Louie through the years

University of Louisville Mascot

University of Louisville Mascot

The University of Louisville mascot is known as the Cardinal Bird and the school colors of red, black, and white were suggested to the athletic department by Ellen Patterson, wife of Arts and Sciences Dean John Patterson, in 1913.  The Cardinal was selected because the northern cardinal is the state bird of Kentucky.

The Cardinal Bird does appearances at sporting events and other community activities. He is a member of the cheerleading squad and was presented with the National Cheerleaders Association’s Most Collegiate Mascot award in 2004. At that time, the costume was worn by Jason Wade. 

The mascot’s nickname is “Louie” in honor of the school and city. Sometimes his name is abbreviated as “C.B.”. 

If you are interested in scheduling an appearance by Louie, click here to submit a request.

The First Costumes

The first known costume was made by a Home Economics faculty member named Frances Goldsmith in 1953. The first person thought to have worn a Cardinals costume at a University of Louisville event was T. Lee Adams. The below picture was taken in 1955 and is considered to be the first documented example of the mascot. Courtesy of University of Louisville Library Archives.

According to “The University of Louisville” history by Dwayne Cox and William Morrison there was a two-dimensional costume created of the cardinal very early but there is no hard evidence or images. The first historical evidence of the Cardinal Bird is in 1953.

In 1953, two female cheerleaders took their male counterpart, T. Lee Adams, to the home economics department and they asked the department chair Frances Goldsmith, also known as “Mrs. Gold”, to make them a Cardinal head for Adams. Mrs. Gold created a cloth pattern that had a black head and a yellow beak, according to an account from Adams in the book. “There was hardly any red at all. Then I had a red cheerleader sweater. I used it for the rest of the football season and one or two of the basketball games and then I quit because I got teased so much,” he said.


Inconclusive but thought to be pic of Cardinal mascot in late 50's thru early 60's
Inconclusive but thought to be pic of Cardinal mascot in late 50’s thru early 60’s

Just a few years later, a handful of members of the marching band all got in lockstep and took over from there. From 1958 to 1960, Richard Dyson took a turn as the mascot wearing a new paper-mache costume for a Louisville Thanksgiving Parade. Dyson with the help of two of his bandmates, Gearl Asher and Sam Badgett, came up with the idea but Dyson got the start because he was a drum major.

The UofL Library Archives reports that Dyson’s costume was made by the University of Louisville Arts Center of papier-mache on a wire frame and the long black coat came from one of the UofL players. 

According to the new book, “University of Louisville Belknap Campus,” by Tom Owen and Sherri Pawson, this version was a big hit and was passed on from student to student for at least the next decade. A female companion, named the Ladybird, appeared for several years as well.
“The UofL players gave us a long black coat with tails for the costume. I had a white dress shirt and we found a large ‘L’ for the front,” Dyson said in the book. “I had white dress pants and a pair of spats worn over my shoes, and I carried a black cane with a white top. The head had holes in the eyes and below the beak for viewing and breathing.”


Lloyd Collins served as the Cardinal Bird in 1962-63. Sally Herman was interested in becoming the Cardinal Bird but Lloyd already had the job so since the position was taken, she developed her own costume with a papier-mache head and pipe cleaner eyebrows. Lady Bird was brought to life for the first time in the fall of 1962 at a basketball game. At one basketball game, a faux wedding was performed joining the Cardinal Bird and Lady Bird in mock holy matrimony. There have been no reports of baby birds. 
In 1963-64, Sally Herman and her soon-to-be-husband were the mascots. They were married August 8th, 1964, and according to legend set off for Ankara, Turkey to join the Peace Corps. Cardinals flew to Turkey. There are still no reports of baby birds. The picture below is of Al Poland and Sally Herman with their respective headgear which was in the 1964 yearbook. Pictures are courtesy of UofL Library Archives.