In Birmingham they love the governor
And we all did what we could do
Now Watergate does not bother me
Does your conscience bother you, now tell the truth?
—"Sweet Home Alabama,” sung by Lynyrd Skynyrd
It was the late summer of 1963. Everybody had an agenda.
In Washington, D.C., President John F. Kennedy had an agenda. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., that year's Nobel Peace Prize winner, had organized the "March on Washington," demanding equal rights for all Americans.
"I have a dream," King told the assembled multitudes at the Mall. The dream was that America would "live up to its creed," and that black people be judged, "not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."
JFK had gone back and forth on this subject one year earlier, when James Meredith needed federal troops to open the doors to the University of Mississippi. Governor Ross Barnett, who by virtue of his membership in the Democratic Party was theoretically a political ally of Kennedy's, fought the President tooth and nail; albeit, in the dulcet, gentlemanly tones of Southern propriety. It was enough to make Kennedy want to jump through the roof, if only his aching back would allow such dexterity.
Dr. King had an agenda. His national, and growing international, popularity was increasing by leaps and bounds. He had political capital and was willing to spend every dime of it. He would give Kennedy just so much leeway, because the two men knew that they owed each other. In 1960, when King was jailed in Birmingham, Alabama, Republican Presidential candidate Richard Nixon, fearing white backlash, declined to come to his aid. Kennedy courageously did help to organize Dr. King's release, engendering the thanks of Coretta Scott King, the skeptical political favor of Martin Luther King, and the loss of support for Nixon of the black icon and ex-baseball star Jackie Robinson.
In the closest election up to that time, the "Birmingham jail" incident was a big deal in the black precincts of Cook County, Chicago, where the election ultimately was decided. It may well have given JFK the position he sat in now. He knew it. So too did King, Harry Belafonte and the other black leaders and celebrities who were hounding Attorney General Robert Kennedy, the President's front man on civil rights. But Kennedy knew what Nixon had known three years earlier, which was that if he got too heavily into this issue, it would create Southern enmity. Fence-mending trips to the South, including one to Vice-President Lyndon Johnson's home state of Texas, were in the planning stages.
Alabama Governor George Corley Wallace had an agenda. An old style Southern populist in the tradition of Earl and Huey Long, he had reached out with the hand of racial moderation in 1958, only to be beaten in that year's gubernatorial campaign by John Patterson. Wallace adamantly declared that he would, "never be out-n------d again."
Four years later, his campaign theme could be summed up by the phrase "segregation now, segregation forever." He was elected, and he was popular. Now, as the freshman class at the University of Alabama prepared to enroll for the fall semester of 1963, Wallace's agenda was to appear to stand up to Kennedy and the federal government. They were using the seven-year old Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court case as precedent to do at 'Bama what they had done at Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, and at Ole Miss.
Wallace marched to the front of the administration building and "blocked" it, so that two black students could not enter and enroll in college. A curious mix of 'Bama state troopers, students and faculty lolled about in the semi-insolent Southern manner that old black-and-white film clips demonstrate from that era. It was as if they wanted to get their way and look like there was never a doubt about it; a smug smile, a dangling cigarette, a splatter of tobacco juice for good measure.
Vivian Malone and James Hood had an agenda. Yes, sure, they wanted a college education, but amid this circus the sheepskin diploma of the University of Alabama was not first and foremost on their minds. They were hoping their federal escorts would protect them, not turn on them. They did not want to be shot, or roughed up, or spit upon. They wanted sanity.
University of Alabama football coach Paul "Bear" Bryant and president Frank Rose had agendas, too. Along with members of the board of trustees, they stood in the window of Bear’s second-story office, a building on the corner, where they were witnessing history. For better or for worse.
President Rose was a friend and ally of Jack Kennedy's. He found himself walking a tightrope. The Democrats ushered the South into the modern era. Franklin Roosevelt's works programs of the 1930s, particularly the building of the Tennessee Valley Authority, made it possible for new generations of Southerners to pursue higher education at institutions such as the one he now presided over.
But 'Bama was a state university. His boss was the firebrand two stories below making the stand in the schoolhouse door; the man with the bushy eyebrows, the former amateur pugilist, the man L.A. Times reporter Jeff Prugh called "America's merchant of venom."
Bryant was the child of sharecroppers. His nickname, “Bear,” came from his teenage years when he wrestled a black bear at a local fair in rural Arkansas. He had befriended a black kid and almost gotten thrown into jail with him as a result of a youthful prank. He had served in the Navy, managed a blues band. He had been a star end opposite Don Hutson, playing in the 1935 Rose Bowl. He had tried to integrate the football programs at Maryland, Kentucky, and Texas A&M . At A&M, he was told the "last" thing that would ever happen at College Station would be integration.
"Waal," drawled the Bear, "last's where we'll finish then."
He was, despite his impossible-to-understand Southern mumble, a worldly man who, like Lyndon Johnson, sympathized with the plight of minorities because he too had come from the wrong side of the tracks.
When his 1959 team faced integrated Penn State in the Liberty Bowl, local "citizen's groups" (read: the KKK) in Tuscaloosa objected. But in 1961, Bryant won a national championship. When you do that in Alabama you can walk on water, which Bryant did in Coca-Cola billboards along the Alabama highways. To top that off he landed the most blue chip of all blue chip recruits, a hotshot with bedroom eyes from Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania named Joe Willie Namath. Namath, a junior that fall, created quite a stir by making quiet, solo visits to the black neighborhoods of Tuscaloosa, where he mingled with the local citizenry.
"He looks like a cool jazz singer," thought a black youth with an agenda, too. Sylvester Croom, growing up in those black neighborhoods, had football aspirations of his own. He dared not dream of playing for the Crimson Tide. But Namath was so…cool.
Maybe… Just maybe?
So everybody had an agenda.
Enter Nicholas Katzenbach, assistant to Attorney General Kennedy. Oh yes, he had an agenda, too. He wanted justice done and he wanted it done without violence.
Aha. Non-violence. At last, a crossroads in which all politics, which as former House Speaker Tip O'Neill famously put it, is local. Today, the American political scene was indeed localized to the campus of the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Indeed all the players in this Shakespearean drama wanted to avoid violence.
Dr. King figured that out a long time ago. He studied Mahatma Gandhi, how he had forged Indian independence. Passive resistance. Satyagraha. The delicate art of putting your morality on the other guy, of making his crimes against you crimes he was committing against himself. Dr. King saw in his approach a morality not just attached to his cause, but to his "enemies," who he did not see as his enemies, but as his brothers. In the Christian South, Dr. King saw humanity where so many others saw hatred, violence, ignorance. So, too, did Bear Bryant.
"When people are ignorant," the Arkansas "hillbilly" said, "you don't condemn 'em, you teach 'em."
So it was that all The Bard's players were in place when Katzenbach arrived with a solution that would, at least for the time being, meet the agendas of President Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., George Wallace, Vivian Malone, James Hood, Bear Bryant, Frank Rose, and Sylvester Croom.
Katzenbach, he of the Kennedy school of "back room deals," the Boston politics of "Old Man Joe" and "Honey Fitz" that their children had learned so well, made a "back room deal" with Wallace.
"Governor," Katzenbach told him, "you don't want a riot, I don't want a riot. TV cameras are here. But you've got your constituency. Here's what we're gonna do. We're gonna enroll Malone and Hood the day before. Then we're gonna send them to the administration building. You can make your speech and say what you have to say. We won’t be using troops to enforce anything, but you can look like you stood up to the federal government."
George Wallace knew a good deal when he had no other choice in the matter. It was a Henry Kissinger-style offer; triangulation, which Kissinger learned in his studies of post-Napoleonic Europe. A face-saver. The two men shook on it. It was not until Jeff Prugh, now covering Southern politics for the Atlanta bureau of the Los Angeles Times, uncovered this political maneuver that it became publicly known in 1978.
But Bear Bryant found out about it. Nothing got past him. This was a man who made his living orchestrating organized mayhem, but in a world gone mad, a world of riots, police dogs and rubber hoses, he wanted nothing more than to accomplish the important tasks at hand smoothly. Like a baby's cheek.
Other Voices: Alabama football fans
Earle Self usually posts as "TIDE-HSV." He is an administrator on theTidefans.com website.
I declared against segregation in 1955, when I was a sophomore in high school. I've seen a lot change in the South since then. The Huntsville Times has an intern from England who came to write about the remaining vestiges of segregation in the South. He wrote a column in the Times confessing he couldn't find any in Huntsville. (Of course it remains, but remember - he's English). Much later in my life, I found that, of my great-grandfathers, both Alabama natives, one had fought in the Union Army, and the other was a member of the Union League - had all his property confiscated by the Confederate government of Alabama. He sued to get it back, and continued his suit after the C.W. The defense of the new government (same people, pretty much) was that the taking had been done by an illegal government and the present one wasn't responsible.
As trivia, you might be interested to know that Coach Bryant detested the nickname "Bear," although he was not above using it in advertising. Younger 'Bama fans sometimes call him "Bear," but that just tells me their age. Those of us who were around as fans and grads at that time refer to him as "Coach Bryant." His contemporaries in coaching referred to him as "The Bear," if they used the nickname at all. Even when I hear it used innocently and ignorantly, it still irritates me - I can't help it. I do have friends who played under him around that time. I'll check with them and see what they remember.
ROLL TIDE ROLL!!!!!
Originally Posted by TommyMac.
My guess is that this will be just another movie painting the South in the worst possible light. Southerners will be generally portrayed as ignorant, crude, ugly, backwards, unwashed racists. On the other hand, the Southern Cal contingent will be cast as all that is good about the human race. They benevolently condescend to teach us the errors of our ways in a noble attempt to bring us into the 20th Century.
In other words, more of the same old tripe from Hollywood.
I'm afraid you're probably going to be right about that. I hope they do Coach Bryant's legacy right and not make him out to be the bad guy. He would have integrated the Alabama football program a lot sooner had it been up to him.
The other thing I'm sure they'll not cover is the fact that the very next year we went out to Los Angeles with pretty much the same white boys and beat USC on their home turf. It was the unveiling of our wishbone running attack used throughout the '70s.
Let me quote Coach Bryant:
"I'm just a simple plowhand from Arkansas, but I've learned over the years how to hold a team together, how to lift some men up, how to calm others down, until finally they've got one heartbeat, together, a team."
"He take his'n and beat your'n and take your'n and beat his'n."
- Bum Phillips on Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant
http://www.al.com/alabamafootball/i...ear/story6.html. Originally Posted by Ramah Jamah.
"Is it true that Coach Bryant brought Sam Cunningham in to the Alabama locker room after that game?" The former 'BAMA players say no.
"Let's face it, there's a lot of prejudice against Alabama, and a lot of people dislike Coach Bryant and a lot of people dislike Alabama just because they know we don't back down to anyone. We don't take anybody lightly and no one takes us lightly, and we like it that way."
193.Defensive tackle Warren Lyles on his frustration with the poll's lack of respect for Alabama early in the 1979 season. From the book A Time of Champions by Steve Townsend.
Well, if he tells the story right on the Alabama side, at least it will set the record straight about the single colored-ness of Coach Bryant's roster at the time not being as he wanted it.
Email from: Bruce H. Franklin.
In your tag line you said that you were working on a book about the 1970 USC-Alabama game. I hope you mention the 1955 Navy-Mississippi Sugar Bowl and have a lot about the 1956 Pitt-Georgia Tech Sugar Bowl, both were true segregation busters. The former was the first major game in the South where there was not segregated seating because Navy had distributed its tickets without racial consideration and the bowl honored that, and the latter is the first major game in the South with an African-American (Pitt's Bobby Grier) player starting for one of the teams. After that game Louisiana passed a law not allowing integrated play, but the damage was done and that law was struck down by the Supreme Court later on. That game is practically a book in itself - and the role of the Sugar Bowl was huge in both drawing attention to segregation and (reluctantly at first) helping to eliminate it.
There are, I understand, a bunch of games such as that USC-Texas one; for your argument, the ones to look for are in Alabama (as you are doing), Mississippi, Louisiana, and Georgia, where Jim Crow laws were strongest. The Sugar Bowl, being the premier college game in the South at the time, had a national significance that other games did not. Until the Pitt game, teams from the North who played in the game would either not bring their black players or agree not to suit them up. The other game to check from the period outside of these states is the Cotton Bowl. Again, because of its national stature, that bowl had some problems with segregation early on. I agree with you that college football was more important to desegregation than generally known.
Other Voices: Art Spander
Art Spander is part of the "Jim Murray generation" of educated sportswriters who looked beyond the "hits, run and errors," writing about the games and the people who play them with a social pathos. He has been in the business for the better part of 45 years and offers special insight into the events of the 1960s, and the aftermath of a chaotic period in American history.
I grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from UCLA. At UCLA I worked in their sports information department. From 1960-61, I served in the Army. When I got out I went to work for the old Santa Monica Evening Outlook. I got my break at the San Francisco Chronicle and was there from 1965 until 1979, and was with them in 1970 when this game was played. I moved on to the Hearst-owned San Francisco Examiner, and eventually moved across the bay to the Oakland Tribune, which is now part of the Alameda Newspaper Group, where I'm as active today as I ever was.
In the Bay Area, everybody knew a guy named Sam Skinner. There's a plaque honoring Sam in the SBC Park press box. Sam was from San Francisco, but he was a prominent African-American writer who knew all the angles, and was especially in tune with sports events that played to an African-American angle. He passed away in the mid-1990s, but Sam was a guy who talked about and wrote about that 1970 USC-Alabama game. To the extent that this game passed through the public consciousness, but was revived and recognized for its importance, it was African-American sportswriters like Sam who played a big role in this. But Sam was a friend of many, white and black. For instance, when Dan Fouts was at St. Ignatius High School in San Francisco, he was not getting recruited by big schools. Sam arranged for him to get a scholarship at the University of Oregon, and they remained close all the remaining years.
I don't believe he and I ever talked about this game, but I know that because of the importance of the game towards integration, Sam was on top of it, and its historical importance. My wife was his travel agent, we were friends away from work, but I don't know specifically his take on that game. But over the years, as black athletes and sportswriters progressed, as the racial situation improved, you'd see Sam at games, all over the Bay Area, at luncheons, at the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame banquets, and his reputation as a pioneering black member of the media was increasingly evident.
I covered USC and UCLA. I knew everybody. I knew John McKay very well, I knew guys who played at both schools. I knew all the SIDs, Jim Perry, everybody.
McKay had a real personality. He was good friends, he had a lot of respect, from Paul "Bear" Bryant. This is what I've heard, unless you really knew Bryant, and he had been at Texas A&M, then Alabama, he was not anti-black. Society down there was. In 1967, I was the golf writer for the Chronicle. I went to the Masters in Augusta for the first time, and they had this golf writer's tournament the weekend before the Masters. The whole idea was for the Northeastern writers to go to Augusta and get acclimated to the place, and be charmed by the Southern hospitality. I get off the plane, and the paper reads, "USC signs first black player." I'm like, huh? USC down there is the University of South Carolina. But this article told me, the times were changing.
I don't think Bryant per se was against blacks, but you got the sense of what was going on in Alabama, which was particularly racist. The people running things were. As you moved down from the Mason Dixon Line, North Carolina was better than South Carolina, which was better than Georgia. Then there was Alabama and Mississippi. Medgar Evers had been shot, and all that stuff was going on. I don't know if Bryant actually connected with McKay in terms of "planning" this game in order to change society, but McKay respected Bear. Bryant knew McKay well, and I think Bryant was looking to get the blacks who left the South. J. C. Caroline left for Illinois. Bubba Smith and those guys made Michigan State a powerhouse, and Bubba's brother went to USC. I was at UCLA with Mel Farr, I think he was from down there somewhere. The point is, they were losing great athletes to the Midwest and the West.
Can I say that Bryant was a liberal progressive? No, but he also was a realist. Whether Bryant set it up, I don't know, but by Sam Cunningham having that great game, and supposedly Bryant saying, "We gotta get people like that or we gonna lose," well, that speaks for itself.
Jim Murray wrote a lot about this issue. He had a real social conscience. I met him in 1959 when he was with Sports Illustrated. I pick him up, I was the student SID at UCLA, and I take him to some football players for interviews, then I got to know him well.
I have one eye, so I relate to his predicament. He'd call me and ask about things in that regards, and I'd offer sympathy and explanation. Jim and I were very good friends. He was a great guy and a fantastic writer. He once wrote that Alabama was the "King of the Caucasians." There was debate about Alabama winning the national championship one year, and Jim influenced the votes by emphasizing that Alabama didn't have blacks and didn't play teams with blacks. There was a lot of stuff in the papers about that. I can't say for certain, but I think Murray got involved in this whole debate, but when I heard that Sam Cunningham "integrated" Alabama football, then all the South, well Jim influenced these events.
When you look at basketball teams, their all black, but none of them are old enough to remember that when Walt Hazzard was at UCLA in 1963 and '64, he could not stay in the same hotel with his team in Houston. Kids today would have no clue as to what it was like.
Unless you do a lot of reading, but nobody reads anymore. Oscar Robertson and Jerry West are the same age. I see Oscar at the Final Four, and I say, "I know how good you were," and he says nobody reads anymore. TV is so dominant, it's what happened last night, not 20 or 30 years ago. Kids today, it's the same thing, it's hard to believe 40 years ago there were no blacks playing in the South. Texas teams were just starting to integrate. Alabama's first guy was Wilbur Jackson, who went to the 49ers. That was a huge story.
The modern black athlete doesn't know any of this. In 1997 there was a ceremony honoring the 50th anniversary of Jackie Robinson entering the Major Leagues. I thought it was wonderful that blacks in 1997, who knew very little about him, unless their fathers told them about what he did, were able to be part of that, but he's not as acclaimed today as he was at that moment.
I covered Elgin Baylor, he and West. He was Michael Jordan playing a different game, averaging 30 points and 19 rebounds. The thing is, he was great but almost forgotten. I digress, but the 49ers in 1996 announced their 50th anniversary team. They asked us to get involved. I said you can't have one team, kids today all just know Joe Montana, Dwight Clark, and Ronnie Lott, as great as they were, but I know they had guys like Jimmie Johnson, who was there when I was at UCLA. John Brodie was fantastic, but in today's world, unless you're watching Sports Classic on ESPN, nobody goes to the history books. Robinson made it so that some blacks never had to understand what had gone on before them. Also, this is like saying, "When we were growing up we had to walk 10 miles to school in the snow," and I know things changed, but it does not matter as much unless they understand how segregated America was like. That's why so many blacks rooted for the Dodgers, because of Jackie.
Not to take a knock at SC, but the Trojans were late at integrating until C. R. Roberts. UCLA remained competitive in basketball and football because they brought in lots of blacks. Rafer Johnson and guys like that. They got the best black athletes in Southern California.
Causes Steven Travers Supports
Conservative, Christian, USC, American patriotism