The North Texan, Volume 54, Number 2, Summer 2004 Page: 26
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Racism brought freshman
football players together in 1956
By Rufus Coleman
"Get them n*****s off the field" were the only words Leon King could
hear coming from the stands at Corsicana's Navarro Junior College.
The North Texas freshman football team was playing its second game of
the '56 season. Even today, almost 50 years later, King ('62, '72 M.S.) says
it was the scariest moment of his life.
When King and Abner Haynes ('62) joined the team that fall, they
became the first African American North Texas student athletes and
among the first to integrate any college team in the state.
Their intention wasn't social change - they just wanted to play. But
that day in Corsicana, they saw in the faces of the white spectators the
depth of the opposition to the change they represented.
"The crowd was angry and the bleachers seemed so close that people
could just reach over the fence and grab you," King says.
Haynes says the angry people weren't aware of the good they did for the
team that day.
"If they'd have left us alone we might have ended up fighting amongst
ourselves," he says. "But by attacking and terrorizing us - that kind of
adversity brought the whole team together, black and white."
26 The North Texan
Bob Way ('61, '63 M.Ed.), today a UNT
kinesiology instructor, was a linebacker
on the team. He says every North Texas
player resented what was happening.
"To me, Abner and Leon were just two
more players on the team, and I didn't
have any feelings at all beyond that," he
says. "But things changed at Navarro
College. I have a real respect for them."
What to expect
Before the season, no one on the team
knew what to expect or how to treat
Haynes and King.
Varsity player Charlie Cole ('58, '61
M.Ed.) remembers helping his younger
brother, Vernon - the freshman quar-
terback - talk through his uncertainty.
"I told him, 'Son, they're people just
like we are - the only thing we need to
worry about is if they can play football,"'
t' Ib I ll!9~
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University of North Texas. The North Texan, Volume 54, Number 2, Summer 2004, periodical, Summer 2004; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc29764/m1/26/: accessed January 22, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting University Relations, Communications & Marketing department for UNT.