Hartford Legend Walter ‘Doc’ Hurley Dies

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Walter J. ‘Doc’ Hurley, athlete, teacher, and friend to Hartford students, in the gym of the former Weaver High School in this file photo from 2000. (STEPHEN DUNN)

Hartford Courant staff reports

Walter “Doc” Hurley, a legendary figure in Hartford sports and education who helped hundreds of needy students attend college, has died. He was 91.

Funeral arrangements are pending, said John Carmon, president of Carmon Funeral Homes.

Hurley died Sunday in an area nursing facility.

Hurley was a standout four-sport athlete at Weaver High School before returning to the school as an administrator. Nearly 40 years ago, he began drumming up support for modest scholarships to help needy high school students pay for college, and year after year, he handed $1,000 checks to 50 students. Later, the scholarships grew to as much as $10,000. The Doc Hurley Scholarship Foundation says that over the years, more than $570,000 in aid was awarded to 550 students.

He also created the Doc Hurley Scholarship Classic, a popular high school basketball event last held at the Weaver High School fieldhouse that bears his name. Weaver reported on Twitter than the boys and girls basketball seasons will be dedicated to Hurley’s life and legacy.

“He is the salt of the earth,” said John Carmon, a friend of Hurley’s for more than 50 years and president of the Camon Community Funeral Homes in Windsor, which will be handling the arrangements. “Just a gentleman in every way and respected in every way.”

Hurley graduated from Virginia State University and became a teacher and basketball coach in Portsmouth, Va. He returned to Hartford in 1959.

Hurley’s larger-than-life status was established even before he created his scholarship program. In 1968, after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Hurley was credited with calming hundreds of angry, distraught students at Weaver High School, sparing the school from the rioting that flared elsewhere in Hartford and beyond.

He served as an assistant principal at Weaver, but never realized his dream to coach a sports team at the school, a slight he attributed to prejudice at the time against the idea of an African-American leading a high school team.

In recent months, supporters have been working to secure Hurley’s legacy after revelations of trouble at the foundation he created. Hundreds of thousands of dollars intended for scholarships has vanished, and state officials have filed a civil suit against Hurley’s daughter, Muriel Hurley, alleging she diverted foundation funds for her own use. Now, the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving created the Doc Hurley Scholarship Fund of Greater Hartford to continue Hurley’s commitment to college scholarships.

Hurley had been in declining physical health, but remained mentally sharp, entertaining visitors at the Parker Memorial Senior Center, where he was a fixture in his trademark track suit and power wheelchair.

Hurley was married to his wife, Gwendolyn, for 56 years before her death in 2002. He had a second daughter, Jeanne Costley. A son, Walter Jr., died in 2005.

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