LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Greater Louisville Inc. presented its Gold Cup award to one of Louisville’s most prominent and successful business leaders, Ulysses L. “Junior” Bridgeman.
Bridgeman made his initial mark on the Louisville community as a star basketball player for the University of Louisville Cardinals and then embarked on a successful NBA career with the Milwaukee Bucks. However, Bridgeman’s most notable accomplishments and contributions to Greater Louisville have occurred away from the hardwood.
Following his 12-year NBA career, Bridgeman built one of the largest restaurant operations in the country as a franchisee for Wendy’s and Chili’s restaurants. He also owned Louisville-based restaurant ventures Mark’s Feed Store, BirraCibo and Napa River Grill. Today, he is owner and CEO of Heartland Coca-Cola Bottling Co., which services the Kansas, Missouri and Southern Illinois territories.
Bridgeman sets a high standard for community involvement. He has supported and contributed to numerous Louisville charities and organizations over the years. He currently serves on the boards of directors of Churchill Downs Inc. and Blessings in a Backpack as well as the board of trustees for Simmons College of Kentucky Inc; in 1999, Bridgeman co-chaired Greater Louisville Inc. along with Debbie Scoppechio and William Hartman. In addition, Bridgeman has been a leading contributor and fundraiser for the planned $35 million Heritage West project at 30th Street and West Muhammad Ali Boulevard in Louisville. The track and field facility is being developed by the Louisville Urban League in cooperation with Louisville Metro Government.
“Junior Bridgeman serves as an example to us all, with his tireless commitment to make Louisville a better place,” Kent Oyler, GLI president and CEO, said. “Junior is a legend with the Milwaukee Bucks, where he was known as the ‘Super Sub.’ But there is no substitute for a community leader like him. He continues to give his precious time and numerous talents to help those around him, and we recognize him with this award for his selfless commitment to our community.”
Created in 1969, Greater Louisville Inc.’s most prestigious award has been bestowed in honor of lifetime community service and leadership only 22 times. The Gold Cup Award identifies, recognizes and encourages individual action and leadership in making the Greater Louisville area a better place to live and work. And, unlike some awards, the Gold Cup is not automatically presented each year, but is awarded periodically in recognition of truly extraordinary contributions. Previous Gold Cup recipients provide guidance throughout the selection process and have confirmed his nomination unanimously.
Bill Samuels Jr. was most recently honored with the Gold Cup in 2018. Other past winners include Sam Swope, Barry Bingham Sr., David Jones Sr., C. Edward Glasscock, and Christy and Owsley Brown.
The Gold Cup will be presented to Bridgeman during GLI’s 2019 Annual Meeting. The Annual Meeting, presented by Hilliard Lyons, will be held at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 25 at the Kentucky International Convention Center located at 221 South Fourth Street in Louisville. As previously announced, delivering this year’s keynote will be Thomas Frey, Google’s top-rated futurist and a former IBM engineer.