Athens High 1965: Integrating high school athletics in Athens

This article was previously printed in the Winter issue of Zebra Magazine. It has been edited for length.

Integrating high school athletics in Athens

 

 Alan Morse’s father was skeptical of him transferring from all-black Athens Industrial/Burney Harris to Athens High in 1965 during the very early years of school integration.  Alan played first chair trumpet in the school band but his true passion was football, and the position of running back. He was fast and extremely strong from working in the cement finishing business with his father. He should have received plenty of playing time, or so he thought.

Alan MorseFootball fans would line the streets to watch Alan completely dominate practice sessions defensively and offensively, outrunning his opponents and breaking tackles. But the head coach would daily try to break his spirit with practice drills using seven defensive players to attack and tackle him. Alan was limited to practice sessions and never received a game time jersey. In his senior year, he quit the Trojan’s football team and instead joined and excelled on the track and field team, becoming one of the area’s fastest men in the 100-yard dash and relay competition.

Although never dressing out on game night for the Trojans, Alan was picked and played running back in the black high school All-Star Game in Atlanta. He graduated from Athens High in 1967.

Stan Coleman
Stan Coleman

Stan Coleman decided to transfer to Athens High in 1966 despite concern in the black community that the coach would never dress out Coleman for a game. They were right. Coleman recalls often sprinting down Broad St. so fast from Howard Johnson’s to Magnolia St. that once he and his friend, star running back Walter Rittenberry, were stopped by a policeman. He thought they had stolen something.

During practices, both Coleman and Morse ran plays with the first-string offense. During the two-day practices they were targeted with 7 to 1 and 11 to 1 hitting drills, with the goal of forcing them to quit. With broken spirits, they both quit when they were not assigned Trojan jerseys for the yearbook team photo. Coleman, too, went on to excel his senior year in track and field, helping lead the Trojans to fourth in the state.

Maxie Foster
Maxie Foster

Maxie Foster didn’t play football but excelled in basketball and track, becoming the first black athlete to play or start for the Trojans, and to receive an athletic scholarship from UGA. But there were challenges. While leading the team in scoring, there was never a photo of him in the daily newspaper. He was set up to fail by being placed in advanced senior courses when he was in the 10thgrade. For away games, he wasn’t allowed to dress out in locker rooms; instead he dressed on the bus. He was escorted by police into the gym in Oconee County, and doused with ice water during a post-game interview in Milledgeville.

“There is a lifetime of negative psychological effects, which black athletes like myself, Alan, Stan, and many others who followed, went through. Some recovered. Some didn’t. But you never forget,” says Foster.

Still, he says his mother, Rose Rittenberry, instilled a philosophy for life that he has followed: “She taught me that no one was better than me even if they had more.” He goes on, “The church has been and still is a very intrinsic part of who and what I am. Today my formula that I use to the Max is: Get some God in your heart. Some sense in your head. Some money in your hand. All in that order.”doodad

walter allen jrWalter Allen, Jr. has been publishing Zebra Magazine for 25 years. He says he got the idea when he was traveling as a salesman around the Southeast, and encountered various black-oriented publications in different communities.

“I wanted to present this community in a positive way, and document moments.” It began as 16 pages on newsprint and has evolved into a 52-page quarterly magazine. The pages of photos of smiling, engaged people bears out Allen’s goal, “I want people to feel good about themselves.”

 

 

 

 

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Walter Allen, Jr.
Walter Allen, Jr. has been publishing Zebra Magazine for 25 years.

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  1. Walter:
    Thanks for this. I graduated in 1971, the first year of Clarke Central. Those were challenging times, but I remember your grandfather from then and before that at Hilsman JR. High. What an amazing man and one who truly made a difference. You share a great legacy.
    Keith Oelke

  2. This is as sad now as it was then.
    I lived in Athens during those years.
    I attended Athens High School.
    God placed a gift in these young men that White supremacy and Jim Crow systematically intentionally tried to destroy.
    Those of you who said nothing enabled this hate. The painful memories still lingers. It was not “fictional”.
    It was REAL!
    Do you ever wonder how you could have made a difference? What do you tell your children and grandchildren?

    • I hope you do not heap shame on your children as you try to do to your peers by you comments. If you did everything you could, that alone is what you can judge.

  3. My dad passed away 8-29-2018 Athens Georgia
    Paul Dennis Hill
    Is he In the 1965 yearbook please email me pic of him if so
    Google Gmail account crystal charping hill.

    My aunts are Ruby Neil Hill and Glenda Hill as well thanks

  4. Good evening. My name is Ricky Garcia and I reside in the Philippines. Maxie Foster was my track coach at Clarke Central, and I trained under him during the period of 1972-73. I would like to know how I can get in touch with him. He probably won’t remember me since I was just a mediocre athlete, but I still remember some of his advice to me which, to this day, I still share with friends.

  5. Walter,

    My name is Mike Castronis and I played on the Athens High team. The only thing inaccurate was the year. It was the 1966 season. I was a senior on the team and you are right about the lengths our head coach went to run off Alan. He made him catch punts while eleven of us chased him with no blocking. Incredibly, on a few of those he eluded us all and scored. He was a very good player and I consider him a teammate even though he never played in a game. He completed summer practice with the rest of us and that alone was a mark of distinction. You are correct that the coach refused to give him a game jersey.

    In 1965 our team had lost to Valdosta by one point in the state final. In 1966 our only losses were to Marietta and Tucker who eventually played for the north Georgia championship. Marietta lost to Valdosta in the final. We were easily a top four team that year. In my opinion (and I followed my dad in coaching for many years so my opinion may be valid), had Alan been allowed to play, we’d have won the state in 1966. We had very good players like David Allen, Jerry Cash, and Andy Johnson who all played D1 ball. Alan would have been the one we needed to tip the scale and put us over the top but our coach could not see it. He probably could see it, just didn’t want to change the way he thought.

    Many of my teammates and I have talked since about it and not a one disagrees with me. What happened was a travesty and it could have been a miracle… not just for a football team but for race relations in Athens. As one who did not open my mouth at the time, I hold myself as guilty as our coach. My silence made me complicit in the injustice. We were all afraid of the coach… of any coach in those days, and even though some of us did not like what happened to Alan, we said nothing. So we were equally at fault. Later,to exorcise some of the demons I wrote a book, a fictional account of a team of that era who, faced with the same situation, reacted in the proper way. It’s just a fictional story and my poor way of admitting my fault. It is called A Football Story and I published it on Amazon.

    I’d be happy to send you a copy of the transcript as I have it in my documents. When you talk with Alan, you may tell him that you heard from me and share what I had to say. Tell him that many of his teammates from ’66 feel exactly as I do.

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