Nearly 50 years ago, they integrated the court. Tonight, they got their trophy.

Decatur High honored the the 1968-69 basketball team, one of the first fully integrated teams in Georgia. (Photo/Greg White)

As one of the first black students to integrate Decatur High School in the late 60s, Samuel Favers experienced racism that still chafes nearly a half century later.

He recalled the administration leaving his mother in tears after calling her in to tell her that he wasn’t able to learn. “The principal regularly called black students into his office and told them that they’d never graduate and they were incapable of learning and doing the work required. And, that they should transfer to other schools or go into the military. Many did,” said Favers, a musician who lives in Stone Mountain.

In a fitting buildup to the Martin Luther King national holiday, Decatur High sought to make it up to Favers and other students tonight in one of the few places at the school where he felt connected to the school and his classmates – the basketball court.

Samuel Favers holds a replacement trophy presented Friday to the 1968-69 Decatur basketball team, one of the first fully integrated teams in the state. (Photo/Maureen Downey)

Favers belonged to the 1968-69 Decatur Bulldogs team that won the regional championship. The team was extraordinary for more than its ball skills. It was one of the few fully integrated teams in the state at the time, evenly divided between black and white players.

The Decatur Bulldogs coalesced against a backdrop of tragedy and change; Assassins murdered Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy; the Vietnam war raged; the Civil Rights movement intensified.

Amid the violence, divisiveness and turbulence, people needed reasons to believe America could see its way out of this hopeless place, that a diverse America could be a stronger America.  Decatur found hope that year in its champion basketball team.

But when Favers visited Decatur High in 2016, the trophy from that tumultuous season was not among all the others on display. Somehow, it had gone missing. “The story was that it had been stolen or destroyed in a fire at the school. I felt robbed. I’d been discriminated against, tried to play sports, dealt with extreme conditions and there was no trophy,” he said.

He enlisted former teammates Cornell Walker and Harvey Scales to approach Decatur High and found a receptive audience in Rodney Thomas, Decatur’s athletics and activities director.

Nine members of the team walked onto the court tonight at Decatur High to accept a replacement trophy. They are all about 66 now, so there weren’t any jump shots or layups. But there was joy and laughter as a team that last played together 49 years ago reunited before an appreciative hometown crowd.

The winning 1968-69 Decatur High School basketball team.

“Tonight was about going back and remembering a time in their lives when they were part of a team that galvanized through some rough years and came together to accomplish something,” said Thomas, at the reception following the ceremony on the court. “For some of them, it was about healing. For others, it was about speaking out about old wounds.”

Cornell Walker transferred to Decatur High when the city finally closed Trinity, its all black high school, so there was more safety in numbers than when Favers came a year earlier and was one of only a few minority students.

“We needed something to bring us together in that year,” said Walker, sitting behind a table tonight with the gleaming new trophy in front of him. “In the beginning, you would see blacks sitting in one area and whites in another at our games. Once we started winning, everyone was together.”

 

 

 

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10 comments
Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

100% white school - blacks want to attend.

100% black school - whites stay away.


And that white principal wasn't the only one commenting on the scholastic aptitude of blacks.  Remember the black teacher who said "Dez kids are dumb as h**l?"


The newly released FBI files on JFK confirmed what many already knew about MLK.  He was a communist stooge, embezzler, and most nights were spent in drunken stupor with prostitutes.  

Content of character and all that.....

buwot
buwot

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Astropig
Astropig

God bless 'em! Well deserved and long overdue. It's their day.


In my playing days,I had many black teammates that made my life richer and increased my understanding and empathy for anyone,anywhere that suffered from bigotry.We were brothers.We practiced together,played together,hunted and fished together and occasionally got in a little mischief together.(mostly involving Old Milwaukee hidden in toilet tanks on road trips,but I digress).Our sport wasn't basketball,but some shared adventures are universal.

The ones that haven't passed away still keep in sporadic contact and remind my wife that she didn't marry no angel.We don't get to hunt that much any more because arthritis and bad eyesight make it somewhat dangerous.  But the camaraderie and personal interaction and shared experiences would not have been possible if our merry little band of buddies had been born in an earlier,less inclusive time.Our hard work and accomplishment brought us together and nothing has been able to sever our bond.Sports can do that.It can unite a multitude of personal agendas into one common goal.


Another reason (IMHO) that sports are a great place for people to come together is that the structure is the definition of "fair".The rules are the same for both sides.The referees don't have their thumb on the scales for either team.Scoring is defined and easily observed.The media has to report the final score with factual accuracy.In short,sports are a meritocracy.Hard work and talent are rewarded (like in the story above) and we can all rejoice in that.



MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@Astropig


If one reaches high enough in spiritual consciousness, sports are no longer necessary to bring people of all kinds together.  We are all one race, the human race.  All life is sacred, with or without sports.

Astropig
Astropig

@MaryElizabethSings @Astropig 

As long as little kids play games together as teams,with shared goals,shared dreams and the desire to be the best that they can be,there will be harmony,understanding and friendship that no political hack can undo.

Across America,(once it warms up a little bit in a few weeks),millions of kids won't see the color of their teammates.They'll see...Their teammates. Baseball took the lead in integrating professional sports and will continue to be a force for good-even at the lowest level of local T-Ball.


Good times.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

@Astropig @MaryElizabethSings


I am not denying that all of that is true.  I am, however, trying to inspire human beings to bypass the vehicle, when necessary, and reach higher in becoming one with the Godhead of all life, human and otherwise.

Astropig
Astropig

@MaryElizabethSings @Astropig 

Sports are a harbinger of what society will become.In 1967, only one black player took the field in the SEC (in football). Today,it's really no big deal that half or more of all players are black,or that they win awards or are signed to lucrative professional contracts.

The point is that meritocracies reward content of character and personal ambition.I think Dr. King would look kindly on that.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

In Commemoration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, 2018

Words are empty vehicles without consciousness behind them. King's consciousness, derived from the teachings of Jesus and Gandhi, will live in his story and in his sacrificial life because that consciousness, as with that of Jesus, will continue to change the course of history.

It is up to us, the living, to model what course this nation and world should become not through inane consciousness of "winners" and "losers" but through the reverence that all humanity, and all life, itself, is sacred. We cannot violate that sacredness without destroying ourselves individually and as a world community. King's words will forever stand as testimony to his higher consciousness and those words can be found, forever, engraved in stone by the monument of his image on the Washington D.C. grounds overlooking the monuments of Lincoln, Jefferson, and Washington, and with equal status of those other great men of America's history and aspirations.