Today is the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination and the news has been dominated by stories about his reach and influence. One of the most interesting I’ve read centers around former Kentucky football coach Bill Curry, who opened up to The Undefeated about how football changed his views on race, prompting him to march at Dr. King’s funeral procession in Atlanta.
Curry, a Georgia native, was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in 1964 and recalls adapting to playing on an integrated team for the first time. Those early experiences changed him forever, he says.
“My biggest problem was I had never been in the huddle with an African-American person. There were teams in the league that had quotas, or they had no African-American players, and they bragged about it. In the Packers’ training camp, if you said one racist sentence, you were cut immediately. That was the talk in the locker room. On a 40-man roster we had 10 African-American players, and [Lombardi] would have had 40 because he didn’t care about the color of your skin. He cared a lot if you could play football, and he cared a lot if you were a good human being. He had a gift for selecting all of the above and blending all of those various qualities. There we were, playing against teams with no African-American players, and we’ve got Willie Wood and Herb Adderley and Bob Jeter and Lionel Aldridge and Willie Davis. And I thought those guys would hear my Southern accent and hurt me and send me home.”
Curry’s friendships with Marv Fleming and Willie Davis made him a fierce advocate for civil rights, to the point he and his wife insisted on attending Dr. King’s funeral procession despite his families’ pleas not to.
“Our daughter had just been born the year before. Some family members said some things to me to try to persuade us not to go. ‘You know you’ve got an obligation, you’ve got to be thinking about that child.’ And I said, ‘I am thinking about that child. I’m going to be at the funeral.’”
Cool stuff. Check out the entire story at the link below.