In the scope of world history, high school sports isn’t all that significant.
You could study a 1,001 more subjects which have more of an effect on our everyday lives. My wife, who works as a pediatrician, deals with more life and death matters in the course of half of a minute than I will in a lifetime of work.
So there may only be a handful of people who care that a large part of Arkansas’ high school history is kept in the dark almost every time a major record is set.
Last year, I discussed this issue in the context of career scoring records set in basketball. The essential issue was that the Arkansas Activities Association only recognizes records that were set by the white student-athletes – but not black student-athletes – who played before integration.
Before the school integration that swept through the state in the late 1960s, there were two state athletic associations – one for whites, the other for blacks. Black students ultimately joined the white students in what had been the white students’ schools, leaving the black schools – typically in worse shape – behind. The same happened with the athletic associations. If the black athletic association kept its own records (it is unclear that such records were ever kept and if they still exist), then they have long been lost.
All that remain, officially, are the records that were kept in by what had been the all-white Arkansas Athletics Association.
This became most evident on Saturday, when Little Rock Hall High won its fourth consecutive state basketball title. This is a very rare achievement. How rare?
In the AAA record book, only one other program had accomplished such a four-peat before: what’s now Little Rock Central in 1944-47 (LR Hall also pulled it off 1981-84). However, what the AAA record book doesn’t mention is that Scipio Jones High, North Little Rock’s all-black school until a 1971 closing, won four state titles 1956-59.
Yes, all-black Jones didn’t technically play in what is now the AAA. And all-white LR Central did in the late 1940s. But it’s a shame the legacy of Jones’ High should be ignored simply because the records of its all-black AAA weren’t originally assimilated into the AAA when the schools integrated in more than 40 years ago.
Jones was every bit as good – if not better – than the best all-white programs of the 1940s and 1950s. Its star Eddie Miles would become a two-time All-American at Seattle University, a No. 4 pick in the 1963 NBA Draft and an NBA All-Star. No other team from the era can boast a player with such pro bona fides.
I think it’s only right to include mention of state titles that all-black schools won before integration. At the least, those long-vanished programs merit an asterisk. I will update this issue from time to time as I collect enough records (i.e. old press clippings, photos, etc.) to give to the Arkansas Athletics Association to verify the currently unpublished state titles. If you support this cause, please leave a comment. And if you know someone involved with the all-black sports events of the 1930s-60s, let me know by emailing [email protected]
I’m always trying to find survivors to speak with.