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Tuskegee, Alabama (Revisited)

Posted by graywacke on September 21, 2017

A Landing A Day blog post number 800.

Dan –  As you no doubt remember well, I landed near Tuskegee Alabama several landings ago.  I featured Booker T. Washington (founder of the Tuskegee Institute) and the Tuskegee Airmen (much revered and honored World War II black pilots).

Well, I stumbled on a few additional Tuskegee topics to discuss. 

As you know, I went to Lafayette College.  I won’t say exactly when, but it was not long after they played their 100th football game against Lehigh; they’ll be playing their 153rd game this year in this, the far-and-away most-played college football rivalry.

So anyway, I was checking on Lafayette’s football team this year (they’re pretty bad – 0-3, having been outscored 36-128), when I happened on a Wiki article discussing the history of Lafayette football.  I’d never looked at this, so I did a little skimming.

Now you may well be wondering why I’m talking about Lafayette football in a Tuskegee, Alabama post.  Well, bear with me. 

It turns out Lafayette was actually a national power back in the day (way, way before my time).  From Wiki:

National college football power (1919–1948)

Between 1921 and 1948, Lafayette was considered one of the premiere college football programs in the nation. The team earned two national championships, had four undefeated seasons, featured several All-Americans, played in major games, and was involved in several national bowl games. During nearly every season of the era, the team was led by a coach that would later be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

That sets the stage. Back to Wiki:

“The Greatest Game They Never Played”—the 1949 Sun Bowl incident

Following a 7–2 record (that included a 23–13 win against Lehigh before 21,000 fans at Fisher Field), Lafayette received an invitation to play UTEP (then the Texas College of Mines) in the 1949 Sun Bowl.

Lafayette accepted the bid contingent upon being able to bring David Showell, an African-American halfback and former Tuskegee Airman.

[The Tuskegee angle!]

Texas law at the time prohibited African-Americans from playing on the same field as Caucasian players in a state supported stadium. Showell’s team members refused to accept the bid unless Showell could accompany the team to El-Paso.

The Chairman of the Sun Bowl, C.D. Belding, rejected the provision and Lafayette declined the bid. The Lafayette Athletic Department did not issue a reason for the rejection, prompting a protest of 1,500 students and a bonfire.

The students marched on the President’s house, demanding an explanation. President Ralph Cooper Hutchison explained the situation and along with student leaders, phoned the Sun Bowl Committee chairman to reconsider.

Upon a prompt rejection by Belding, the student protest marched into downtown Easton PA and received an audience at the local radio station. The station and the students sent a telegram to President Truman condemning racial intolerance and segregation with a terse, “Denied Sun Bowl bid with Negro on team. Is that Democracy?”

The protest and received national media attention in the New York Times and AP wires. The situation was nationally significant in that it drew attention to segregation and discrimination against African-American players in bowl games and college football in general.

Oh my!  What a story!  And I never heard a whisper about this.  By the way, Ralph Cooper Hutchison was Lafayette’s President until 1966, only two years before my freshman year (and the 104th Lafayette-Lehigh game).  Ooops – I said that I wasn’t going to say exactly when I went to Lafayette.  Oh, well. . .

Post-script:  Showell graduated from Lafayette with a business degree, and was a student at the University of Wisconsin Law School when he was killed in an automobile accident at age 31.

There’s more on the Tuskegee front. I was listening to NPR a few days ago, and they had a food program (the Sporkful Food podcast) that featured a pancake recipe found on the back of an envelope, hand-written by Rosa Parks – the woman who, in 1955 Montgomery, refused to give up her seat to a white person when the white section of the bus was full and who became an internationally-known civil rights icon.

The recipe interestingly includes peanut butter, even though the recipe was entitled “Featherlite Pancakes.”

 As I was listening, I heard that Rosa Parks was born and raised in Tuskegee.  This was mentioned because of Tuskegee’s connection with Booker T. Washington, whose work on peanuts while at Tuskegee was instrumental in bringing peanuts into the mainstream of American cooking, but especially for Southern Blacks.

According to the podcast, the pancakes are excellent!  Note:  it is likely that “milk” was actually “buttermilk.”

I was shocked that I had missed the Rosa Parks connection in my Tuskegee post.  When I got home, I fired up my computer and went to the Tuskegee Alabama Wiki entry.  And there, under “Notable People,” was, of course, Rosa Parks. 

Here’s a Wiki shot of Rosa in 1955, with Martin Luther King in the background:

I always (OK, almost always) check out the Wiki Notable People list for any titular towns, but inexplicably, didn’t in this case. 

In addition to Rosa Parks was another familiar name:  Lionel Richie.

I’ll admit that I was never a big Commodores fan (he was their front man in the 1970s), or a big fan of his mostly-80s solo career.  But I love “All Night Long.”  Until now, I had never seen the 1983 MTV video.

This is so 80s, but the song is so upbeat and celebratory (and musically and culturally historic) as to be worth your time.  Note that you’ll be joining the 32,000,000 other viewers of this video . . .


That’ll do it . . .




© 2017 A Landing A Day


One Response to “Tuskegee, Alabama (Revisited)”

  1. Jordan said

    Really interesting revisit, especially on the Sun Bowl aspect! Looks like Lafayette needs to do a better job of teaching school history to students.

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