine flight back to an airport close to Marshall University in West Virginia turned into a tragedy for the Gilmore family and 74 other families and friends.

In Memory of Kevin F. Gilmore Plaque at Library Park in Harrison

Many residents remember where they were when they heard the news of the Marshall University Football team airplane crash and the passing of Kevin who was on board the chartered Southern Airways DC-9 that crashed on its approach to Tri-State Airport in Kenova, West Virginia.  The team members, coach, doctors, University athletic director, and Football Boosters were lost suddenly on the return trip to Marshall University.  Tragic does not adequately describe such a loss.

Kevin F. Gilmore was a great athlete. He was living his dream of making his way to College and playing Football. He played offensive backfield, the defensive backfield, was on the punt and kickoff return teams.  He had good speed and was an excellent open-field runner.  At Marshall University his niche was the defensive backfield.

Kevin F. Gilmore was destined for greatness.  He was in the football program at McCook Junior College when he was recruited with a full scholarship to Marshall University.  Kevin’s coach at McCook Junior College was Larry Kramer.  Coach Kramer was quoted as saying about Kevin, “He was a heck of a player.  He played defensive back and running back, and we knew of him as being a really good player.  He came to us with several schools that were interested in him”.  Because there were no dorms at McCook Junior College many of the students lived with families in the community. Local residents got to know the college students.  Coach Kramer said,  “[Kevin] was a gentleman and a really good guy.  He was the kind of kid that would go out in the backyard and play catch with the kids in town. All the kids loved him, the community loved him. He was just a very good young man.”

Kevin F. Gilmore (#24) Marshall University Football

Kevin had 16 Harrison Varsity letters and Football was not the only sport he excelled at.  He also played Baseball and Basketball. In his Senior Year at Harrison High School Kevin led Hudson County in scoring with 14 touchdowns and 12 extra point kicks while playing halfback and cornerback.  Before anyone could have imagined Kevin’s tragic passing, long-time Football Coach Artie Barber who coached for Kearny but was a long-time Harrison resident stated, “There’s no doubt in my mind that Kevin is one of the best athletes we’ve had.  He’s excelled in every sport.  He’s a good leader and we’re going to hear a lot more about him when he gets into college.” 

Kevin was among five of the passengers who could not definitely be identified after recovery efforts were completed.  Marshall University built a memorial on campus and Kevin’s remains along with the other unidentified are buried on the Marshall University campus.  The memorial plague in Harrison is however a local place where those who want to pay their respect to Kevin can go locally.

A Memorial Fountain was commissioned by the University and installed on the campus of Marshall University on November 12, 1972, almost on the second anniversary of the tragic crash.  The monument (photo is our cover page) has an inscription that states “They shall live in the hearts of their families and friends forever and this memorial records their loss to the University and the community.”

The Memorial Fountain is more than thirteen feet high and weighing 6,500 pounds. The sculptor Harry Bertoia was commissioned to create the monument. It was his hope that the fountain would “commemorate the living – rather than death – on the waters of life, rising, receding, surging so as to express upward growth, immortality and eternality.”

Next time you are walking along Harrison Avenue in front of Library Park take a moment to locate the Kevin F. Gilmore memorial and reflect upon his passing and say a prayer for all those who have lost loved ones and especially the Kevin F. Gilmore’s family.

In 2006, the movie “We Are Marshall” told the story of the Marshall University Football players' tragedy and deals primarily with the aftermath of the crash.  It does contain tributes to those lost on the flight including archival footage.

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