12 Dec

The Elliot Ness-Inspired Gang Which Frequented LR Mann Games

Mann football

Arkadelphia-Warren saw one of the most bizarre endings in Arkansas prep football history. Good thing “The Untouchables” weren’t involved…

This Saturday, Arkadelphia High beat Warren High to win its first state title in 30 years in one of the most bizarre endings Arkansan football fans have ever seen. Warren, the defending Class 4A state champion, was down 28-27 in the waning minutes but drove the ball to Arkadelphia’s 8-yard-line with  a few seconds left in the game.

Then, after Warren attempted to spike the football to stop the clock after a run by Treylon Burks, a 16-year-old fan from Warren’s student section ran onto the field from the west side of War Memorial Stadium. The student gave a thumbs down gesture toward the Arkadelphia fans on the east side of the stadium, the Democrat-Gazette’s Jeremy Muck reported, before being promptly tackled by two Little Rock Police Department officers and an Arkansas State Parks ranger at the 25-yard line.

Before the fan’s intervention, Warren sophomore Jesus Tinoco was lining up to attempt a 25-yard field goal. But, because of the fan, the officials penalized the team a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty, backing the Lumberjacks up to the Arkadelphia 23 yard line. On second and goal from the Arkadelphia 23, Warren ran another play instead of attempting a 40-yard field goal, Muck reported. With four seconds remaining, junior quarterback J’malachi Kinnard’s pass was intercepted in the end zone.

Afterward, Warren head coach Bo Hembree said the officials “hurt our kids. They weren’t helping our kids. Was that helping kids? I’ve never seen that in college,” he added. “But it’s sad when you work 15 weeks to get here and you let something like that take it away from a group of kids who worked their tail off all year. How do I go talk to them?”

This ending will go down as one of the most controversial and chaotic in recent memory. At least nobody was actually hurt, though. Things were different in some parts of the Arkansas state football scene in the 1960s—especially at Little Rock’s Mann High School.

The trouble stemmed from a street gang known as “The Untouchables” who frequented Mann High football games. According to graduates of the school* from the 1960s , these teenagers wore long trenchcoats and often carried sawed-off shotguns in an homage to law enforcement legend Eliot Ness and his federal agents who fought against gangsters in the Prohibition Era.

Ness’ autobiography The Untouchables, which published in 1957, inspired television shows, movies and, apparently, the name for street gangs in bigger cities. Members of the Little Rock version committed crimes in southeast Little Rock, but were not responsible for the homicides which would become so prevalent when big cities gangs like the Bloods and Crips emerged in the area more than two decades later. The Untouchables, it appears, were motivated primarily by defending turf and didn’t frequently engage in homicidal gun fights which sparked retaliation killings. With the infiltration of drug money, the monetary stakes would become higher during the bloodier 1980s/1990s “gangbangers” era in Little Rock.

Some of the LR Untouchables were Mann High students, and they attended road football games. Jackie Paradise**, who played football for Mann in 1960-1962, recalled one game in which an Untouchable shot at someone in or near the stadium of Langston High School (Hot Springs). He doesn’t recall the specifics, such as to what extent anybody was injured, but he recalls the event happening after the game.

The event, apparently, inspired a legend in which not only did a shooting happen, but the opposing was shot during the game itself—while running into the end zone. It’s unknown whether such an incident has ever happened anywhere in Arkansas.

The Untouchables intimidated opposing players in other ways, Merrill High alum Larry Williams told me. Williams, now 70 years old, was a Merrill High football player who visited Mann around 1967. During the game, the Untouchables beat up members of Merrill High’s band. Afterward, the Merrill High football team always needed a police escort by its bus to help make sure it back on the road back to Pine Bluff, Williams added.

Fortunately, things have simmered down significantly since that wild era. As aggravating as Warren’s state title game loss surely is for Lumberjack fans, nobody—not even the 16-year-old numbskull whom the police tackled—was seriously injured.

Mann High football


*Fun factoid: I took an advanced math class at UALR with Chelsea Clinton in the early 1990s. She ended up attending Little Rock Mann, by then a junior high, as her last in-state school before heading to Washington with her newly elected president dad.

**In case you didn’t notice, this guy’s name is Jackie Paradise. I vote this in as one of the Top 10 coolest last names in state prep sports history — and the best possible title for a Quentin Tarantino movie made on the topic.

28 Nov

The Razorback Fan Who’s More Hardcore Than 99.999% Of Y’all

Razorback tattoo

What drives a man to such porcine pride?

How far would you go for your favorite team? Chances are, not as far as Shane, whom I met yesterday in front of the salsa bar at a Taco Bueno in Fayetteville.

Arkansas tattoo Razorback tattoo

Shane, as anyone with even a sliver of sight can see, straight up got a Razorback and the word “Arkansas” tattooed on his skull. The northwest Arkansas native did that a year ago, and he added the  football program’s struggles since then haven’t dinted his passion in the least.

Indeed, he may take his inky zeal to yet another proverbial level. Shane is considering getting an aerial shot tattoo of Razorback stadium, he proudly said, softly touching the top of his noggin.

Shane’s a rare bird. Below are the only two instances the Internet knows about folks doing something like this, and I’m pretty sure the bottom one has something to do more with eastern Europeanized wild boar love than the kind of Hog love Arkansans know.

Razorback tattoo Hog tattoo

Shane builds bridges for a living. Here’s to hoping that whoever the U of A hires to fill the AD and head coaching vacancies can do the same with Razorback Nation.

PS: If you’re also considering getting a Razorback tattoo and want to do something not too boring, check out these boars for inspiration.


 

Black Razorbacks

Preview African-American Athletes in Arkansas on Amazon.com.

19 Nov

Jerry Franklin Speaking on a Sports & Social Justice Panel

Jerry Franklin

The Arkansas football legend to discuss the intersection of sports and civil rights with a philosopher and law school professor.

Well, they don’t get much more unique than this.

This afternoon, former All-SEC linebacker Jerry Franklin will speak on a diverse panel touching on first amendment rights and sports as an agent for social justice movements. I’m sure they will touch on the  ongoing national anthem protests in the NFL, as well as the ramifications of last year’s “Kneeling Razorbacks” protest at Bud Walton Arena. I highly recommend anyone interested in these issues to watch this clip, which Krystal Beachum of Student-Athletes Unite helped produce:

Most the student-athletes interviewed here are still in school. Their identities are masked for their protection.

The panel takes place at 3 p.m. at the ALLPS School of Innovation just off of Interstate 49 Exit 62 in Fayetteville:

ALLPS

Here are some brief bios on the panelists:

Jerry Franklin

Franklin was one of Arkansas’s best defensive players in the Bobby Petrino era, helping the Hogs reach the Sugar Bowl in 2011. He played about five years in the NFL, and now works in the logistics industry in Lowell. He and I recently spent a good couple of hours catching up  for this OnlyInArk.com feature.

Bobby Howard

A PhD philosophy student at the University of Arkansas who as an undergraduate majored in political science with minors in history and religious studies. Also works as a writer, editor and consultant for a Christian publishing label.

Angela Courage

A corporate consultant with BA in Human Resource Development, an MA in Communication with emphasis in Intercultural/Interracial and Organizational Communication, and a Doctorate in Higher Education with emphasis in College Teaching and Faculty Leadership. Also works as an assistant director of institutional research at Ecclesia College, and instructor at the UA.

Danielle Weatherby 

A UA law professor who researches First Amendment jurisprudence and its impact on student speech, hot-button school law issues, and emerging legal protections for transgender individuals. Serves on the AALS Section on Labor Relations and Employment Law’s Executive Board.

***

NB: Before the kneeling Razorbacks, other Arkansans played large roles in using sports social justice protests. At the height of the Vietnam War era, Sparkman, AR  native Fred Milton sparked freedom of expression protests within the Oregon State football team.  And Pine Bluff native Ivie Moore helped do the same at the University of Wyoming. Moore’s story is one I feature in African-American Athletes in Arkansas:Muhammad Ali’s Tour, Black Razorbacks & Other Forgotten Stories. John Kirk, the director of UALR’s Anderson Institute on Race and Ethnicity, recently highlighted my Moore chapter on public radio.

Ivie Moore

Finally, below is one last relevant video to the issues at hand. It involves the  Cynthia Nance Chapter of the Black Law Student Association at the UA School of Law, along with The Sam M. Walton College of Business and UA’s African and African American Studies Department:

07 Nov

Sports & The Arkansas Public History Gap

Arkansas public history

Looking at how past inequities shape the Arkansas public history terrain of today with Tara Carr of KDIV (98.7FM).

Tara Carr, the host of “Tara Talks” KDIV 98.7 FM in Fayetteville, was kind enough to have me on her show recently to discuss some what compels me to dig so deeply into local African-American history through the context of sports. In the interview below, I discuss how inequalities in the early-mid 1900s—namely, the state gave far less money to public all-black schools than public all-white schools—have shaped much of what today’s generations know, and don’t know, of their past.

For example, better funding meant all-white schools could more consistently print annual yearbooks whereas all-black schools could only afford to produce them during certain years—if at all. This is one small reason the heritage of all-black schools is relatively well-chronicled, while huge gaps exist in the public history of black communities.

I want my book and interviews like these (and my talk at the Clinton School of Public Service) to help spur the launching of a public history project chronicling the heritage of all-black schools. This wouldn’t be sports-centric. It would start out as a simple online locator map of every all-black high school in the state with some basic info, and slowly fill in with details as we crowdsource material (e.g. scanned images of the schools themselves, pages from yearbooks, newspaper snippets). The Butler Center’s George West is very interested in coordinating with his Arkansas History Hub on this front, so we’ll see if we can make that happen.

For more info, reach out to me at evindemirel@gmail.com.

 

 

26 Oct

Hiram McBeth: Little-Known Black Razorback Pioneer

Razorback B-Team

While Darrell Brown and Jon Richardson are more well known, did you know Pine Bluff’s Hiram McBeth was the first African-American to play in a varsity-level football game? He did so in the red-white game in the spring of 1969, a few months before Little Rock’s Jon Richardson arrived on campus as a heralded freshman (and the first scholarship black Razorback in football) from what was then Mann High School.

Here’s a snippet on McBeth (in the right paragraph) from Orville Henry’s column in the April 27, 1969 Arkansas Gazette:

Hiram McBeth

And here’s a follow up from the September 9, 1969 Arkansas Democrat, by which time the Richardson had made it to campus:

Jon Richardson

Notice there is a third African-American mentioned: Jesse Kearney. According to McBeth, Jesse Kearney enrolled as a freshman in September 1969. Like McBeth, he too walked on. He never played varsity ball. Both McBeth and Kearney are now practicing attorneys, McBeth in Dallas and Kearney in Pine Bluff.

Finally, below is a nice retrospect by the late Rick Joslin which ran in the old Pine Bluff News. If you’re interested in seeing more of it, just call/text me at 501.554.5039 or info@heritageofsports.com.

Black Razorbacks

***

Read more about race relations, state heritage and sports  in my new book: African-American Athletes in Arkansas: Muhammad Ali’s Tour, Black Razorbacks & Other Forgotten Stories.

14 Aug

Why 40 Black University of Arkansas Students Barricaded the UA’s Journalism Building

Black Americans for Democracy

The story of the first organized form of protest by University of Arkansas African-American students.

In my last post, I discussed how the first student strike in UA history came as a result of strong disagreement with the standards of the student newspaper. Nearly 60 years after that “X-ray” strike, another student uprising followed conflict with their newspaper’s editors. This time around, about 40 black students blockaded the journalism building as part of a protest that gave rise to a UA organization called Black Americans for Democracy (now called the Black Students Association).

The assassination of Martin Luther King in the spring of 1968 was a major catalyst in black UA students banding together to address an on-campus situation which had become “unbearable,” according to Mordean Taylor Moore, a UA graduate student in his 1972 dissertation “Black Student Unrest at the University of Arkansas: A Case Study.”

Moore wrote: “The [UA] students reacted to the assassination of Dr. King holding memorial services and marching through the campus and downtown. Both black and white students as well as faculty members participated in these events. The expenses for three black students to attend the funeral of Dr. King In Atlanta were paid by contributions from local citizens, and before leaving Fayetteville, the students were given a letter of condolence from the University president to deliver to Mrs. King. In addition to these activities, the official day of mourning was recognized by the University with dismissal of classes.

Following these events, a white student wrote to the school newspaper complaining of all the publicity that was given to the death of Dr. King. This letter appeared In the editorial section of the school paper. However, when a black student* wrote a letter to the editor in response, the school paper failed to print it.

This act triggered the first overt form of protest by University of Arkansas black students.

The black students reacted by barricading the journalism building on campus. Reportedly, about forty black students blocked the building for several hours preventing the publication of the school paper as well as other printing done in the building. This
protest resulted into an open meeting of the board of publication and administration with, the black students.

The black students openly attacked the school newspaper for not representing the whole student body and called for an end of Its publication unless change was made in its discriminatory editorial policies. The black students stated that they felt they had to protest to such a manner because they had exhausted all official channels; a letter had been written to the editor of the school paper requesting that the list of their grievances** be printed, they had spoken to the Dean of Students concerning their dissatisfaction with their situation on campus and had requested a meeting with the board of publication. These attempts through the proper channels were to no avail.

The following fall semester, the black student organization worked hard at improving the situation of black students on campus. They held several black-white conferences on race relations on campus wherein they stated that they felt isolated on campus and [an integral part] of the university.”

* John Rowe

** According to UA archivist Amy Allen, “BAD had a list of thirteen demands, including ending discrimination in room assignments, sororities, fraternities, and athletics; enactment of policies for reporting unfair classroom treatment to a faculty-student committee; creation of a black history course; recruitment of black faculty, administrators, and staff; and banning the playing of the song ‘Dixie’ and the use of black face grease paint at official university functions.”

***BAD formed its own newspaper, initially called The Bad Times. You can read past copies in the UA’s digital archives here.

07 Jul

James Baldwin and Focusing on the Heritage of Black Athletes in America

I am not your negro

 

In coming out with a book highlighting the African-American sports heritage of the state of Arkansas, I have already been asked why I should highlight racial differences in a book about Arkansas sports history. I have a feeling that after the book publishes later next week many people will be turned off by its racial focus, and perceive I unnecessarily stress past divisions at the expense of future unity.

This isn’t the place for a full explanation of why I write so much about African Americans. This isn’t the place to get into the ramifications of the fact that the (white owned) Arkansas Democrat-Gazette has produced more than 300 combined years of archived history, as a daily, while the (black owned) Arkansas State Press has about 30 years of combined history while being published only weekly.

All that will come.

For now, I only want to relay the words of James Baldwin, the renowned African-American author and civil rights activist. In 1968, he appeared on “The Dick Cavett Show” and began discussing some of his experiences as an American black man who had lived abroad. Cavett brought on Dr. Paul Weiss, a Yale philosophy professor, who began expostulating on the existentialist dilemma of all men before peering into the ether and asking: “So why must we always concentrate on color?”

Baldwin, brow raised, then delivers a masterful soliloquy:

I’ll tell you this. When I left this country in 1948, I left this country for one reason only. One reason. I didn’t care where I’d go. I might’ve gone to Hong Kong, I might’ve gone to Timbuktu, I ended up in Paris with $40 in my pocket with the theory that nothing worse would happen to me there than had already happened to me here… You had to be able to turn off all the antennae with which you  live, because once you turn your back on this society, you may die. You may die.

And it’s very hard to sit at a type writer, and concentrate on that, if you’re afraid of the world around you. The years I lived in Paris did one thing for me: They made rethink that particular social turn is not the terror of my own mind, visible in the face of every cop, every boss, everybody.

I don’t know what those white people in this country feel. But I can only conclude what they feel when the state of their institutions. I don’t know if white Christians hate Negroes or not, but I know that we have a Christian which is white, and a Christian church which is black. I know, as Malcolm X once put it, the most segregated hour in American life is high noon on Sunday. That says a great deal for me about a Christian nation. It means I can’t afford to trust most white Christians, and I certainly cannot trust the Christian church.

I don’t know whether the labor unions and their bosses really hate me — that doesn’t matter — but I know I’m not in their union. I don’t know whether the real estate lobby has anything against black people, but I know the real estate lobby is keeping me in the ghetto. I don’t know if the board of education hates black people, but I know the textbooks they give my children to read and the schools we have to go to.

Now this is the evidence. You want me to make an act of faith, risking myself, my wife, my woman, my sister, my children on some idealism which you assure me exists in America, which I have never seen.

I am not black. I don’t know how it feels to be black. But I have listened to many African Americans discuss race issues, and they tell me that the world they and their loved ones have experienced, and the pain they have felt, often differs from what I as a white man have experienced. That difference matters, and to me it hardly matters whether it’s “perceived” or “real.” The result is real anguish and frustration nonetheless.

The past isn’t as over as I had glibly assumed.

PS: I ran across Baldwin’s word in the stunningly good documentary I Am Not Your Negro. You can watch it for  free via Amazon Prime.

 

01 Apr

Hugo Bezdek, a Rose Bowl Coach Who Did Fairly Hilarious Things

Hugo Bezdek, the the football coach who led the Hogs to their first undefeated season, was a bit of a character. Or at least, that’s how a former NBC sports director described him during a yarn he told about the third time Bezdek led a team (Penn State in this case)  to the Rose Bowl:

“Even though the game was scheduled to start at 2:15, Penn State didn’t arrive in the Rose Bowl until 2:30,” Bill Stern said in 1948, according to the Daily Capital Journal in Salem, Oregon. “When State did show up, the surly Mr. Bezdek said his team had been caught in a traffic jam. By this time, Coach Henderson of USC was hot under the collar. He didn’t believe Bezdek’s story, and bluntly accused the Penn State mentor of stalling. Whereupon Bezdek blew up.

He turned to Henderson and at the top of his lungs shouted: ‘You’re a liar!’ And at the same time he invited Henderson to take off his glasses. However the two coaches (who were more ‘up’ for the game than their players) were separated before any blows were struck…”

Bezdek had a temper, no doubt, and it sometimes got the best of him. In the Jan. 10, 1948 issue of the Daily Capital Journal, sports editor Fred Zimmerman wrote that according to a former player, “He was like that before every game. He worked all of the angles to get his players keyed up to a fighting pitch and he wasn’t averse to insulting anybody who crossed his path.”

Zimmerman continued: “Bezdek’s psychology, or whatever one may care to term his maneuvers, once got unexpected results. He invaded the realms of the chef of a prominent Portland restaurant yelling state of the steaks served, but he emerged faster than he went in when the cook chased him with the one of his long carving knives.’

Below is yet more evidence of Bezdek’s penchant for getting himself into sticky situations. It comes from the May 31, 1907 Albany Daily Democrat.

Hugo Bezdek

30 Mar

Talking about Muhammad Ali in Arkansas with Kyle Kellams

A deep dive into the Arkansas visit Muhammad Ali took to Little Rock, Pine Bluff and Fayetteville 

I recently went on to the KUAF radio show “Ozarks at Large” to discuss the intricacies of Muhammad Ali’s 1969 to Arkansas. Give a listen to my talk with host Kyle Kellams here.

The visit lasted about five days in total and was filled to the brim with controversy. At one point, Muhammad Ali visited Pine Bluff. Below is excerpt from my upcoming book: African-American Athletes in Arkansas: Muhammad Ali’s Tour, Black Razorbacks and other Forgotten Stories [scroll through a digital preview here]

Ali then drove to Pine Bluff, where he walked into the union of what is now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, the state’s largest historically-black school. A similar scene played out as had at LRU, with Ali counseling against violence while speaking against “forced” integration.

At that time, Ali was appealing his draft into the U.S. Army on the grounds he was a Black Muslim minister. A UAPB student asked him why he didn’t try to enter the military as a chaplain if he opposed violence on religious grounds. Ali answered by saying if he did, he would not be allowed to say what he believed.[] Ali also read some poetry and a song he had composed named “It’s All Over Mighty Whitey.”

The city of Pine Bluff is in Arkansas’ Delta, straddling the southern and eastern parts of the state, which in the late 1800s developed into a hotbed for the state’s first mass, black-nationalist movement: the Back-to-Africa migrations.

Approximately 600 black Arkansans emigrated to Liberia, an independent, west African republic which symbolized racial pride to many African Americans in the 19th century. Liberia’s elected black government offered free land to American settlers, an especially enticing offer to poor black farmers increasingly burdened by exploitative tenancy arrangements. Interest in Liberian immigration peaked in the 1890s, which was “a time when cotton prices hit rock bottom and white racism reached its zenith,” UCA historian Kenneth Barnes points out in “Journey of Hope: The Back-to-Africa Movement in Arkansas.” “The 1890s saw the greatest number of lynchings in American history. As it became increasingly clear that black Americans would not get a seat at the table, Liberia posed an alternative to integration, an escape to an all-black world.”


My upcoming book focuses squarely on the legacy of African-American athletes in the state of Arkansas, and the important interconnections between the sports world and larger issues of race relations and civil rights. Make sure to sign up to pre-order your own copy when it releases later in 2017.

Click here to get more info and be notified of its release.

For more info about Ali’s trip to Little Rock, check out this post.

25 Oct

Bart Hester and War Memorial Stadium

Below is some interesting insight from the Arkansas Times’ Max Brantley, via the Times’ Week in Review podcast. He discusses a move in state government to cut funding for Little Rock’s War Memorial Stadium in half — a decision, that at this point, will be delayed until at least January 2018.

“I think War Memorial Stadium is a slightly different animal, pretty clearly this was a piece of red meat thrown to Senator Bart Hester from Northwest Arkansas. He’s made this a crusade to cut War Memorial Stadium commission expenses. He hates Little Rock, he hates Central Arkansas. He’s a Northwest Arkansas devotee. He’s a UA graduate. The University of Arkansas is abandoning Little Rock as a place to play football eventually. They’re down to one game a year through 2018 and they may go before then. It makes sense, I have no hard feelings about that. They don’t really care about War Memorial Stadium. It’s a state facility. Hester has tried to say we could spend this $400,000 on foster children. That’s absurd. It’s also hypocritical coming from Hester who fought the Medicaid expansion tooth and nail from beginning to end so he’s got no business talking about helping poor people because he’s against it.

The fact is that the state operates a lot of things at a loss. State parks, for one. We have a tax rebate program that goes to every convention center and arena in the state from the Pine Bluff convention center to the new one they’re going to build on campus at ASU where you get money back because people use these facilities and theoretically spur some economic activity.

War Memorial Stadium has the state high school band championship every year. It has a bunch of state high school football games. It has a lot of other stuff. I’m not the greatest defender ever of War Memorial but there’s a reason it gets state support along with with a lot of other things. This is just pure meanness on Hester’s part. I think it’s a shame that Asa Hutchinson has decided to throw him this bone and say “We’re going to come up with a plan for the future for War Memorial Stadium.”

As Kevin Crass who is a conservative republican lawyer and chairman of the stadium commission said, “There is no plan that can make a stadium like this profitable.” I’ll point you to Verizon Arena, which is a very successful arena and which has lots of big-paying shows every year, it breaks even and it breaks even only because taxpayers own the building and there was no bond call from the building. It operates at a break-even basis.

War Memorial Stadium cannot self-sustain itself without state support. I suspect, and I’ve written, that I believe what’s in mind here is to adopt republican insider Rex Nelson’s idea to convert War Memorial Stadium into a smaller stadium with a running track and have more soccer fields and build this indoor basketball court that the Little Rock Convention Visitors Bureau wants to bring in new basketball tournaments, but to have the city pay for it with the city sales tax. Thanks a lot, I’m not ready for Rex Nelson and Asa Hutchinson to come up with a plan that makes Little Rock burger customers pay for some facility to get the state out of paying for War Memorial Stadium. I think it’s crazy.

I note this week that the governor’s claims have landed a Chinese garment manufacturing plant for Little Rock that includes giving them a 65 percent cut in their property taxes. To get that property tax cut, it’s called ‘payment in lieu of taxes when you get an Act 9 bond issue to build a plant, typically you have to get the approval of your city board of directors and your school board and your Pulaski County quorum court to get that. Hutchinson went over to China and offered it, I guess just assuming we would roll over and take whatever he gives, but he’s going to give the Chinese $3.5 million to build a plant in Little Rock and he wants to take $400,000 away from War Memorial Stadium. It kind of hacks me off.”