Robert D. Jacobus is adjunct professor of history at Stephen F. Austin State University and was a teacher and coach in Texas public schools for twenty-six years. He is the author of Houston Cougars in the 1960s: Death Threats, the Veer Offense, and the Game of the Century. He resides in Village Mills, Texas.
About Black Man in the Huddle: Stories from the Integration of Texas Football:
What was it like for young black men growing up in a totally segregated environment and transitioning to an integrated one?” asks author Robert Jacobus in the preface to this collection of interviews. How did they get involved in sports? How did the facilities, both academic and athletic, compare to the white schools? What colleges recruited them out of high school?
Searching for the answers to these and other questions, Jacobus interviewed some 250 former players, former coaches, and others who were personally involved in the racial integration of Texas public school and college athletic programs. Starting with Ben Kelly, the first African American to play for a college team in the former Confederacy when he walked on at then San Angelo College, and continuing with great players such as Jerry Levias, Ken Houston, Mel Renfro, Bubba Smith, and more, the players tell their stories in their own words.
Each story is as varied as the players themselves. Some strongly uphold the necessity of integration for progress in society. Others, while understanding the need for integration, nevertheless mourn the passing of their segregated schools, remembering fondly the close-knit communities forged by the difficulties faced by both students and teachers.
Interlaced with historical context and abundantly illustrated, the first-person accounts presented in Black Man in the Huddle form an important and lasting record of the thoughts, struggles, successes, and experiences of young men on the front lines of desegregation in Texas schools and athletic programs. By capturing these stories, Jacobus widens our perspective on the interactions between sport and American society during the momentous 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s.