Billy Reed, a national award-winning newspaper and magazine writer, radio talk show host, public speaker and author whose career spanned more than 50 years and coverage of more than a dozen sports, donated his papers and books to Bellarmine on Feb. 1.
The collection includes 800 press passes from 1961 to 2016; 684 Sports Illustrated magazines, complete from 1960 through 2016; 237 sports-related books; 125 programs and sports guides; 250 notebooks and legal pads of his interviews and notes; 60 Courier-Journal Kentucky Derby sections; and 300 articles, clippings and newspaper pages. The collection also includes videotaped interviews and photographs of Reed with famous sports figures.
“I felt like I had some things that could be of value to young journalism students, and I knew Bellarmine had some programs,” said Reed, who has been an adjunct professor at the university. “I feel so gratified that there are some things in the collection that might help educate students about a particular time in our American culture where we saw many changes in sports and journalism.”
The press passes alone illustrate societal changes, said John Stemmer, director of Library Services. For example, at a time when the Equal Rights Amendment was in the news, many of those passes from the early 1970s are marked “No women in working press area.” “It’s an issue that was being debated that worked its way into workaday documents. It wasn’t just some highfalutin’ thing, it was in the trenches, and there you see it.”
The books Reed donated are in circulation. Several items are displayed in a case on the first floor of the library; the rest have been archived.
Reed worked for Sports Illustrated, The (Louisville) Courier-Journal and the (Lexington) Herald-Leader. His writing has also appeared in TIME, The Washington Post, The Miami Herald, The Sporting News and the ESPN College Basketball Encyclopedia, among many other outlets. He was a radio talk show host in Louisville, did commentary for TV stations in Louisville and Lexington and has made appearances on ESPN, CBS, ABC, the History Channel and CNN.
He reported on a broad spectrum of sports, including basketball, football, horse racing, golf, boxing, auto and boat racing, tennis, soccer, swimming and diving and greyhound racing. He covered the NCAA basketball tournament from 1966, when he was a senior in college, until 2012, including one continuous 28-year stretch (and Bellarmine’s national men’s Division II win in 2011); seven Super Bowls, seven different college bowls; the World Series; the PGA; the Indianapolis 500; Muhammad Ali; and the Olympics. And, of course, he covered multiple Kentucky Derbys, the Preakness and Belmont, winning eight Red Smith Awards for Derby coverage and three Eclipse Awards for outstanding thoroughbred racing coverage.
He said it was when he taught a class about Ali at Bellarmine in 2017 that he realized his materials might have some value. “On the first day, I asked the students to write down what they knew about him, and I was shocked at how little they knew. It just told me, my goodness, some of these people I’ve covered, these cultural icons, we need to have young people know about them.”
Photos by Jessica Ebelhar