Video: “Pioneers of Change: Black Football Players at OSU from 1951-Present”
Brief outline of the event:
Eliza Canty-Jones: My name is Eliza Canty-Jones and I work at The Oregon Historical Society and we're really pleased to be able to be here as partially the organizers for this program, so I have a few thank-you's and a couple of things to say before I introduce our first two speakers and then after they're done we'll have some more introductions, and move on to the rest of the panel. And we're going to work really hard to keep ourselves in line to have time for questions and discussion. So that's basically how things will go. The program that we're hearing tonight is supported by Oregon Humanities which is a state-wide nonprofit organization and an independent affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities which funds the Oregon Humanities Grants and Projects. All that is to say this is your tax dollars at work, so thank you for those.
We really were invited by Natalia Fernandez, who is, for those who don't know, serves here at Oregon State University as a Oregon Multi-Cultural Archivist and if you don't know what that means or don't know what the Oregon Multi-Cultural Archives is, check it out, it's an amazing thing that's being built here as far as the Special Collections and University Archives at the Oregon State University and we are lucky as we all are to have Natalia whose just been a great partner and organizer in this work. And I also want to thank Dwaine Plaza, who has helped organize and bring on the panel of speakers who have I believe has done a program like this with Natalie on basketball before, so we are really pleased to have the benefit of their experience and knowledge coming into this.
Part of the program that we have tonight is augmented by these four exhibit panels that you see on the side over there and those also have been on display in the Valley Library and will go back there near the entrance. Those were created by The Oregon Historical Society with the knowledge and work of Dr. Darrell Millner, who is here with us tonight and I want to thank Dr. Millner, also publicly, not just for that work, but for the advice and time and teaching that he's has taken with me and some of the others to help us think in broad and interesting ways about Oregon History and Black History, he's a wonderful person to work with if you ever have the chance you should do it. For those who don't know, how many of you have been to The Oregon Historical Society ever in Portland? Alright, a few, that's good. The Oregon Historical Society was founded in 1898; we have one of the most important research collections on the West Coast. We have three floors of museum galleries, we publish a journal The Oregon Historical Quarterly, which is a journal of record for Oregon History and has been published continuously since 1900, it's a benefit membership of OHS and student membership is just $25, I can't not say that right?
Then, we also do a lot of public programs and have some really valuable online resources, particularly for those of you who do research of Oregon History projects and the Oregon Encyclopedia, these are online resources that you can trust and they are places to go for Oregon History that you can rely on, Oregon Encyclopedia is fully fact checked and edited and the Oregon History Project is written by Historians and based in the collections at OHS.
As I've been thinking about tonight's program, I've also been thinking about the Civil War. We are about to mount an exhibit of Oregon Historical Society called Two Years, One Month. And it has to do with Lincoln's legacy and Two Years, One Month is the span time between Emancipation Proclamation and the Thirteenth Amendment. Which we will have original copies of both in this exhibit and the Thirteenth Amendment for those that don't remember, is the one that outlawed slavery in the United States, and it came at the end of the war. And so as I had the opportunity to look at some of the quotes and some of the ideas that will be in this exhibit, it's fascinating because people are debating not only slavery but also, should African Americans be allowed in the Union Army and if they should be in the Union Army, should they receive full pay? And people say, well I'm not for slavery but I'm not for equality either; and so a lot of the Civil War a century and a half ago may feel really like a huge distant memory to so many of us, you see in that history, in some of the history that is going to be discussed tonight is the idea that there are different kinds of people that we can categorize into one kind of person is better or less than another kind of person and what I love about the idea of sports as a way to encounter that history, is the text that Dr. Millner has written, that Athletic competition is finite and measurable and so these ideas of one kind of person being better or not as good as another kind of person come up against the hard facts of sports and of scores and race times and all of the rest that goes into athletics. So, the Civil War matters even when we think about sports and how about that.
So I'm excited to be here tonight to think about all of these things together and how that history matters today. So I want to turn it over to our first two speakers, Dr. Michael Oriard here at the end, and some of you may know, he is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus of American Literature and Culture here at Oregon State University, he is also a former NFL player and he's the author of many books on sports, including King Football: Sport and Spectacle in the Golden Age of Radio and Newsreels, Movies and Magazines, the Weekly and the Daily Press. And seated to his left is Mr. Herman Brame, who is an independent researcher, is the author of Forgotten Ducks: The Story of Robinson and Williams (book title is, Forgotten Oregon Ducks: The Story of Robinson and Williams), and as other people have heard me say, I am certain he is the person who knows more about African Americans in Oregon Athletic History than anybody else so we're in debt to him for his research into the local history. So please join me in welcoming first, Dr. Michael Oriard.
Michael Oriard: Thank you. My role is to lay out a national context for our local story here at Oregon State University. So I'm going to give you an overview, a very, very quick touching on highlights, lowlights, whatever they are, in a long and truly tortured history.
In speaking to, particularly to students about this topic, I'm very much aware, of you know historical perspective. I'm going to start in the late 19th century and move up to what to me is very recent times, my senior year, I played football at Notre Dame, my senior year 1969 we played Tulane, Georgia Tech and then Texas in the Cotton Bowl before they had integrated teams and that still stuns me today but you know, to students today, I mean that's like things that happen when I was a student being told about things that happen back in the twenties so, you know I'm talking about recent history in my mind, I'm talking to you maybe about somewhat older even ancient history in your minds but it's an important part of our history.
So if you're going to talk about African American experience in college football, you start with the beginning of college football and college football begins in 1876, this first organized by Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Columbia. Those schools were the dominant powerhouses through the first two decades of college football's history. 1876, coincidently happens to be the year that reconstruction ended and the end of reconstruction meant the end of all the attempts in the south to make life bearable for the freed slaves and so really the worst years in our history in terms of racial discrimination and lynching's and all of that, run from about 1876 into the twentieth century. So football is coming up coincidently at the same time this is happening in the larger society.
Now football starts in the Northeast at these elite universities and then it spreads westward and southward. So that by the 1890's we're playing football out here on the West Coast, they're playing football in the deep South, you know the Big 10, what we call the Big 10, what they call the West in those days was becoming a real powerhouse and it also spread to Black Colleges in the South, and I'll come back to that in a minute.
MO: For the Northern schools and the Western schools, the basic reality from the 1880s into the 1950s well at least up to the Second World War, was that football was marginally integrated by which I mean, there was literally one or two, rarely more, black football players on any team and not all teams were integrated at the time, the South was completely segregated until after the Second World War.
The first slide I'm going to show, Eliza do you want to go ahead and put that, okay, I'm going to show you just a few early pioneers of college football, all of whom were really remarkable men as well as football players. This is William Henry Lewis, who with a teammate William Tecumseh Sherman Jackson, William Jackson is easier, were the first black college football players at Amherst in 1889 and Lewis in particular was remarkable, he played 3 years at Amherst and then went on to Harvard Law School and at a time when there were no eligibility rules to prevent this, he went on to play two more years at Harvard for the Harvard team and was named the All-American team both of those years and several years later who was named by Walter Camp to the All-Time All American Team up to that point at his position. He was what they called a center rush in those days but he was a center. He was an extraordinary man as well as a football player. Harvard Law School is a rather remarkable place for him to be at a time when about 1-2% of Americans are even going to college. He, after he left Harvard and got his law degree, he went into politics, he got elected to the state legislature, the Cambridge City Council, was appointed by President Roosevelt as an Assistant Attorney General. Had a really remarkable career in addition to being an Assistant Coach at Harvard from the time he graduated until around 1906, which is also a fairly remarkable thing, you know for a black man to have a position like that at the most prestigious American University tells you something about the man.
MO: Next one, this next person that I'm showing you is Fritz Pollard, who was maybe the most dazzling of the early black football players, he played at Brown, another Ivy League School, was an All-American there, played in the Rose Bowl in 1916, went on to a pro-career before then the NFL became segregated in the 1930's, again, remarkable in all kinds of ways. He was just an extraordinary athlete; he was a less impressive scholar, student, and intellectual than Lewis was, but still a remarkable individual.
Paul Robeson, the next one, maybe the most remarkable individual of all, one of the most remarkable Americans to have lived, he was the first black player at Rutgers and graduated Valedictorian as well as All-American, went on to an extraordinary career on Broadway as a singer, but was a political activist, primarily in the 30's and 40's, he was particularly active because of his association with the Communist Party, he got blacklisted in the 50s and his records at Rutgers were expunged for a while and now they've been restored and so on. This is a man about whom, you could write 7 biographies, one on each aspect of his life.
And finally, the last one, Duke Slater at Iowa in the early 20's, went on to be a Judge in Chicago. I'm showing you these people and talking about what they do just to make it really clear that these were extraordinary individuals in all ways in addition, to being the pioneers on their campuses and imagine what it was like to be the single, not just black football player, but maybe black student or one of a little handful at these institutions.
MO: This is Jack Trice, a less extraordinary football player but sadly important historically, he played at Iowa State in 1923, and in a game against Minnesota, he suffered injuries from which he died a few days later and the Minnesota explanation was that we didn't go after him because he was black, we went after him because he was the best player, well it so happened that few black players on these integrated teams tended to be their best players so it was really hard to know exactly what was going on there, how much of it was racial, how much of it was just the brutality of trying to win games in any way possible. Next, his death was shocking, it wasn't covered very extensively in the mainstream press and the Chicago Tribune and papers like that, but the Pittsburgh Courier, the African American paper, obviously covered it well. And Jack Trice had an interesting after life, in 1973, students at Iowa State started a drive to get the stadium named after him, and it was slow, in they got the field name for him within cyclone stadium and then finally in 1997, was the stadium at Iowa State was named Jack Trice Stadium. This next image shows you the statue of him outside the stadium and notice that he has a book in his hand and not a football, he was another one of those remarkable individuals and they honored him in the best possible way with this statue.
Okay, I mentioned that football though marginally integrated was also played at the Black Colleges, what we would today call, the Historical Black Colleges and Universities and this began in 1892, Bittle and Livingston and South Carolina, I think it is, North Carolina, and the first conference for the Black Colleges, the Colored Inter-Collegiate Athletic Association, later renamed the Central Inter-Collegiate Athletic Association was formed by a hand full of colleges on basically in the mid-Atlantic states.
This was a separate, but very unequal football world that continued and thrived in its own kind of shadow world in the 20s and 30s and 40s alongside the mainstream football, with the Ohio States, Alabama's and USC's and all the rest. Very unequal in terms of funding, in terms of resources, in terms of facilities, but seemingly important, to the African American communities, and I say seemingly because my evidence is simply from the black press. There was a thriving black press at the time, these teams and their games were virtually ignored outside the black press but they were covered in the black press exactly the way big time college football was covered in the mainstream newspapers.
Next image, so the black colleges, what I'm showing you now are images from the two greatest of the black newspapers, the Chicago Defender and the Pittsburgh Courier. But black college football had its own marquee rivalries, not Ohio State and Michigan, but I can't read it from here, they had their own, next image, their own homecoming celebrations, Air Force versus West Virginia, Thanksgiving Day games, next image, with their accompanying social events, next image, their All-America teams, there's two of those, I believe, next image, the papers chose their All-America teams from the all black colleges and the black colleges also had their own post season bowl game, Orange Blossom Classic, which began in 1933, first as an invitational, with Florida A & M being the host.
MO: As they say, this football world was covered only in the black press, but it was covered as importantly and in all the same ways as big time college football was covered. The black press also covered not just black college football, but the players who were integrating the western and northern teams. Next image, I'm going to show you just a few of those. This Joe Lillard, number 19 with the ball being chased by number 77 Red Grange, this was when he was playing for, when Lillard was playing with the Chicago Cardinals, playing against the Bears. In 1933, which was the last year Lillard and one other guy, a guy named Jack Kemp [sic, Ray Kemp?], were the last black players in the National Football League from 1933 until 1946, some gentleman's agreement, ended what had been an integrated NFL in the 20's. The NFL didn't matter; I mean it was a Podunk, rinky dink, less important than professional wrestling at the time. But at least, black college players had a chance to go on and play there.
Next image, Oze (Ozzie) Simmons was a great, great player, next image, at University of Iowa and you can see the way the black press covers him. The next, the greatest since Grange plays tribute to the great white player but Ozzie Simmons stood alone too as one of the great players in the world of African American sport.
MO: The next slide, there was literally as I say, one maybe two black players on a relative handful of teams, in 1939, one of these papers counted 38 black players on integrated teams or 38 players in what they called mixed football in those days. So figure 38 players over how many hundred, hundred fifty teams, whatever. In 1939, UCLA had 4, it was unprecedented and it was welcomed as perhaps the heralding of a new world, it didn't sort of accelerate quite as fast as some people had hoped, but UCLA that year had Kenny Washington, who was possibly the best player in all of college football in the 1930's.
Jackie Robinson who you know, as the one who integrated major league baseball but was probably a better football player in college than he was a baseball player. And a guy named Woody Stroud who was an end on the UCLA team and then went on to a Hollywood career. Next slide, this is another one of the 3 of them, next slide, that's Kenny Washington, his nickname was "The General", which is a really honorific name to give a black player who's a quarterback and whose role is leadership and you know, the intellectual leadership of the team and so on. Kenny Washington was revered in the city of Los Angeles among all races, but basically, or not completely I know now outside of LA and the West Coast, but certainly not revered in the South so he wasn't an All-American, he was a great player who wasn't an All-American.
Next image, that's Jackie Robinson as a football player, next image, that's Woody Stroud as a football player, next image, as the antagonist Spartacus in one of his many movies, he did mostly westerns. He had a wonderful stage presence.
Next image is blank. Okay, so in addition to covering the good news in college football, the black press also covered the bad news, which again was ignored for the most part by the main stream press and what I have in mind here in particular were a series of benchings, you know, the 1920's intersectional football was a big thing, and teams from different regions competing each other for regional pride and so on. Well if a southern team played a northern or western team there was a chance, a chance, not a guarantee, a chance that a northern or western team would have a black player. In 1920, in the 20's some teams refused, northern teams refused to bench their black players, Rutgers refused to bench Robeson for a game against a team from West Virginia, but in 1929 in a game in New York, NYU benched their quarterback, a guy named Dave Myers, for the game with Georgia Tech and that sort of set a pattern that continued through the 30's.
MO: Next slide, okay, so this is the whole series of these, 5 minutes, okay. So a whole series of these and I'm not going to go through all of them obviously. But you can imagine how traumatic these were for the black players involved, who already were facing extraordinary difficulties, when they traveled with a team, they often couldn't stay with the team in the same hotels and all that, but they'd be benched, particularly when you're the best player on the team in most cases, it was really extraordinary.
Next image, this is just one of the players, move on to the next one, another one, next image. By the late 30's, the basic pattern was if you played a southern team at home, you were able to play your black players but when you played in the South, you had to leave them home and that continued until 1947 when Harvard refused to bench their black player for a game against Virginia and Virginia let him play there. It was the first time a black player played in the South in 1947.
MO: Next slide, the last major incident, that I want to mention, the kind of ugly incidence of this year, was the benching, or the attempt by the Governor of Georgia to prevent Georgia Tech from playing in the Sugar Bowl against Pitt, because Pitt had a black player name Bobby Grier. Let's just run through those quickly, how many slides are there. Georgia Tech students rioted, the Governor backed down, the Regents allowed Pitt to play, but they set a new precedent, Georgia schools would be allowed to play against black players outside the state, but they could not play against any black player in the state. Louisiana did the same thing, other states followed suit in the South. So what happened was that southern football became completely isolated from the rest of the world because by the 1950's after World War II, football integration in the rest of the country really excelled so you had teams with 14-20 black players by this time and so the South was completely isolated.
Next image, integration finally happened in the southern conferences beginning in 1947 and basically moving north to south, with the southeastern conference coming last, beginning in 1967 and ending 1972.
Next image, this is an incident from 1951 after the integration of the Missouri Valley Conference when a black player for Drake was slugged by a white player from Oklahoma A & M, but it was caught by a photographer and then republished in Life Magazine here, it's in the upper right hand corner where you can see the guy going after his face, long after he's handed off the ball. These kinds of things were really beginning to gather some momentum to force some kind of accommodation, you know as we said before, sports are supposed to be fair and the profound unfairness of all this was beginning to wear out.
Next image, the black pioneers in the southeast conference are listed there starting 1967 with Kentucky, a guy name Nate Northington and ending in 1972 with Mississippi and LSU, and Mississippi's first black player was a freshman, and freshman for the first time were eligible that year, otherwise, Mississippi would have come in last all alone in 1973.
Northington, sadly had a black teammate, a guy named Greg Page, who suffered a paralyzing injury in fall practice before the season started and died a month into the season, which was obviously just devastating for Northington, it was a pure accident, it was a no pads kind of drill, a freakish thing but it was horrifying under those circumstances.
Next image, okay, I think I am just about out of time, there's one more very brief, show me the next, okay, oh I thought I got rid of those extra, go ahead, run through, there we go, okay. That's the image I'll stop with.
In 1969, my senior year when I played against three teams that weren't yet integrated, there were also five major black protests on northern and western campuses involving football programs. The first of which was at Oregon State involving this player Fred Milton, whose mustache and goatee were contrary to team rules set by Dee Andros, this was in February. He said I'm entitled; it was a matter of black pride and self-assertion against white coaching authority and so on. These things were terrible, terrible traumatic experiences at the campuses where they took place. At Oregon State in February, at Iowa in April, at Wyoming in October, at University of Washington and Indiana in November, there was a huge upheaval but out of that and out of the integration of the southeast conference, in the 1970's the football world that we know today finally came into place. Coaches no longer tried to control their black players off the field, they no longer tried to control all of their players off the field, individual athletes got more freedom out of all this, out of the sacrifices of those young black men made. And I'll stop there because that's going to take us eventually to the presentation at Oregon State. Thank you.
EC-J: Thank you very much, for those that are ready there are some little cards underneath your seat that you can jot down questions to help you remember as we go through the speakers. Okay, Mr. Brame.
Herman Brame: Okay, thank you very much for that national imprint. I'm going to try to work our way to Oregon and Oregon's History in terms of African Americans playing football and I'll think I'll start with the first slide, I'm going to talk a little faster than I usually do because I want to be respectful to the rest of the panel here.
This particular graphic here is one of the most famous ones in history of the United States; it's done by John Nast [sic, Currier and Ives?] In 1888 and you can see, it's a Grand Football Match - Darktown against Blackville, A Kick-off. This portrays probably the feeling at the time, that football was such a complex game with so many moving parts, it would be impossible for inept chimpanzee-like or monkey-like African Americans playing football, as you can see that's how they're depicted in this picture.
Although, African Americans were very prominent in baseball, they had their own pro-baseball team in 1885, Cuban Giants; they were world champion boxers in the lighter weights but very little going on in football.
Next image, this image here is the earliest image I've found of example of an African American playing football in the state of Oregon, this is the Beaverton Football Team and the young man at the upper left, he's actually an illegal alien in Oregon because of his race, it was illegal at that time for African Americans to reside in Oregon and it was also unusual he was playing football because the major sport in Oregon was baseball. African Americans had the Portland Giants, an all-black team that toured the Northwest, they also had the Pendleton Tigers that toured the Northwest and played ball, so he was very unusual in that respect.
Next, this is Jessie Halsell, he played football at Salem High School, he was a Sargent of Arms at the sports club and also an accomplished violinist. Salem at that time, was what you called a sundown town. That was a town that wanted to be all white and they pressured the African Americans in Salem so desperately, that by the 30's, end of the 30s, there wasn't a single African American in Salem, but this young man persisted in investing himself playing football. And this is at the same time that Beatrice Cannady in Portland filed a lawsuit, a federal lawsuit, against the Portland public schools for segregating the public of school swimming pools. But the federal judge ruled that in Oregon it was legal to segregate school facilities. Halsell is also, should be a reminder to you because his sister Carrie Halsell, is the first African American to graduate here at Oregon State in 1926 and thankfully, the people here at Oregon State, named the newest residence hall in her honor, Carrie Halsell Hall.
Next one, this is Ralph Holmes, he was the first really prominent football player at the high school level in Oregon, the first one to get some acclaim, he went to Franklin High School. The newspapers referred to him as Franklin's colored fullback. They had quite a fixation with color and race at that time, even if the athlete's photograph was right in front of them they still had to say what his race was. This is at a time in Portland 1921, when he was All-City, first African American to be All-City, the Ku Klux Klan organized in Portland and with the support of the mayor and police chief, so a very desperate place to be at that time, to be in Portland. One of the highlights of 1921 was when they had the world colored heavy-weight championship in Milwaukie Oregon, that overshadowed what he had done that was the time when heavy-weight championship was segregated and African Americans weren't allowed to fight for that title.
HB: Okay, next. This is Charles Williams, he went to, he came to Portland, Oregon from Kansas City, Kansas he was a fullback at Washington High School and he, along with Bobby Robinson, would be the first African American college football players in Oregon. He often times would talk to his coaches about the race problem, in 1923, when he made All-city, he asked him if his friend, Robert Robinson at Jefferson High School would have a chance to be All-city as well and he told him that Bobby wouldn't have a chance because it was a coaches agreement that they would never have more than one African American on an All-star team at a time. This was also at a time, when it was illegal for Williams to be in Oregon.
Next slide, this is Robert Robinson, he went to Jefferson High School like I said, he was a rival of Williams and they were good friends. In 1926, they would go on as a team to integrate football in the state of Oregon at the college level. Bobby was a spectacular player, he could pass, he could run, he could play defense, he could kick, he could punt, I mean there wasn't much he couldn't do with a football. He endured many threats from fans as well as opposing players, and I'll read a quick quote from the Oregonian about one of the threats that he received while he was playing a big game against Franklin High School in 1924 at Multnomah Stadium. It goes, "Robinson, Jefferson back, trotted off the field brandishing his fists at a spectator whose fifty feet from the side lines and behind the wire in front of the grandstand, the rooter started to pull off his coat, but a teammate of Robinson's ran over and lead the Negro boy back into the field of play. The object of Robinson's displeasure, had shouted, kill the "N" word just after Robinson had made a good run. When Robinson and Williams finally did go the University of Oregon, University of Oregon, Eugene, Eugene was a Klan town, with cross burnings on skinners butte, planned marches down Willamette Street.
When they first got to campus they weren't allowed to live in the dormitory because African Americans weren't allowed in any dormitories at any Oregon college so they stayed in town in an apartment and after their freshman season, many of the players on the team, found their attitudes towards African Americans changing and the white players on the team petitioned the school to allow Robinson and Williams to live in the dormitory, they demanded it, it was successful in their second year, they did move into the dormitories.
Now their first year at Oregon in 1926, that was the first year, that it was not illegal to be in Oregon, so that was quite a momentous year. In 1927, he started at quarterback at Oregon from all the research I've seen and been able to do he would be the first African American to play full-time quarterback at a major college. On the road, they would be segregated from their teammates, but their teammates had an answer they would allow them to sneak in their rooms when the adults weren't around and spend the night with their teammates when they were on the road traveling. And they had a big game in Hawaii, where they were allowed public accommodations, and another big game against Hawaii in Portland, where oddly enough, the game program, this is the race of the Hawaiian players, listed one American Negro, Donald Smith, Los Angeles, white players were listed as Anglo-Saxon then they had Hawaiians and Koreans, it was just an awful orientation toward that.
Robinson was also an All-American pole-vaulter and after his football eligibility ended, he became, he ran track as I said he was a pole-vaulter, and him and Williams both had to give up their desire to become medical doctors because of the great depression that hit in 1929 there wasn't any money to go to med school. Okay next image.
HB: This is University of Oregon's homecoming poster for the 1928 game against Montana, and as you can see, what the mind set was on campus, it wasn't unusual for the students to minstrel stage shows where they would paint their faces black and paint their lips white and do different dances like the Charleston, and the lindy hop imitating these dances that came out of the African American community. It was also a trend and fixation at the newspapers at that time to always have a tar baby next to some of the athletes, even when they had their photograph in the paper.
Next image, this is Joe Lillard, he came out here from Iowa to play for Doc Spears, and Lillard was a tremendous athlete. The LA Times got wind of him his freshman year and called him the Alpha Omega of the Oregon eleventh. The Eugene Register Guard called him Gods Colored Gift to the University of Oregon and in a game against Oregon State's rooks here at a time when freshman couldn't play varsity ball, the count in the Eugene Register Guard newspaper recalls how he was tremendously attacked by the rooks here as being the only black player in the game, probably the only black person in the entire stadium. He was kneed and knocked out but he always came back into the game so the writer of the article described him as having a pure white heart.
Lillard, would reach disaster his second year, coming back to be on the varsity team, the Oregonian heralded his return for the second year with a header that read Negro star turns out for Oregon Grid team, he only lasted 4 games, because he was disqualified as an amateur because he had played semi-pro baseball.
There was a gentleman's agreement up and down the west coast and in Portland that if a high school player or a college player played semi-pro ball for per diem or expenses only he would not lose his eligibility, but Lillard lost his.
But Lillard wouldn't be stopped in his quest to be an athlete; he went on and played baseball for the Eugene Townies, he was the pitcher, he was a basketball player and after his time with the Eugene Townies, he had an opportunity to play with an All-star traveling African American All-star team called the Chicago Black Hawks, he played for them, that was a team founded by Fritz Pollard. African Americans were absolutely determined to play football, no matter what types of barriers came in their way. As a result of his play with the Black Hawks, he got the notice of the NFL, Chicago Cardinals signed him and he played for the Cardinals in 1932-33. And during those games, once again, he endured tremendous physical attacks, the African American newspapers always encouraged him to not fight back, but I think he had in the back of his mind the death of Jack Trice, was all African American football players were aware that they could die playing football. And by his last year in the league, his coach was actually Paul Schlisser who was a farmer coach here at Oregon State. Schlisser would write that Lilard was a marked man, with sometimes almost half the team going after him. Schlisser at the end of the season, he told Lilard he could not sign him again because it was not in his best interest or the best interest of the team so along with Ray Kemp, he was the last African American in the NFL until 1946.
HB: So Lillard was banned by baseball because of his race, he was banned by the NFL and he was banned from college football, but he continued on playing basketball in various professional leagues and playing football in various professional leagues. He's one of those guys that has a spirit that can't be beat.
Okay next. This is George Cannady, from Portland late 1920 latter part of 1920 Grant High School. He was a star at football, basketball and track. He was actually famous early on, for posing in a, as a 5 year old in the Oregonian during WWI, with the caption, he had on a full army uniform, and he was saluting, and it's says, colored boy, age 5, helps Uncle Sam, he was encouraging Americans to buy liberty bonds for the war. He was editor of the school paper, sports page, and he went to Willamette University in 1931 where he was once again a star, and he was president of the International Club for two years there, he was also an assistant professor during his undergraduate years there. He had a little bit of trouble when he dated a white coed whose in a sorority there and that caused a big hassle at that time for him because in Oregon interracial marriage was illegal until 1951 so that was quite a thing for him to be doing. He earned a scholarship at Howard University for Law School and left Oregon.
Next, this is Claude Hines; he comes from Baker City, Eastern Oregon, very isolated area for African Americans, a very small number of them. In 1908, they tried to stage a play the Klansmen which was an anti-black play and the small African American community there protested to no avail and in 1920s the Ku Klux Klan was organized there.
He was an outstanding athlete and he was compared by the Oregon Journal to Bronko Nagurski and Sammy Baugh, all of the great players of that time. One of his teammates said he could throw a football almost 100 yards. He was an MVP of his football team and the students there voted him student body president in 1928 and he earned a scholarship to Hawaii, University of Hawaii, but he decided to go to Southern Oregon where he continued his stellar play and his teammates tried to support him as much as they could when they went to towns where he couldn't go into a restaurant or the hotels, often times the whole team would boycott a restaurant if he wasn't served, he wasn't allowed to live on campus, he had to live in town in the basement of a local business. He's now in the state of Oregon's Sports Hall of Fame, his school's sports hall of fame.
Next, this is Willie Torrence from La Grande High School, Eastern Oregon; he played one year at Oregon.
Next, this is Albert Dunn from Benson Polytechnic High School; he represented a group of young men in Portland who were trying to get a technical education.
Next, this is Bob Whitfield, he was a reserved half back from Los Angeles in the late 1930s and he was quite an actor went on to Hollywood to have quite a career.
This is Bob Reynolds from Jefferson High School in Portland, he was a half-back and played some quarterback at Oregon and he's always referred to as being the Oregon's colored or Negro player.
Next, this is Jerry Garrett at Vanport College, this is mostly for Veterans after WWII, and most of these guys paved the way for Portland State University football program.
This is John Freeman at the University of Portland, private catholic school, he led all scores on the west coast at all levels in football.
This is Chet Daniels; he was the Nation's leading kicker for the University of Oregon in kicking extra points.
Next, this is Woodley Lewis, he was an all-time player down from Los Angeles area and set many records at the University of Oregon before going on to the NFL and along with Chuck Daniels and he played in the Cotton Bowl in 1949 and they were denied accommodations at a hotel and they had to stay in town with an African American family.
HB: Next, and pressure was building for Oregon State to finally break the mold and join the rest of the world and have an African American player. There's a long back story to it that I don't have the time to talk about now, but Bill Anderson from Oakland California, along with Dave Mann were the first African American players at Oregon State in 1950, the barrier had been broken here and Mann was absolutely a fabulous player, the Oregon Journal, next one, this is Mann here, Oregon Journal used to call him Dave What-A-Mann and during his years in the Canadian Football league he was such a star down there that they called him superman.
Next, this is Emery Barnes, Jefferson High School, in the late 40's University of Oregon at football. He would be a world class high jumper, NCAA champion high jump, he played for the Packers briefly in the pre-season but he was segregated in most of his accommodations and he got into a big fight with another player at a hotel and the Packers let him go. He went up to Canada and became an elected official of the British Columbia Legislature and Speaker of the Legislature there. They have Emery Barnes Park in British Columbia.
Next, this is Caley Cook at Lewis and Clark, a small private college in Portland.
Next, this is Amos Marsh; he was the first African American from Oregon to come to play at Oregon State. He was primarily a track guy but he did play football here and went on to have a good career in the NFL.
These are some African American players from Washington High School, example of residential segregation; most of these, it was several schools that had mostly African American players as a result.
Next, this is Jefferson High School football team, 1958-57, they were the national and state champions, Terry Baker from Oregon State was the quarterback and future All-American and pro-football hall of famer, Mel Renfro was on the team.
Next, this is Mel and Ray Renfro when they were in high school, as I said Mel was in the pro-football hall-of-fame ultimately, and he's on the right.
Next, this is Earnel Durden, from Oregon, he was one of Oregon State's greatest players, from Los Angeles, he was Los Angeles player of the year in football, here at Oregon State he had a phenomenal rushing average over his career over 6 yards. Reception averages over 27 yards, is that correct, while you were here? And he went on to be one of the pioneering assistant African American coaches in the NFL. There is a lot more that can be said but we don't have a lot of time.
Next, this is Ted Bates, also from Los Angeles, he was an All-American as Durden was and he was All-Coast and he played for Chicago Cardinals in the NFL, another Oregon State player. This is Paul Lowe another Oregon State guy, he's one of the all-time great players in the old American Football League, with the San Diego Charges, and I believe he's in the Charges Hall-of-Fame.
Next, this is Willie West, late 1950's at Oregon, halfback, he could run, he could pass, he was All-Coast, honorable mention All-American, he went on to the NFL.
Next, this is Cleveland Jones, he was only 5'4" but he only weighed 150 pounds but he was a huge competitor from San Diego.
Next, and this is Dave Grayson, University of Oregon halfback he went on to have a stellar career in professional football. Okay, I think that's it and the take away for me being here at Oregon State is tremendous back story of Oregon State's decision to finally recruit African American athletes. I remember my father at the barbershop every Saturday he would always be talking about why there weren't any African American players at Oregon State but that was soon remedied and African American community got behind Oregon State. That's it.
EC-J: While were waiting for the flip-over, I'll say one thing about Amos Marsh who was from the eastern part of this state, if you have the opportunity to watch the OPB Oregon Experience Program, The Logger's Daughter about Maxville Oregon, it will tell you something about his family and how they came to be over in the Wallowas, it's a great, it's on opb.org, so check it out.
Dwaine Plaza: Good evening everybody, my name is Dwaine Plaza and to my left is Evan Bany, and to my right is Natalia Fernandez, I introduced all three of us because we really had a task ahead of us two months ago where we started to put together the social history of the desegregation of football here at Oregon State University and it was a lot of fun working with Evan and Natalia over that period of time.
So what we want to do tonight is bring you the story of the pioneers who actually changed the culture here at Oregon State University in terms of allowing people like myself, to be on this campus as teachers, but also allowing different sports to be desegregated. So we're going to begin by doing a really quick overview of some of the history that's already been covered but then we'll cover more of Oregon State University's specific history as we go along.
So again, I wanted to just thank the previous presenters for allowing us to go fairly fast through this material, we're looking at the national stage when football was invented. And you clearly heard from Mike Oriard that the first players were few and far between on the sort of elite schools and we know people like Paul Robeson and we know Fritz Pollard, and others like that.
If we look at Oregon State University in terms of its diversity it doesn't start until we know clearly in the 1950's. You can see here by the indications of these teams in the 1900's, 1910's, 1920's, 1930's there just wasn't men of color playing football. The only men of color that may have been on teams were men from places like Hawaii, the South Pacific Islands and also Mexico. So these seem to be the only ones we could actually find as allowed to play on Oregon State University teams and there wasn't many.
As was also stated about Oregon itself, Oregon as a state had these two schools, Oregon State University and the University of Oregon and the University of Oregon tended to be a little more liberal than us and that was partly as a result of the Eugene culture. But as a result of that it meant that University of Oregon actually had African American men on their team in the 1920's and subsequently.
In terms of diversity here at Oregon State University though the very first individual we could really identify and say that this person played a major role on a team was Jack Yoshihara, and Jack played on the 1942 Rose Bowl team and you can see his image over here on the left hand side. Jack clearly was playing at a time when he would have been the only man of color on that particular team and some of you may know the story that after the bombing of Pearl Harbor it meant that for that particular year, the Rose Bowl was actually played at Duke, which meant that the Oregon State University team traveled across country and they went to Duke, but they left Jack behind because at that time being of Japanese-American ancestry he was not allowed to travel with the team. Contextually, if we want to look at Oregon State University we did come late to the game of integration in terms of what was also mentioned by the previous presenter.
The very first African American person that actually graduated at Oregon State University was Beatrice Halsell and again it was mentioned earlier on that she was, we've name a residence after her but clearly she was the very first female and the very first male was Bill Tebeau, and Bill was an individual who arrived here in 1943 and finished an Engineer degree in 1948. So I just want to contextualize the culture here at Oregon State University for you to understand that there weren't a lot of people of color here on campus.
Those people who were on campus in the 30's, 20's, 40's and even into the 50's tended to be individuals who were from foreign countries. They'd often come to Oregon State University to do a degree in Agriculture or Engineering or some kind of profession and they'd only be here for five years and they'd be gone. But the idea of actually having African American people on this campus was very, very rare. As you can see here by this image of the 1950's, the 1950 team at Oregon State University here is very, very, you can say white, because that's what they were.
It was not until 1951, that we will talk about the very first African American arriving on the campus but I think we need to understand the context under which the changes were made and in our research what we realized is that the reason why mainly that we became desegregated here at Oregon State University, has everything to do with losses.
So when a coach finds himself in a situation where there's losses and he's looking around the teams around him that are actually winning, like UCLA, or Washington, or these were teams that were clearly starting to bring in African American players, but only in very limited positions, they often were brought in as the speedy players, these were individuals who were brought in for the back fields and Mr. Durden will clearly talk about that when he gets a chance after we finish.
You'll also notice too that the Beavers in the 1950's were considered the doormat of the PAC teams and those conditions were really the conditions under which you'd then have the possibility of a conversation among from coaches, hey can we bring in somebody who can actually be recruited and brought in to actually change the teams composure.
Another major event that took place in 1950 was the major loss that took place when the team traveled from Corvallis, they traveled out to Michigan and they played the Michigan State Spartan team and they got beaten up badly by a black quarterback by the name of Willie Thrower, who eventually ended up in the CFL (Colored Football League). So these, you need to contextualize, these events really become the major push factors that clearly allow us to bring in the very first African American player.
Evan Bany: As was covered earlier, by the previous couple of presenters, Dave Mann, was the very first African American player at Oregon State. He was born in Berkeley, California on June 2, 1932 and he was recruited as a running back, and a punter, with his great catching ability, speed and his booming foot. Mann's versatile talent led him to be in the national football league where he was drafted in the seventh round by the Chicago Cardinals. He played there for three seasons. After those three seasons, Mann went and had a successful career in the CFL where we played with the Toronto Argonauts.
In the 1950's African Americans players were used mainly in the back field and regarded as speedy but coaches felt that they lacked the guts and brains to take on other positions, so they were stuck at the running back position. They were not considered as thinkers or smart as was covered earlier so they weren't ever going to be placed at the quarterback role. Dave Mann, when he went on to the Argonaut's played as a receiver, punter, kicker and defensive back. He got the nickname superman for his multi-talented efforts. When Dave Mann retired from the game, after 11 years, he remained active taking on many careers that included restaurateur, coach, professional baseball player, actor, magician, and he played drums in a jazz band.
As was said by his former teammate, John Henry, and close personal friend he was upbeat all the time, he had a great sense of humor, great competitor and he did not like to lose at anything, whether it be, golf, tennis, and of course football, he was an all-out guy.
There as you can see in these couple pictures here, I'll go over real quickly. There were some outstanding players throughout the 1950's, there were slightly covered, Amos Marsh and Andy Skief, can be seen there, there and there, there you go. Art Gilmore and Wally Jackson the next two. Sam Wesly and Ted Bates and Earnel Durden, standing right there and Paul Lowe.
EB: In 1955, Coach Tommy Prothro took over the team, under Prothro's leadership the team would come back to be nicknamed the Black Bandits of Benton County. The Beavers immediately responded to the coaching change positively. From 1956 onward, Prothro expanded his recruitment efforts for talented African American players, his philosophy was to win by any means necessary. Prothro recruited Earnel Durden and Paul Lowe two standout backfield players and to replace Dave Mann. To hope the Beavers experience a magical season that would culminate in a Rose Bowl birth, the first ever in Oregon State history. Earnel Durden was born January 24, 1937 in Los Angeles and he led the Oregon State Beavers to their first 1957 Rose Bowl birth. Talked about earlier.
DP: So as I continue on from the 1950's into the 60's we can clearly see that there was a trickling of diversity on the Oregon State University football team and really the watershed period that actually leads to a major change in the caliber player that comes up, to come up to Oregon State University is the major walk that took place that was mentioned by Professor Oriard and I just want to give some context to this particular walkout.
It happened to a student named Fred Milton, who was actually a football player on the team, he had refused to shave his beard and cut his hair. He was very much in line with the black par movement of the time in 1969 period and a result of his lack of conformity, Coach Dee Andros gave him an ultimatum, either cut your hair or you're off the team. He said, I'm not going to cut my hair, interestingly enough, what ends up happening of course is Fred Milton then leads a group of students who march off campus in 1969 in protest of the fact that students were being forced on the football team to conform to these rules that they felt they weren't necessarily should be the purview of the coach. Coaches should coach football but they shouldn't necessarily tell what your lives were like and we need to contrast that because that's the world of the 19, late 60's, early 70's where coaches at the time were transitioning from being very, very authoritarian to becoming a little less so. And so it made national news and as a result of it making national news it meant that Oregon State University we had a stigma attached to us for about 15-20 years and that meant that when coaches left Oregon State University and went to recruit down in California, they were often going there with this reputation as being a place that was not tolerable for African American men and so for many, for about 20 years it was really difficult for Oregon State University coaches to recruit marque players to come to play.
Yes they did recruit players and yes players did come but they came in less and less numbers and clearly you can see that reflected in the context of the win loss record in the period of 1970 through about 1990 and that's what we will eventually talk about Ken Simonton in the changing years.
But I also want to contextualize the reason that Earnel Durden and other men who were pioneers of the 1950's, they had a dramatic effect of course in opening the door for other sports and so as we see here we can have Norm Monroe, the very first player who played on the basketball team here at Oregon State University only got to play primarily because Earnel Durden and his group of men opened that door of saying, you know what black athletes can play basketball; also and I'm going to ask Mr. Durden to actually comment on when we're done a little bit about what that was like to be on a campus where he was one of four men on this campus who were African American.
So desegregation in basketball actually took place under Paul Valenti. Many of you know Gill Coliseum. Well, at the time, Slats Gill was a man who was not going to allow African American players to play on his team, but when Paul Valenti who was his assistant coach became the head coach, that opened up another door that allowed African Americans to actually become part of the basketball team and after the team became desegregated they certainly had a great deal of wins compared to what they were having at that point. And this is another piece of research which we did two years ago, which showed clearly that because of the win loss record was going down that was one of the reasons why coaches decided to desegregate. And so the very first male who was actually a scholarship player on this campus who was on the basketball team is Charlie White so we got something going on here which were going to fix in a second. Some reason it wants to go and do it's update, thank you. And that brings us to Ken Simonton.
EB: The late 1990's culminated in a season change for the Beavers. Ken Simonton represented a major set of recruitment for the diversified team. He was born on June 7, 1979 out of Pittsburgh California and a great deal of the recruitment was starting to get to be based out of California in 1997.
Black players are now coming to Oregon State in a large number and we were starting to recruit largely from junior colleges. Ken Simonton followed Mike Riley who was hired as a head coach for Oregon State in 1997 and Ken decided to join us thankfully, instead of going to USC.
The 1998 season was the beginning of change for the Beavers because of the 5 and 6 record which was our best since 1971. In his freshman season, Ken Simonton had 1,028 rushing yards only second time a freshman running back had rushed for over 1,000 yards in the PAC-10. He became the first freshman ever to rush for over 100 yards in his first game at Oregon State and the first freshman to have back-to-back 100 yard rushing games. As one of the premier tailbacks in the PAC-10, Simonton had rushed for 1,559 yards in his junior season, again a school record at the time. His efforts earned him a spot as the first, first team all PAC-10 conference and first team All-American rosters as well as being named the College Football News Pac-10 conference player of the year and finishing 9th on the Heisman trophy ballot.
Simonton left Oregon State in 2001 with 5,044 rushing yards which is still the school's rushing record and with, he also graduated with a degree in liberal studies. As can be seen in this photo, the OSU football team after 2000 is very different than the early years, these new teams are based on recruitment by coaches across the United States, players come from California, Texas, Florida and wherever good players can be found. It's no longer an individual's race that describes their ability to play, but rather their pure ability. There are now players who are also being recruited from the Pacific Islands as well.
DP: And this image, these three images here really typify what the team starts looking like after the year 2000 and you can see here in the 2000 team it's a much more diverse team and by the time we get to 2013 team up here, you can clearly see by the holding of hands and the camaraderie that's going on with the team, it's a very, very different team that you had back in the earlier periods. So what we're going to do now is play a YouTube video that Evan created that is going to allow us to just culminate this part of the presentation and what we're going to do then is turn it over to our two panelists, to just comment a little bit on the content of what they saw and they can also talk a little bit about their own experiences here at Oregon State University as players. So let's see if we can make all the sound work, lights, sound, action.
[YouTube video plays]
DP: All right, this now gives us an opportunity to hear from Mr. Durden and Ken Simonton to talk about any part of the presentation they'd like to or I was thinking that they could also talk about their recruitment and coming to Oregon State University in the first few years, so Mr. Durden would you like to...
Earnel Durden: When I came to this campus, step foot on this campus as a freshman most your parents wasn't even born, but enough of that, I'll come back to that a little later on.
I was raised in Los Angeles and my parents were middle class people, I went to Manual Arts High School, which was an integrated high school and had my mind set that I would go on to UCLA that's where I wanted to go to school. I was raised in Los Angeles and UCLA was my school of choice. And I would look at these Rose Bowl games and I'd see the Rose parade and all this excitement and I thought it was all for us and apparently found out that it was not.
So Tommy Prothro at that time was an Assistant Coach with UCLA under Red Sanders and he was the one that was recruiting me at UCLA. Somewhere along the line he got word that he was going to be the head coach here at Oregon State University and he sent one of his guys who was helping him to recruit and asked me if I would come to Oregon State. I still had my mind set on going to UCLA and I told him that I don't think I would that I had to give it some more thought, he came over, he talked with my parents, talked with my mom and my mom sat down and said to me I don't know what to tell you to do, I don't know. She says the only thing I can do is pray and hope you make the right decision.
The next day I went to school and our conversations I talked with Ted Bates, and Ted said you know that coach at Oregon State that Tommy Prothro wants me to come up to Oregon State and I said he does, he wants me to come too and so to make a long story short we both decided that we're going to come to Oregon State. I gave up a dream in terms of going to UCLA and I decided I was going to take a chance and come to Oregon State.
ED: There were at that time three great running backs in the Los Angeles area, and I was very fortunate that year and led the Los Angeles City high schools in total yards, sprinter of the year and I scored 18 touch downs that season which is just a near pittance now-a-days but it was a big deal back then. Then the other guy was Paul Lowe, Paul was a phenomenal athlete, he was an all CIF basketball player, all CIF track guy, all CIF tailback and in those days what even made him even more exciting to Tommy Prothro was the fact that they ran from a balance line single wing and that's what's they ran here at Oregon State.
There were three schools in the nation at that time who ran from a balance line single wing and that was Tennessee, UCLA and Oregon State and Red Sanders who had come from Tennessee brought it to UCLA and Tommy Prothro at UCLA brought it here to Oregon State; and it was an exciting offense what was serpentine out of that thing and it was a pretty looking thing, we didn't see it that way when we were playing, masses group of tough athletes that I've been associated with here at Oregon State.
But let me pull back a little ways and tell you a little bit about my childhood. As I said before, I was raised in Los Angeles. When I was in grammar school, my mom decided that my two brothers and I had to take music lessons, so she would polish us up you know how you go an polish you up and she sent us off to music school and she's says okay I want you to pick out the instrument that you want to play, and I picked the clarinet and one of my brothers picked the trombone another one picked the trumpet and this was in grammar school by the time that I was in junior high school I become pretty good and we were traveling around in little bands and I could play any reed instrument, any reed instrument and read music and I thought that was the way my career would probably be going toward music.
And one day I was sitting in the bleachers and I saw these football players going back and forth doing their drills and what have you. I said to myself that looks exciting so I wanted to ask the coach can I do that? He said well yeah, come on out so they put me on the B team, that was the lowest group you know, they had varsity, JVs and the B's. And I was defensive tackle, boy I loved that and I was out there playing and by the time that I was in the 9th grade they elevated me to running back and my family moved and that's how I wind up at Manual Arts High School.
In those days we were blessed with a great bunch of talents around us in high school. Charlie Dumas the first seven foot high jumper, as an 11th grader, the first man to ever clear seven feet, an 11th grader, we had these kinds of athletes.
Paul Lowe was one of those kinds of guys. Ted Bates was a great offensive tackle, in those days he was considered a huge person, he was only 6'3", 250 and the likes of those guys; if you wanted to be a part of any team in those days, you just had to be a phenomenal athlete.
So Ted and I came to Oregon State and after a summer where we played in a lot of All-Star games, we played under the Shriners All-Star games in Los Angeles South against the North and we went down and played in the Bread Bart Game [?] down in San Diego and when we got back home after traveling around the country playing in these games we had two weeks to report and then we found out that, in those days, coaches could steal players, in another words, if player was on his way to Virginia and some guy found out that that player was on that bus or on that plane he could talk him into going to North Carolina or someplace.
So Tommy Prothro and Harsh Johnson [?] the guy that was recruiting us decided that they wouldn't take that chance, that they would put us in the back seat of a 1955 Mercury and drive us to Oregon State University. So that's how I got here on campus, in the back seat of a Mercury.
And we arrived here on campus about dusk and it was a strange, strange thing for us we were completely taken out of our element. The next morning, Ted and I decided to walk the campus and we had on our all-star jackets, beautiful jackets, white sleeve, blue, trimmed in red. And we both were walking down the street and along comes this lady and her little boy and the little boy looked up at Ted and he said, Momma look at that big black man, I knew that our whole world had changed.
ED: And, Ted and I were kind of like brothers, even though that we were just teammates we shared experiences of different kinds and Ted told me one day that he had some negative experiences in class, and I know that sitting in classes I could feel the eyes piercing in the back of my head and I could feel people looking.
One day I was taking this class, Chemistry class and I was doing very poorly in Chemistry, and the teacher called me out and said Earnel he said you're not doing well, you've got to pass this class, he said if you fail this class your whole race is going to be condemned, they're going to say that you guys don't have it, just don't have it, he said the one guy fails this class, they'll say well that guy just didn't have it, boy that burned in my mind until this day is still here and everything that I tried to do and here I walked out of there with a white professor telling me this was a part of my growing up. I walked under this campus, walked under this campus as an 18 year old freshman and a lesson and I left 4 years later as a man because of things that had happened. I learned that things were going to happen but you're going to have to deal with them, it's how you deal with them.
And so when we won the Pacific Coast Conference the bane that really shot us forward in terms of winning that was when we met Stanford down in Palo Alto and we had a lot of pressure on us, and we had to win that game, we had three remaining games and we had to win two of them, and one was with the University of Oregon.
In those days, Idaho was in the league, they were a part of the Pacific Coast Conference and they had a very poor record and after we beat Stanford, by the way, what happened in that game was just a dog fight and at half-time Stanford was leading us 19-6 and in the second half we started to score on them and toward the end of the ballgame we had to score and Paul Lowe called the play, he said Earnel I want you to run out and down and I went up, down and when I saw the halfback break hard toward me I went up field and he hit me, we went 60 yards for a touchdown and we won that game 20-19.
We came back home and this team was absolutely beat and we were beat, and we were tired, and we were sleeping on the plane and the plane landed right out here in Corvallis and I don't know how they got that big plane in here but they did and we got off the plane onto the bus and I was nodding and all at once I felt a big jolt. The bus driving up on the curb by the student union, I didn't see any students so we got off the bus and went into the union and the whole student body was there and they started yelling my name, we want Durden, and it was at that time I started to feel part of this University. And when my mom said to me, I'm just going to pray that you make the right decision, I knew then, that I had made the right decision.
Even though in those days the, our social life was nothing, we had no social life here on this campus, there were no black girls, not a one, the first black girl came when I was a junior, and some of the guys dated white girls and boy I tell you what, the Dean of Women didn't like that at all, they were calling these girls in left and right, they were talking, but the girls would come back and tell us what they said, and it wouldn't make any difference, but one of the reasons they never called us in is because they didn't want the publicity, they used to hide profile athletes they didn't want it to get into the paper because nationally, this thing would have just burst open at Oregon State and they didn't want it so they called the girls in but they never called us in at all.
To make a joke, I say, you know, what we did, at least we got black girls on campus. They made, but anyway, after the first girl that came, her name was Rachel and then the second girl came when I was a senior and when I left Oregon State there were two black girls on campus.
During the time I was here, there were four, not more than six black players on this entire campus, and like I said before, there was no social life for us; we made our own social life. There was one black family in town, his name was Bud Smith, we used to go over there on the off season at night and on the weekends we'd go over and play cards and this kind of thing, but there was no social. The sororities and the fraternities were all with their big bashes and their big dances but there was nothing for black players here.
ED: My first year here there was twice I almost left and I was talked into staying by Tommy Prothro. As the years went on, things got better, I got more comfortable with the situation here and I learned to accept a lot of things that I just could not accept as a freshman. I knew that one of the things that I could not do was flunk out. My family depended on me to be the first to graduate in my family and that's what I intended to do and that's what I did.
After I left Oregon State I started to teach school at Compton High School, I was the first black PE teacher at Compton and after Compton I went on to Junior College, Compton Junior College where I taught a class in communicable diseases and I also coached football. And then I went on to coaching and teach at Long Beach State and I was there a year; and one day at a seminar I went to see Coach Prothro speak, and after he finished he came up to me and said Earnel may I talk with you for a few minutes and I said of course, and it was then that he offered me the job, he said would you come to UCLA with me?
I had already signed a contract to go to Long Beach State and I asked him if it would be alright if I came at the semester break and he said that would be fine. So I left Long Beach went to UCLA and I was at UCLA for three years.
My family and I had a cabin in the desert and we used to go out there on the weekends, no phones or anything. I picked up the paper and the headlines was Tommy Prothro takes the Rams job, I said oh, my god, where does that leave me, so I picked the phone up and I called him and he said yes I took the Ram job and I want you to go with me to the Rams, so I went with him to the Rams. While we were at the Rams, we were there for about four years and we got fired. And so a friend of mine who was in the retail liquor business wanted me to come in as a partner in the liquor business and I agreed that I would do that.
One day Tommy Prothro called me and said I want you and June to come over tonight and have dinner with us I've got some things I want to discuss with you and I said of course and we got over there, what would you do if you weren't coaching? Well, I've been thinking about going into the wholesale retail liquor business and he said well, I'll tell you what I'll do, if you decide that's what you want to do I'll put the money up, he said but before you decide he said I want you to meet somebody. He brought in this gentleman and it was Bob Six, Bob Six was the owner of Continental Airlines, and Bob Six told me, Earnel I want you to go to Colorado and I want you to Coach in Colorado, I said Bob okay I need to just think about it a little bit and I'll give you the answer, and eventually he flew me into Colorado, we went up and we met the coaching staff, athletic director and all those people and I really enjoyed it, I liked it the environment and all that, my wife and I, even started looking for a home.
ED: Went home one night the phone rang again, this time it's Sid Gillman, Earnel I'm down here at Houston, and I want you to join me with the Houston Oilers and I said, oh gee Sid, I think I'm going to be working for Colorado and I don't think I'm going to be able to do it, he said well do me a favor, and I said what, he said would you fly to Houston and just talk to us? I did, I flew to Houston and I went back to my hotel room and I told my wife, I called her and I said I can't turn down the money that they're offering me, so I said my biggest problem was how was I going to tell Bob Six that I was leaving, because Bob Six he's just a great guy. His wife would call, his wife was, was it Audrey Meadows? Yeah, she played, is that the one who played the Honeymooners? She'd call and say Earnel Bob wants to meet you at this place, this place, this place and have lunch and we'd talk about flying and we flew to Ohio to meet Jeter and then we came back to California to meet Wesley Walker and all of these people.
What happened was that Bob Six and Jack Vickers the two big guys in those days at Colorado, would take 20 of the best athletes there were and they would split them up. Jack would take 10, Bob Six would take the other ten and I was helping Bob recruit his ten. So we were flying all over the country getting these great athletes, meeting them, trying to get them to Colorado. And I'm thinking to myself, oh my god what am I going to tell him. I'm not going to Colorado, I'm going to Houston. Eventually I did talk with him about it and he seemed to be fine, but I'm not sure what happened on that.
I finally wound up at Houston because I had two years to go before I could make my pension and I said well I'll stick it out for two years get my pension, and then I'll go on back home. Well, at the end of that year, Sid Gillman kept telling me Earnel come on in and let's sign this contract, okay Sid, alright, alright.
Then I got a call from Howard University in Washington D.C. Earnel we want you to be our head football coach, would you come down and talk with us? And I said sure, so I went down and the weekend I was there they had nine inches of snow and I made up my mind that wasn't for me. So I went back to the office and I decided that I was going to tell Sid, I'm leaving, Sid I'm leaving, I'm going back to California. I was home packing and I got another phone call. This time it was from Tommy Prothro, coach says, Earnel it hasn't been released yet in the papers but I'm taking the San Diego Charger job and I want you to join me here in San Diego. I said okay Coach and I told my wife after I hung up, if it hadn't been Coach Prothro, I wouldn't have done it. But I did, and I was with San Diego for 14 years before I left in 1987-88 and one of the reasons I left was because I wanted to be a head football coach in the National Football League, and the league was not looking to me that they wanted African American head football coaches.
ED: And I decided that I'd had enough that I was leaving and I joined the General Motors Academy and that's how I became a dealership, an owner of a dealership. There's a little bit more to it than that the first year that I was at the Academy, I got word that we had hired our first African American head coach at the Oakland Raiders and I sat down and wrote him a letter congratulating him on being the first African American.
But at that time, I had committed myself to becoming an automobile dealer and bought into a dealership at Hayward California, where I owned a dealership there for 4-5 years and then I bought another dealership in Culver City, and during that time I had an opportunity to leave again with Coach Prothro, we gave a big shindig down in Memphis for Coach Prothro all of his past players at UCLA and Oregon State and all of the coaches we all gathered in Memphis and we put on this big shindig and I believe to this day that I was one of the last coaches to talk with him.
That morning at 9 o'clock, my plane was leaving I believe at 3:00, that morning at 9 o'clock, Shirley came by to pick me up at the hotel and she took me to their home where I sat down with the Coach and we talked all that time and some of the things that he told me, some personal, that I don't care to divulge but one of the things that he told me, Earnel, he says, Coach Prothro, I don't know how many people knew this but he was a very wealthy man, very wealthy man, and he told me, he says I've been all over the world and I've seen the best Doctors there are in the world but none of them can stop this cancer. He said what I'm going to do is I'm going to leave x number of dollars to Oregon State University and during the time that she's alive, Shirley, she will get the residuals from this money and when she dies, it will all go to Oregon State and it was a huge sum of money. After our conversation there, the both of them put me in a car and took me to the airport and it was the last time I saw them, Coach Prothro.
I was on my way to work one morning and on the morning, on the news that morning says Coach Prothro had passed and I pulled over to the side and I said what, did I hear that right, so I got to the office and I called Shirley and Shirley said sure enough he passed that evening.
Coach Prothro was like a father to me, a lot of people said how prejudice he was and all of these negative things but to me he was a father, he was like a father to me, he was my second father. All of the years that I coached in the National Football League with Coach Prothro he revealed things to me that helped me in my coaching, caused me, I stayed at one professional football team for 14 years and that just doesn't happen unless you know what the heck you're doing and I was able to do it because his teaching, the things that he taught me as a coach and as a player. We were a hard-nosed group of guys when we were here at Oregon State, we, in 1955 Coach Prothro said this is my best team, 1955, that was a ragtag bunch of guys who met Stanford down in Multnomah Stadium and they were the team that was picked to go to the Pacific Coast Champion that year, to go to the Rose Bowl, and this little ragtag team from Oregon State, met them head on. Two or three times, John Brodie marched that team down and they were on the 10 yard line and he reared back to throw the ball in the end zone to Issacs [?] up pops Sam Wesley, interception, twice. And they won that game, I think it was 12-13, it was a national scandal for Stanford and that was, Prothro often said that was the best team that he's ever coached. They did not have any talent, for example, they had one tackle, Howard Buettgenbach 6'6", 195 lbs. he's was the tackle. And that's the kind of athletes but boy I tell you on the field they were a tough bunch of guys and that's the way it was with that Rose Bowl team, we were just a tough bunch of guys and if you were going to beat us, you had to really bring your lunch because it was going to be an all day job and that's the way it was. Thank you.
Ken Simonton: Well I'll try my best to really kind of tie all this in, from one generation to the next. Especially for my younger generation here I'm proud you guys are here tonight and I think what you're doing here to have some understanding of where you come from, where we come from as Beavers is important, so I applaud you for taking this opportunity, I know many of you compete, you go to school, you have other things you could be doing, I thank you for being out and I want to do my best to kind of tie in even the things that I've learned tonight into my experience because I believe it'll be relatable.
I have the pleasure of really meeting with Mr. Durden today and hearing some of these stories and I can tell you there is a forty year gap in between his time competing here with mine but I can tell you a few things remain the same and one was that, it was still only 6 sisters on this campus when I went to school here and four of them was on the women's basketball team the other two just kind of popped in from Portland and if you can imagine, you know, 60 brothers vying for the eye of 6, them are not good odds, I mean, I've never been a gambling man but them just not good odds. So you think about that 40 year gap and there's still you know, we still didn't have proper representation across the board.
KS: You said something else that triggered that I wanted to comment on, I'm sure it will come back to me, but there was a certain presence when we came here that I was very fortunate to meet men like Dr. Plaza to be able to share that experience, I mean that's rare to be able to connect with faculty and really open up and saying man, wow you're really having some of the same issues out here right and to have that connection just beyond subject matter it meant the world.
I shared a story with Mary Ann today that you don't realize coming from outside this state, I'm a California kid myself, and I tell people the biggest culture shock in coming from Oregon isn't black and white, it's this weather. I came here on my recruiting trip and it was raining and I'm, "Man, it's so green and beautiful," you get to just thinking, thinking about just the opportunity and the ball, man it's beautiful, its green out here and it's raining, you don't think that, there's a reason why it's green out here like this, so I didn't think about that on my recruiting trip, I just remember showing up to my first fall camp in August and we were running three a days and if that wasn't bad enough it was raining, and you had brothers who'd been out here, oh man, it's going to be like this until June and I've never been much of a mamma's boy but I called home that day, mom's it's raining out here and they tell me it's going to be like this until June and I promise it was the first real challenge I had, man can I make it. I mean it had nothing to do with black or white at that point it was really the culture of just the environment it was a different animal.
And I want to say that first year it was an Oregon record at one point, it went like 88 days with some form of rain, this is ridiculous, I mean so there was huge shift even before you got to dealing with people, with culture and different environment.
And whereas, in your time, there were 3-4 of you walking in, we at least had the advantage of, mean it was 20 something brothers on the team, a few on the basketball team, and it was around the time where I started taking courses and meeting people like Dr. Plaza that we were 12,000-13,000 students and there was maybe 112 of us, 106 total. Now that's a huge difference from what he dealt with, but still in the grand scheme of things we just did not have proper representation and you notice there is no tone of bitterness in what he shared but I can only imagine some of his interactions.
I can tell you in my time, we didn't have many of the overt and just bitter exchange of black and white but it was much more subtle. It was almost at times a silent neglect that at some point I felt the need to speak on, I was held to a certain level as being a leader as an athlete which you don't always want that pressure, you don't always want that spotlight, you know, people know me now and you're always talking, you're always so corrigible, my wife has to fight to get me out of the house, I'm just fine in my own company, I don't need to see people, I don't get any energy being around people, it zaps me, I'm exhausted, I don't have the need for that, but I enjoy people. But I never wanted to be the face of anything other than Ken Simonton. But I realized I continue to seek was pushed in to places where I'm the face of this and spokesperson for that so I felt a need to speak out for things. And people like Mary Ann, can tell you I wasn't always appreciated, they love me now, but it wasn't always appreciated, I got called into a lot of meetings, Ken why aren't you happy, I'd give my right arm to do what, first of all, that's not your right arm, but anyway, you know so I would get called into a lot of these behind closed doors, why are you so upset? And it wasn't a matter of me being upset, it's as a leader, I need to voice some of the issues that we are facing and some of the issues were basic, it wasn't man they called me the "N" word they mistreating me, it was a silent neglect.
KS: Four years later, we still had no place to socialize we had no place to get a haircut, outside of the experience in this Valley Football Center, you couldn't go party at the frat house, you know, it just wasn't comfortable, wasn't comfortable for them, therefore, they didn't make us comfortable cause we walked in the door, and like you said, brothers have always been on the menu so we walk in the door and it's nobody want you walking in here and taking away their action, black, white, green or otherwise so you were thread in the pecking order of things, so we never had a place to really feel comfortable outside of this field, this wall, making connection with professors who would really take the time to pour in to you so in a 40 year gap there was a lot of things that just never really changed, it was kind of that silent neglect, oh why are you just always angry, I kind of got looked at sometimes as that angry black man syndrome but for me it was a matter of being a leader and saying there certain things needed to be addressed and if you don't address it as our University who's going to address it? Who's going to help us create an environment where we can come and be comfortable.
People ask me all the time, are you upset you didn't leave as a junior after that Fiesta Bowl year, I mean you guys were third, fourth in the country, you went for 1,600 yards and my answer was no. For two reasons, number one, I came here to graduate not to entertain you, and number two, I hadn't enjoyed the process. I would have so many people, oh man my kids want to be just like you and you must be having the time of your life, and I'm thinking, I've not had fun out here, not in the least bit, and it wasn't til I took more opportunities to grow outside of my own experiences. To let some of my good ole Oregon brothers take me out and teach me how to hunt, I mean you had to realize this was never going to be the Bay Area, it's never going to be L.A. you didn't have parties and clubs and I wasn't into that anyway, but I had take the opportunity to do things outside of my normal comfort zone to really enjoy Oregon for what it was, to really allow myself to grow with the experience.
I took ballet courses, I would go down to Ashland, to Shakespeare Festivals, I mean, just out the box stuff, that brothers back home would be like, black man you did what? But this was an opportunity to grow beyond your norm, your comfort zone, and I began to make real lasting friendships and I don't come back for football, I don't come back for the acknowledgement, I come back because I have friends here because I made the personal investment to find ways to connect myself with this experience, but it wasn't easy and it's a big reason that I've always tried to reach back from the time I left, I've always stayed in touch with the Steven Jacksons, Yvenson Bernard, Jacquizz Rodgers and his brother, I've done the same with brothers like Terron Ward, it's been important to me, because it gives me some opportunity, how are you doing, how is the experience. I'll tell you something as we talk about just about the culture of race and sport, here 40 years later, I've shared another story today with Mary Ann that I shared quite a bit publicly, as a college student and it wasn't always received well, and maybe I didn't do a great job of explaining how beneficial it was to me.
One day, how many are you from Oregon? Okay, alright, so I had a teammate who was from Portland named James Allen, now, you football fans, you know who James Allen was, we called him Sugar Bear. This was a brother, when he came to Oregon State, I thought he was a wide receiver, he didn't have the real broad shoulders, tall lanky, cut up, he looked like big strong wide receiver, man what you play, linebacker, Oh okay. He looked at me what you play? Running back, oh okay. So we kind of sized each other up the same way, like alright this is what we're recruiting now, huh?
Now you flash forward two years later, James Allen, I never seen a man in such a short-time frame, transform himself. James went from a dude that looked like a basketball player, looked like a wide-receiver, to two years later, man this brother had put on 30 pounds of muscle, I mean huge chest, big arms, huge thigh and for a skinny dude, had a big ole booty, you been in this weight room champ, he'd been squatting a house, he had calves this big, I mean my forearm to this day is twice as big as his calves ever will be. This brother 240 pounds, we'd used to laugh, James, you're just better off just flipping upside down and walking on your hands, cause them legs is not benefiting you, so he's a big strong brother.
KS: So one day, we're maybe third year here, second year on the field, and we're at the basketball game, it's maybe 5,000-6,000 people in the auditorium, not a real packed house, so we got plenty of room to stretch out and he's sitting to my right and I don't know why it caught my attention, but I seen a young lady, she gets up, she walks over a few rows, she walks down a few rows, I don't know why I just felt like ribbing him a little bit, hey you know, shoot man, your girl come speak to you, man whatever, you know, we don't say nothing, we laugh, go about the game. In a few minutes later I see the same young lady come over a few rows, come down a few more rows, and I don't say nothing, we keep watching the game, keep talking, shooting the breeze, and again I see her come over a few rows, come down a few rows, now this pattern continues about 15 minutes, I mean it felt like forever, and at this point, I'm crying laughing, now if you've ever seen a black man blush, I mean James is a dark-skinned brother, he beat red, I'd embarrassed him, cause I don't know why it even caught my attention, I don't know why I even pointed it out, but here this woman is, we're watching her build up confidence and come down to the point where she's sitting behind me, I'm beside myself, I'm just tickled pink, now, she taps James on the shoulder, which I can't figure out, I mean, you know, I'm handsome, nice smooth complexion, if anything she should be interested in what I got going on but you know she taps Sugar on the shoulder and you know she was, excuse me, I've never met a black person before, can I touch your hair? Now, this is ‘98, at the earliest ‘99, it's not 1955, it's just about 2000, and when we got over the initial shock of the audacity of you WHAT?
We looked at each other, and I promise you, as a black man even in this generation, there are very few moments that you feel unprepared as a black man, we'd already been on this campus for three years so I was accustomed of walking into Safeway and seeing nothing but white faces, I was accustomed to being the only black man in certain classes, and when social issues came up, getting that same look, you speaking for the black race and so I was not unfamiliar with who I was in a very white world. I could walk into a room and know how I was perceived very quickly. I can know when it was time to tone my voice down a little bit, calm my laughter down a little bit, so we wouldn't cause too much of a scene and I also can tell you times when we just didn't give much of a care and I knew exactly how some people felt to whatever, you take us how we is today, is how I'm feeling.
So is very few circumstances where I was caught off guard as a black man, I don't know how to respond to this situation and neither did he and before I could even respond, we're looking at each other, and James just shakes it off, go ahead, he had a real deep, go ahead, and man she touched his hair and just as polite as that, thank you and got up and walked away, she didn't look at her fingers and examine it, she just thank you and walked away and I used to tell that story as a student athlete now I can tell you it wasn't always well received because people felt like you making us look like some hillbilly racist and why aren't you happy? They needed me to sell something but when it came to okay you want me to sell this product, but I need you to support us, I need you to understand what we're dealing with. You don't know how many classes I dealt with where I would have to turn around and say you know what can you imagine today walking into a Safeway or Raley's and seeing nothing but Mexicans in here and a Mariachi Band outside and how comfortable would you feel? If you walked into Albertson's and saw nothing but black faces and brothers with quill rolls and do-rags and one who didn't even want to comb his.
KS: And everything over the loud speaker is, pump that, pump that base, I mean how would you really feel, how comfortable would that be, would you walk into the store, would you shop there, would you make it a habit to shop there? And if those were the only options how would you feel and when you have people look at it from that perspective that that's been every day for the last three years for me. That you're asking me what's wrong, when I tell you I can't get a haircut, I have nowhere to hang out when some our biggest wins it's, you know, we go back to are we going to your apartment or we going to mine? And it's us four and no more and we celebrate amongst ourselves because there was no safe place for us, I tell people I went to the Peacock three times and got kicked out twice, I realize it just wasn't for me, you know so, when I told that story I don't think people heard the flip end of it, that there was something beneficial for me in that exchange, and I'll tell you why because every black man in America from Florida to Boise, Idaho and all points in between have a common acknowledgement, that when we walk down the street and we make eye contact, it's hey what's up, or it's what's up, either we speak while we stand and before that exchange I would have so many exchanges where you would see people make eye contact and it's hey how you doing? You would get the... I'm thinking like, we're all the way across the street so my breathe can't stink, so it must not be that, am I the boogeyman what is it that I speak to you and you flinch and turn and that exchange taught me a lot that there was still people in basically the year 2000 who just had no exposure. It wasn't 1955 but how much had really changed in this environment where we still didn't really have places to go and things to do and we still were encountered by people who just not out of anything malicious but just had no real interaction they had no reference point and to watch that young lady brave those emotions, to watch her work up her confidence to come down and in her own way introduce herself, it meant a lot to me, because at least it gave me some understanding of where I was, that I didn't have to take offense at every exchange. It made a big difference and I never shared this story publicly and I know we have some writers in the room so I will do my best to ask you to keep this amongst family because I never felt the need to share it. I've never felt the need to disparage one of the greatest things that we've accomplished together.
I was asked a question today about that Fiesta Bowl team and what it took to come together, that was the most divisive team I've ever been a part of, in the early going, that team hated each other, that defense was primarily black that offense was primarily white and not just black and white, black and white, I mean, intercity Compton, outside of Miami Florida, I mean just rough, tough ready to rumble and country white, I mean we couldn't get more polar opposite. And it, we would even have successful times but we're winning 37 to 17 at half-time, and if you heard the exchanges in the locker room it that team had every reason not to come together and we tried our best not too at times.
There was a situation that happened, I want to say maybe winter/spring going into that Fiesta Bowl year where we had a young African American teammate who had a recognizable car and as you know in this area, three different policing agencies in this city, so that's a lot to deal with when somehow you end up on the spotlight, I ended having to get rid of, I had a '78 Cutlass Supreme and one spring that I stayed out here that car got pulled over 15 times and I didn't get one ticket, I got rid of that car right after the spring break. I used to carry my ID and registration in a plastic bag, because it always rained and when I got pulled over I would just slap it on the hood, I wouldn't even say nothing and if it would fall down, well you asked for it there it is because I was just so fed up with being profiled, being recognized, so the story goes as a young man has a recognizable car he had a suspended license, it was well known to the police, he wasn't in the car he allowed other teammates to use his car on the way home from the club, they basically are almost to the point of getting pulled over, now I can't tell you if they got out and expedited their way into the house or whether the officers let them go into the house and use an excuse to enter either way they entered, forcefully, kicked down the door, and when nothing stuck, they turned around and kinda trumped up some charges to justify their entering.
KS: Now this goes on, we had no support, you have a coaching staff, I mean they stick out their neck as much as they could but there was no real response, be it from anywhere from athletics, from the university. Now it didn't become this big publicized deal and I think it was kinda all parties ok well we keep this quiet and you do little this and okay it will be done with. But that instance, when some of our white teammates saw how it went down and how we really didn't have a voice and we really didn't have the support. Now for people who know me, I was the first one, I'm tired of hearing you all moan and complaining what you wanna to do, I got as much to lose as anybody. So when that summer hit and we were doing workouts, I said well, let's sit out, let's boycott, let's not do another damn thing until somebody addresses our needs. And initially, it rallied a little bit of support, people, yeah, yeah, so I said man I'm leave it up to you seniors, you got the most to lose as you decide but I'm going to tell you I put mine on the line right now for you, cause it's also for me.
And you know, I went and talked to, you know, some of the powers that be, and I won't call them out by name but the message that I got was flat out, Ken don't do it. Oh okay, why not, well Coach will take your scholarship, you know, I'm thinking you guys run this, he's an employee and you oversee but that was the level of support I got just suck it up and walk out, don't do this.
Now the players decided not to do it and it turned out to be a magnificent season, the rest of that summer if there was a party going on, even into the season , it was no longer this divide because we finally had something to unify us and this is always been my message to you on campus here is that man there is a power in unity if we can take the time to communicate if we can take the time to really listen to each other experience and find something worth fighting through and fighting for and that turn out to be one of the best seasons we've had, but it almost never happened and it was all these little divisive issues that, in and of themselves aren't that significant until you put them in a context and you kind of ask the question, forty years later, how much had changed , how much focus had really been put on, how do we do this together and are we taking the time to account for us the full experience and I thought it was really impactful hearing about some of the initial boycotts because forty years later, some of those same underlying themes were still there.
Now I'm happy to say that when I talk to the young brothers now, I don't get a sense that they had all of my experiences, and for that I'm thankful, from what I gather, I feel like they have been a little more comfortable from day one than we were, and to me that's great, because that's all that's ever about, what he endured, I benefit, and what I endured you should benefit and I do believe we are a much better place, I really do but I also don't want us to be negligent just because we have more representation that there's still not that spirit of neglect underneath we need to make sure these men and women of color are still a priority in a sense of what is their experience as well as, what is the overall experience and ways that we can still build that up is very important and it's one of the key reasons I stay connected here it's a key reason that young brothers like Terron Ward always have my phone number so he has another outlet because I can say, I know I've been there and thankfully it sounds to be a much better experience and I hope we continue to build on this legacy because as we know we already started behind the curve there were already places much more progressive in how we think and how we prepare and with all the preparation we are doing to grow, I hope that is still a priority about that experience and making an environment that we can all thrive in. Thank you.
ECJ: Yeah, wow, thank you all so much. If you are all willing to stick around for a few minutes, if there are people who have a few questions that they want to ask of anyone on the panel. Audience Member: I have a question for Ken, Ken my son is 21 and I'm in a mixed marriage and my son is really dark skin and I just want everybody to know there is still a lot of crap going on that he's experienced and with all due respect my son does not play sports, okay you're an icon here, I just wonder if the average, do you know what I'm trying to say, the average run of the mill kid, minority kid, I personally believe they got it really tough still here at this college and I just wanted you gentlemen to be aware of that cause I respect you guys and I'm really nervous doing this.
KS: I mean but your right, it's still, I hear our numbers up around 26,000, that's amazing but I still don't know that be it Terron Ward or your son how much connection do they have outside of Valley Football Center when the season's off and there are events going on, how many things do they still feel a part of and welcomed in and have those opportunities to do, it's still very much an issue just across the student body because again it wasn't just us, we had a small BSU that had the same feelings and it's still very tough.
ECJ: Does anyone have any other questions, or if you have your notecards if you'd rather jot it down then you can hand it up and I can ask it here. Any questions or comments?
Audience Member: This is for Ken, because he was pretty recent and I'm a former player also. I took advantage of actually getting out of campus and getting on the BSU and being a part of Capital but I wonder whether were there other athletes that were part of it because I think as working with the team now it seems like there's a there's kind of a smaller number that did that, compared to what I did and when I did, I was probably one of the three guys that did it, I wonder if there is any way that you think we can get them connected now more to the black students like his son who aren't athletes so they do have a more complete experience on campus.
KS: I don't know the history of some of our black sororities, frats those kinds of things but I can tell you when I got here it was on its last leg and it's a shame there's been no real focus, even by the University to support that and because when we saw it, you were one of three that did and I don't know how big the organization was at the time, but when we came, we had brothers that were desperate and we need you to join us or we're going to die out we thinking you already did. And, you know but we didn't realize how much we needed that experience, we didn't realize how much we needed that culture and that avenue and it wasn't until we allowed it to die out that it was like, wow that was another opportunity missed and so I'm hopeful that brothers like yourself can continue to support that and reach out and I'll help you reach out if there's something to plug them into because they're not always going to realize at 17, 18 how necessary that is just to have more of that connection across the board and that's about it.
Audience Member: Anyone can answer this question, what person or group of people in your opinion have helped segregation in athletics.
Audience Member: Desegregate?
ED: Certainly athletes, entertainers. I told the story to Dr. Plaza about the experience between the Alabama football team when they were the number one team in the nation. Somehow, Bear Bryant and the Coach McKay at USC got together and decided that they were going to play each other, this was the time segregation was running rampant in Alabama, they didn't play black players or play against black players but this particular game they decided that they would.
Now SC was a powerhouse but they were not the number one team in the nation; they decided to go down to Alabama and play that team. And that whole backfield at SC at that time was all black, the quarterback Jimmy Jones was black and Cunningham was a black player who was a star of that team, and one of the players on that team was so afraid that he even took a gun with him. And they went down to Alabama to play that number one ranked Alabama team that was pretty good.
They whipped them up the field and down the field. Sam Cunningham was a star of that game and they just beat the number one team like they were stepchildren. After the game was over, Bear Bryant walked into the Southern Cal locker room and he looked at Cunningham and he said would you do me a favor he said would you come with me, and Cunningham said Coach I'm not dressed I just don't have a top on, just got my pants, he said that's the way I want you, come on he went next door into the Alabama dressing room and Bear Bryant says to his players, this is what a football player looks like. Now that's a big statement coming from a Coach and a segregated football team.
So athletics had to play it's part in terms of bringing people together and I think entertainment does likewise, but people have to be receptive and I think that in this particular case it was a situation where the Alabama, people didn't like it, but it was a point proven that this can be a door opener also in athletics.
MO: You know I might add to that, unlike baseball which has this magic moment in 1947, the integration of football is a messy prolonged incremental kind of process and involved in that process is a whole lot of individuals some of whom, really progressive, politically and racially and socially, and others not so much, and there was a coach at SMU in the 30's named Matty Bell who took his team out to LA to play an integrated UCLA team, like 1937, or whatever, and it was because Matty Bell was also an Athletic Director thought it was the right thing to do and had no problems with it so I know there are principled individuals out there who should be honored for their principals and all that but I would nonetheless say that it's sort of generalizing from Earnel's story about Bear Bryant. The most powerful force for integration was the desire to win football games, to win at all costs attitude which is so pernicious in so many ways has benefits in this case because one of the costs here was integrating a team under really difficult circumstances and so but if this guy was a great running back or a great end or whatever you could beat your rival and that was the most powerful force from the 20's through into the 50's at least and beyond probably.
Audience Member: Thank you
DP: Well on behalf of the athletic department and the OSU archives and the audience I'd like to present the panel with just a poster that's been framed of the event and we're actually going to just say thank you very much as a group for their contribution so let's give them a round of applause.
ECJ: Thanks to all of you for coming out for a long program tonight and I hope you enjoyed it.
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