Carole Kell recalls husband’s legacy ahead of Hall induction
by Adam Carrington
February 03, 2014 12:00 AM | 6618 views | 6 6 comments | 27 27 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Carole Kell stands by a portrait of her late husband, Carlton J. ‘Corky’ Kell, at her east Cobb home. The longtime Wheeler High School coach, county administrator and namesake of Kell High School died in 1995 at age 57 from complications of lung cancer.
Carole Kell stands by a portrait of her late husband, Carlton J. ‘Corky’ Kell, at her east Cobb home. The longtime Wheeler High School coach, county administrator and namesake of Kell High School died in 1995 at age 57 from complications of lung cancer.
MARIETTA — Carlton “Corky” Kell had a gift for remembering names of just about everyone he met, even going as far as to recollect the time they were first introduced.

That’s left a long-lasting impression throughout Cobb County, along with Kell’s many years of service as a coach and administrator at Wheeler High School and for the Cobb County School District.

Nearly two decades after Kell lost a seven-month battle with lung cancer, everyone still remembers him, and now those who may not have known him will learn just what he meant to so many.

Kell will be among six introduced into the Atlanta Sports Hall of Fame on Friday at the Buckhead Theatre. He will join media magnate and former Atlanta Braves and Atlanta Hawks owner Ted Turner, Braves great John Smoltz, 1980 Heisman Trophy winner George Rogers, two-time Olympic track and field gold medalist Antonio McKay and Women’s Basketball Hall of Famer Cindy Brogdon.

Kell’s image remains as visible as ever, as the namesake of Kell High School, as well as the football stadiums at Kell and Wheeler.

“It’s amazing that Corky will have been dead 19 years and the accolades keep coming,” his widow, Carole Kell, said Sunday afternoon from her east Cobb home. “I hardly go anywhere without someone telling me a Corky story. People loved him. I wasn’t surprised when (Cobb County Athletic director) Steve Jones nominated him (for the hall of fame).

“I would tell you right now what Corky would have said — ‘I’m stomping in high cotton.’”

Carole Kell remembered her husband coming up with some radical idea one night of high school football players, cheerleaders and bands performing at the newly-christened Georgia Dome, which opened in the fall of 1992. She responded by telling him, “You’re crazy. You’ll never be able to get all the kids to come.”

She remembered her husband’s response vividly.

“I’m going to try.”

Twenty-two years later, the Corky Kell Classic is as successful as ever, expanding to seven games over two days this fall.

Jimmy Dorsey, the longtime McEachern football coach who now serves as the school’s athletic director, was one of Kell’s helpers in making the season-opening football showcase become a reality.

In speaking to the MDJ in October, Dorsey said Kell’s “gift was vision.” He also described Kell as a “gentle soul that got a lot of stuff done.”

Not long before Kell’s death, Carole Kell said, former Brookwood coach Dave Hunter visited her husband in the hospital. She remembers Corky holding Hunter’s hand and saying, “Promise me you won’t let the Classic die.”

Hunter remains one of figureheads of the Corky Kell Classic, along with Dorsey.

“That’s why (Hunter) works so hard to make it happen,” Carole said. “It’s a wonderful thing.”

Looking back on 37 years of marriage and 41 years as a couple, Carole Kell relished her role as a football coach’s wife. She mowed the lawn, paid the bills and fed the kids and never complained once about Corky not having a 9-to-5 job — and then some.

Carole Kell talked endlessly of Corky’s nine seasons at Wheeler, where he went 77-25-1 with two state semifinal appearances and a trip to the state finals in 1973. Corky Kell also coached Wheeler’s girls basketball team for a time.

Having lived just 2 miles from the school, Carole Kell would walk to every home game, saying it was impossible to drive. Parking lots were filled and cars were parked up and down Holt Road.

There would be pep rallies every Friday afternoon at the Kell family’s house, and she could hear the marching band play in the distance. Cheerleaders rolled the Kells’ house every home game, and the coach’s family was proud to take the treatment.

Carole said her son, Tain, would sometimes chat with the cheerleaders from an upstairs window while they threw toilet paper, knowing he was the one that had clean-up duty the following day. It’s a discipline Tain Kell took to heart, leading him to his current post as a judge in the Cobb County Superior Court.

When Wheeler beat Marietta, its biggest rival at the time, to win the 1973 Region 5AAA title, Carole Kell tried climbing the chain-link fence at Northcutt Stadium so she could celebrate with her husband.

But she said a police officer stopped her, asking her to get down.

“I was young and stupid enough to climb that fence, and this police officer comes running toward me, and he says, ‘What are you doing?’ I said, ‘I’m going over this fence.’ He said, ‘No, you’re not,’ and I said, ‘Yes, I am, my husband is out there.’

“Then, he helped me over.”

Carole Kell also shared her husband’s own run-in with the police, when he and fellow coaches began painting cat claws in the middle of the street leading up to Wheeler High School’s entrance.

“He and other coaches got paint and they painted those paw prints up the street leading to the school,” she said. “The police said, ‘You can’t do that. This is public property,’ and he said, ‘We’re not (stopping).’ He was popular enough to where he was able to get by with that.”

Corky Kell’s memory still lives on, and Carole, retired after a 33-year career as a teacher and principal, is still active in many committees and organizations in Cobb County, including the YMCA Board of Directors and with WellStar, for which she helps raise money for cancer research.

She’s also involved with Kell High School, where she is a speaker at every graduation.

“I never knew Corky Kell, but I heard that he was a man of integrity, and I see those things in his wife, children and grandchildren, who are around,” Kell football coach Derek Cook said. “They are a treasure in Cobb County.”

Comments-icon Post a Comment
Tana Butler
February 04, 2014
I know journalists are limited in the number of words they use, but there is a secondary story here about the incredible Mrs. Kell.

I had the blessing of having her as my English teacher in 8th grade at East Cobb Jr. High. She rejected colored ink—all the rage—and colored paper. She required black or blue ink and white paper.

She was a careful and enthusiastic teacher. She laughed easily, and was proud when some of her teachings reached good soil, and a student offered something of substance to reflect that.

Mrs. Kell—Carole—taught us about going into the mountains of the Appalachians and capturing music that was distilled from its source: the first immigrations of those who spoke the King's English when they landed on this continent. It was because of her that I rented "Songcatcher"—one of the richest, most vibrant accounts of people like Mrs. Kell who sought those bridges and ways.

I cannot say enough about the generosity and warmth of this beautiful woman. I imagine if she married Corky, and he loved her—well, they both got a lot out of the deal.

Mrs. Kell: I thank you from my heart and soul for your contribution to the woman I've tried to become. I have kind of missed the mark, but you wouldn't know it to look at my daughter or grandson.

Chandler W
February 04, 2014
Fox 5 TV will be having a story about Corky on Wednesday night.
In a cave
February 04, 2014
You must be living in a cave if you are just dicovering now that the folks in Cobb are all scratching each other's backs. At least the head honcho will be going back to Texas. Now we just need to clean the rest of the house and we can start rebuilding.
February 03, 2014
So Mr. Dorsey has connections at Kell? That sure would explain why the people at kell are keeping silent about McEachern's recruiting violations!
Rolling in Grave
February 03, 2014
This guy was a class act I am happy to see him honored in this way. I remember when he was an administrator at Wheeler and he did an amzing job. I am sure he is rolling in his grave though right now knowing that the school with his namesake is covering up the illegal recruiting taking place at McEachern right now! I am sure he would not have allowed this under his watch! I am positive he would have forced his coaches to speak up and he would have lead the way!
Amen to That
February 03, 2014
I knew Corky very well and you are absolutely right! The Principal at kell has not said a word about this thus far instead of stepping up and taking the lead like a leader is supposed to do! Instead, he has stifled his coaches and he must have told the county not to speak with his coaches either. Great cover up Mr. Wagner and Ms. Doe! just remember that whatever happens moving forward happens on your watch and you can have done the right thing!
*We welcome your comments on the stories and issues of the day and seek to provide a forum for the community to voice opinions. All comments are subject to moderator approval before being made visible on the website but are not edited. The use of profanity, obscene and vulgar language, hate speech, and racial slurs is strictly prohibited. Advertisements, promotions, and spam will also be rejected. Please read our terms of service for full guides