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