Fire kills first African-American to play football at UofL


by Brittany Gonzalez

Posted on February 16, 2013 at 9:07 PM

Updated Sunday, Feb 17 at 12:49 PM

LOUISVILLE, KY (WHAS11) – A fire in the 2100 block of West Oak Street Saturday morning has left one man dead leaving many friends devastated.

79-year-old Laurence “Bumpy” Simmons lived in the apartment alone. Simmons was nicknamed “Bumpy” because of his size.

He was the first African-American to play football at the University of Louisville in 1952.

His family tells WHAS11 he taught at Central High School, which is the same school he attended.

According to Major Henry Ott, the fire was started by an electrical short in a space heater in Simmons’ bedroom around 10am on Saturday.

“The fire was between him and the doorway,” Ott said.

Lynne Cline lived next door to Simmons learning of Simmons’ death left her heartbroken.

“I couldn’t believe it. I loved him. Bumpy was my friend,” Cline said.

Those who knew Simmons said he sat outside every day and would talk to anyone who walked by.

“I’m sorry to see him go out like that. Only thing I can say is he was a nice person,” one friend said.

According to Ott, there were several fire alarms in the home that is converted into 6 apartments, however none of them worked.

“Three out of four didn’t have batteries or the batteries weren’t connected,” Ott said.

Simmons leaves behind three children. Funeral arrangements for Simmons are pending. 

No one else was injured in the fire.