Integrating high school athletics in Athens

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

Alan Morse
Alan Morse

 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.

Football 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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