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.

21 Feb

Making the Cut: The Vanishing Legacy of Arkansas’ All-Black Sports

During illustrious high school careers, All-Americans Eddie Miles and Jackie Ridgle took center stage in nearly every game they played. In a recent Associated Press list, though, they don’t even get off the bench. 

It may be a tired truism,  but those in power determine the history which will be passed down to future generations.

Eddie Miles should be included among the state's official list of 2,000 point scorers in prep basketball.

Segregation between races was Arkansas’ status quo for 120 years before the Civil Rights movement began picking up speed in the state during during the mid-1950s.  In the state’s northeast corner, the Hoxie school district became the state’s first K-12 institution to integrate in 1955. Two years later, the Little Rock Central High crisis was broadcast to every corner of the world.

A half century later, the accomplishments of the brave pioneers in these stories are now threaded into the state’s official history – into its textbooks, holidays and cultural encyclopedia.

It took another decade, but pioneers also integrated the state’s basketball courts and football fields. I was reminded of their legacy when last week when I saw a news brief about a Newport teenager becoming the state’s fourth basketball player to score 2,000 points in a high school career. The Associated Press fired this out to multiple news outlets in a couple paragraphs, wiped its hands and was done with it. A seemingly simple milestone duly recorded for posterity, then on to the next newsmakers.

But the full story doesn’t end there.

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