Ed Murphey, a three-time SEC outdoor champion in the mile (1955-57) for the University of Tennessee and the SEC cross country individual champion in 1956, died on October 29, 2014, in Memphis. He was 78.
Originally from Brownsville, Tennessee, Murphey enrolled at the University of Tennessee and earned a full track and field scholarship. He was named an NCAA All-American in 1956 as he set a school record in the 1,500 meter run (3.52) and was the fourth best collegiate miler that year. This outstanding runner for the Vols set several additional records which stood the test of time. His mile record (4.16) run at Neyland Stadium (then Shields-Watkins Field) was never broken in that venue.
In 1955, Murphey had a first place finish at the 1955 Shamrock Cross Country Championship in Louisville (among over 500 runners). He set mile records at the University of Kentucky, University of Alabama, Berea College, and at the SEC Championships at Legion Field in Birmingham (4:14). Murphey also set the SEC mile record the following year with a time of 4:14. He set the 1956 SEC Cross Country record in Atlanta (21.21 for 4.4 miles) the same year he was team captain. Altogether, he won four SEC championships – three in the mile and one in the 1956 Cross Country Championship.
In 1956, Murphey became the first UT runner to be a finalist for the U.S Olympic track team. In that stellar year, he became mile champion and record-holder at the Georgia AAU Championships in Atlanta. He was also the first Tennessee runner to score points in the NCAA Track and Field Championships. In addition, Murphey was the U.S. Marine Corps mile champion in 1958. Murphey was a part of the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame 2005 induction class, one that included teammates Darwin Bonds and Richmond Flowers.
Murphey was the owner of Ed Murphey and Associates Life Insurance in Memphis. Since 1965, he annually presented the Ed Murphey Award for the most noteworthy performance from the previous year’s track and field season at UT.
“He loved the University of Tennessee and everything about it,” said former UT football coach Johnny Majors. “He was one of my greatest and most loyal friends. We had been friends since our freshman year. Both of us loved history, and we made several historic trips together.”
He is survived by his wife of 13 years, Jan Roll Murphey, and four children.
Visitation will be from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Eastern on Saturday at St. John’s Episcopal Church, 3245 Central Avenue, Memphis, with a memorial service to follow. Private family graveside service will be held at Elmwood Cemetery in downtown Memphis.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the University of Tennessee track and field team.