Grady Hillman Cathey, Jr. of Hot Springs, Arkansas, formerly of Rison, passed away on Sunday, May 12, 2019 at age 89. He was born August 8, 1929 in Smackover, Arkansas.
Grady is survived by his wife of 63 years Lula Mae Cathey and twins Mark Cathey of Little Rock, and Kelley Cathey Smith and husband Tommy of England. He is also survived by his three granddaughters Anna Cathey Kennedy and husband Chris of Fayetteville, Erin Cathey Musgrove and husband Brent of Atlanta, Georgia, and Sara Cathey and fiancé Trip Hale of Leland, Mississippi.
Grady was preceded in death by his parents Grady Hillman Cathey Sr. and Lula Mae Dunn Cathey, and his sister Thelma Jean Redding. Other survivors are his brother Lynwood Cathey and wife Joyce of Smackover, nephew Steven Cathey of Little Rock, and other nieces and nephews.
He was a 1949 graduate from Smackover High School. He then went on to Southern Arkansas University, where he excelled as an athlete in multiple sports including football, baseball, and track. Grady was a 2005 inductee into the SAU sports hall of fame as an all AIC football player and all AIC baseball player. An excerpt from the SAU Hall of Fame website reads as follows: Grady Cathey came to SAU in 1949 as a 140-pound halfback from Smackover. Mulerider Head Coach Elmer Smith would not give Cathey a uniform at first, fearing he would get hurt. Cathey persisted, following the coach around, begging for a chance. Smith finally gave in to Cathey, who was never lacking in confidence. The rest is history.
In Smith’s autobiography, This Really Happened, the coach described Cathey as “a genuine jackrabbit with unbelievable moves, supported by enough confidence for three his size. He started the first game, and every one thereafter, for four years. He was one of the quickest backs I have ever been associated with in football.” Smith saw many quality running backs in his many years as the assistant head coach at Texas A&M under the legendary Bear Bryant, all the way through Gene Stallings.
Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference (AIC) football statistics were inconsistently kept in Cathey’s playing days (for example, non-conference games were ignored), and some of the other records were either lost, or destroyed. A check of newspaper accounts, however, strongly suggests that Cathey rushed for a career total of approximately 2,400 yards. This is not a remarkable number in college football today, but it was surely a school record in an era before sensational tailbacks dotted the “I”, or ran through gaping holes out of today’s west coast offense that spreads the defense.
SAU went through the AIC unbeaten in 1951, losing only to now NCAA Division I McNeese State in Lake Charles, LA. The Muleriders repeated in 1952 as AIC champion, losing only to now Division I Arkansas State in Jonesboro. Even with free substitution, Cathey played both ways, tailback on offense, and halfback on defense. He rarely came out of a game that had not been decided. A reporter once asked Smith if Cathey would not be fresher, and more effective, if he played only offense, Smith replied, “He might, but I’ll never know.”
Cathey also played baseball three years at SAU as a catcher and outfielder. He was a .300 hitter, and was twice an All-AIC baseball choice (1953 and 1954). He played for two AIC baseball championship teams, as well as two AIC football championship teams, twice making All-Conference in both sports. He was a conference champion in the 100-yard dash, broad jump, and low hurdles.
Grady also played minor league baseball for the Detroit Tigers, and was an avid New York Yankee fan until the day he died. Grady was also an avid amateur tournament golfer, scoring 8 hole-in-ones in his golfing career. He played golf as much as possible in his retirement at Hot Springs Country Club.
Grady was also proud to serve in the United States Army during the Korean Conflict.
Grady received his Master’s Degree in Education Administration at Texas A&M University-Commerce. He then went on to work as a school administrator for 35 years, which included 22 years at Rison High School. Before retirement Grady worked 42 years in education. He was inspirational leader to his staff, students, and families of Rison School District. His unconditional love for education and children are what made Grady Cathey inspiring to all.
In his retirement he loved spending time with his three granddaughters Anna, Erin, and Sara. He was a constant source of inspiration, love, and support in their social, academic, and athletic development. Above all he loved his three girls.
Grady was a member of First United Methodist Church in Hot Springs. He was also a Mason.
Visitation will be at 10:00 am Wednesday, May 15, 2019 at Buie Funeral Home in Rison. Graveside services will follow at 11:00 a.m. at the Greenwood Cemetery in Rison with Rev. Roy Smith officiating.
Memorials may be made for the Grady H. Cathey Memorial Scholarship Fund. This scholarship will be awarded to future graduates of Rison High School. Please make all checks payable to Kelley Smith at FBT Bank and Mortgage in Rison, AR.
Arrangements by Buie Funeral Home of Rison (870) 325-6216. Sign online guestbook at www.buiefuneralhome.com.
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