From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Livisay, Charles H., Sr.

(born: 1913  -  died: 1990) 

Charles Livisay was active in civil rights as both a civic leader and politician; he is also remembered as an outstanding tennis and basketball player and an outstanding basketball coach at Douglass High School in Lexington, KY.

Born in Lexington, Livisay was a graduate of old Dunbar High School and a 1935 graduate of Kentucky State University. He taught for a year at Dunbar High School in Mayfield, KY but left teaching because of the low pay, taking a job with Mammoth Life Insurance. In 1943 he left that job to serve in the U.S. Army. 

Livisay returned to Lexington as Douglass High's head basketball coach, remaining in that position for 18 years. The team finished second to Louisville Central in the 1953 National Negro basketball tournament held in Nashville, TN, and the team took the Kentucky High School Athletic League (KHSAL) championship in 1954.

Author Louis Stout credits Livisay as one of the first coaches to institute the "transition" game in basketball. The Douglass teams coached by Livisay had a record of 255 wins and 65 losses. His 1956 basketball team came in second in the KHSAL tournament and took second again in the National Negro basketball tournament. Following school integration, Livisay coached and taught at Bryan Station High School in Lexington from 1966 until his retirement in 1974.

Also while coaching basketball, in 1965 Livisay ran for the 54th District seat in the Kentucky House of Representatives, losing to Foster Pettit. In 1979, he was appointed to the First District council seat in Lexington to complete the term of the late O. M. Travis. When the term ended, Livisay ran for the seat and was defeated by Edgar Wallace. Livisay also served as president of the Lexington Chapter of the NAACP.

His tennis career coincided with his many other activities. Livisay was considered a star tennis player, participating in tournaments such as the one held in 1940 between African American tennis players from Louisville and Lexington. His teammates were Albert "Happy" Ray, William Madden, Rice Stone, and Leonard Mills; they were coached by Ages Bryant. Matches took place in Lexington at Douglass Park.

In 1975, Livisay was inducted into the Kentucky State University Athletic Hall of Fame. In 1993, he was inducted into the Dawahares-Kentucky High School Athletic Association Sports Hall of Fame.

For more see "Tennis stars clash," Lexington Leader, 7/12/1940, p. 7, col. 4; 1993 KHSAA Hall of Fame [.pdf]; Shadows of the Past, by Louis Stout; and S. Brown, "Charles Livisay; civic leader, ex-coach, dies; Black leader was role model in community," Lexington Herald-Leader, 10/01/1990, City/State section, p. C1.

Kentucky County & Region

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Kentucky Place (Town or City)

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Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Livisay, Charles H., Sr.,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed April 20, 2024,

Last modified: 2023-08-19 12:46:55