Wilbur Jackson may have been the first recruited scholarship African-American football player in Alabama’s history, but John Mitchell was the first to actually play in a varsity game. After graduate school, he went on to a long coaching career and today is the defensive line coach with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
It was as smooth as it could have been. Coach Bryant treated all his players alike. We played Texas in the Cotton Bowl in my last game, and my mom was outside the dressing room. Bryant comes outside, and one of the reporters [asked] how many black players he had.
“I have no black players,” Coach Bryant told him. “I have no white players. I just have ball players.” My mom loved Coach Bryant for being so straight up and fair.
On Bryant’s alleged statement. From what I know of Bryant, I totally doubt he would do that big demonstration with Cunningham. It’s out of character. I heard that story. I know some of the people who would know, but I think Southern Cal won so a lot of stories—writers and people who watched at the stadium or on TV, they said Sam Cunningham did more for integration in sixty minutes than all that had taken place before that. As for what happened, I still don’t think even the hallway story happened; from what I know it’s not in Coach Bryant’s character.
On progress in Alabama. I think the change is all for the good now. They’ve had a black mayor in Birmingham, black city councilmen elected across the state, mayors in other cities. There were only a small number of African-American students then, but now there’s many more, and it’s opened a lot of doors for people who might have migrated out of the South. They could make a living without leaving. We’ve hosted the Atlanta Olympics, and looking back now at Montgomery, Birmingham, Atlanta, the hot spots of integration—why, things have really changed in terms of race relationships.
On the influence of religion. Christianity was very influential. Growing up in Mobile, mine was a very religious family. That’s what we had. It was faith in our religion. My family had for generations been telling stories about faith, about believing in themselves despite great obstacles, that there’s a greater spirit than you. People’s feeling can change. A great example is George Wallace, who stood in the doorway to prevent Vivian Malone and James Hood from entering the university, but over the years his heart got soft and he admitted his mistakes.
Causes Steven Travers Supports
Conservative, Christian, USC, American patriotism