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How Kentucky Integrated SEC Football: The Valiant Foursome

natenorthington

Nate Northington

With the unveiling of the new SEC trailblazers statue outside Commonwealth Stadium tonight ta 7 pm, let’s revisit the story of the four men who broke the color barrier and made history in Kentucky blue.


 

Disconcertingly, in the not so distant past, Nate Northington, Greg Page, Houston Hogg, and Wilbur Hackett Jr. were forgotten Kentucky heroes. Fifty years later, that wrong is being righted.

In the winter of 1965, Louisville native Nate Northington and Middlesboro’s Greg Page became the first African-Americans to sign football scholarships with the University of Kentucky. In September 1967, Nate Northington integrated SEC Football when he played three minutes of game action against Ole Miss. Those three short minutes were momentous, but accompanied by tragedy. The night before, his teammate and friend Greg Page tragically passed away due to injuries sustained in a practice 38 days prior.

Greg Page

Greg Page

Nate Northington eventually transferred to Western Kentucky. Prior to his exit, he convinced his African-American teammates Houston Hogg and Wilbur Hackett to stay at UK and to finish what he and Page had started. History was made again as Hogg and Hackett were the first two African-American athletes in the SEC to complete their eligibility. The trailblazing continued in 1969 when Wilbur Hackett became the SEC’s first African-American team captain in any sport.

wilburhackett

Wilbur Hackett, Jr.

In September, the University of Kentucky will unveil a statue honoring the foursome. The block and mortar figure will be located at Commonwealth Stadium; however, the legacy of Nate Northington, Greg Page, Houston Hogg, and Wilbur Hackett will forever live through the plethora of doors they opened and color barrier walls they knocked down with their bravery.

In addition to the statue, a documentary movie is in the works. The feature will be directed by Academy Award winner Paul Wagner and is titled “Black in Blue.” In addition to Wagner, the foursome’s former teammate Paul Karem has been vigilant in his mission to see his peers honored. Countless hours of discussions have resulted in both the statue and movie. Kentucky Sports Radio received a sneak peek at the movie, you can see for yourself below:

Black in Blue Trailer from Paul Wagner on Vimeo.

After months of research, I have to say that the story of Northington, Page, Hogg, and Hackett moved my emotions to the point of anger, happiness, bitterness, confusion, and achievement. I could never pretend to understand the unthinkable atrocities the foursome endured in order to ensure those that came after could chase their dreams; however, I can say without reservation that I have an infinite amount of respect for their courage, honor, and valor. A statue, movie, or a simple “Thank You” just isn’t enough; but at least it’s a start.

houstonhogg

Houston Hogg

Coming soon on the Matt Jones Podcast, Matt will speak to Nate Northington and Wilbur Hackett Jr. as they tell their incredible story. In closing, let us never forget their inspiration that will stand for all of eternity.

For more information, please go to the documentary’s website:  blackinblue.org

Article written by Freddie Maggard

Former University of Kentucky Quarterback and Andy Griffith Fan Club President

14 Comments for How Kentucky Integrated SEC Football: The Valiant Foursome



  1. Sentient Third Eye
    2:35 pm July 7, 2016 Permalink

    Now those guys would make for an interesting 30 on 30 or at least an SEC Storied.



  2. Gitback Coach
    3:12 pm July 7, 2016 Permalink

    The “pursuit drill” that resulted in Page’s injury/death is relatively common to practice sessions at all levels of football, but not the way Charlie Bradshaw’s staff ran it. I’ve talked to a lot of Bradshaw-era former Wildcats, and to a man, they all know where the blame lies.

    UK football seems to remain cursed by their regrettable decision to fire Blanton Collier.



  3. J-Dub421
    3:30 pm July 7, 2016 Permalink

    Great article Freddie, thanks.



  4. DACats86
    3:34 pm July 7, 2016 Permalink

    Incredibly important history here, though it gets little regional or national play because it doesn’t fit with the perception of UK as a racist institution. Really glad they are honoring those incredibly brave men with the first football statue on campus, though it is much too long in coming.



    • dshwildcats
      5:03 pm July 7, 2016 Permalink

      DACats86,

      Your post is right on the money, brother! For us longtime followers of Kentucky Football, this is not the first time we’ve heard the story of these four courageous men. But, I don’t know if I’ve ever heard it told at the national level. As you said, this story of integration doesn’t fit the perception by the national media, and of many rival fan bases, Louisville’s in particular, of the University of Kentucky as this “bastion” of racism.

      So glad to hear that we are finally honoring these men! Like you said, it is an honor that is long overdue! I look forward to seeing this documentary when it is released. Maybe Hollywood would consider making it into a full length movie like “Glory Road”, only this time, the facts wouldn’t be optional.



    • secrick
      2:12 pm September 22, 2016 Permalink

      So true.



  5. leshearer
    3:54 pm July 7, 2016 Permalink

    Don’t leave out Emmett “Buzz” Burnham, the first full scholarship UK football player, from Clark County. He decided to remain committed to UK, even after the death of Greg Page. That took a tremendous amount of courage, and he eventually played at the pro level, as well.



  6. Irish Mike
    9:57 pm July 7, 2016 Permalink

    Excellent article Freddie..keep ’em coming!



  7. Realme
    1:23 pm September 22, 2016 Permalink

    Glad you reposted this, I missed it the first time, and it’s so important. Northington wrote a book called Still Running, which you can check out from Lexington Public Library.



  8. secrick
    2:11 pm September 22, 2016 Permalink

    Thanks for this article Freddie, may be the best one i ever read on this site. Proud to be a wildcat and proud of these MEN.



  9. Sentient Third Eye
    2:31 pm September 22, 2016 Permalink

    I’ll call again for ESPN to do a documentary on these guys to get them the notoriety they deserve. If ESPN fails to do it, then get “Black in Blue” aired on the SEC Network the next time UK “takes over” for a day.



    • RealCatsFan
      3:30 pm September 22, 2016 Permalink

      They would never do it because it would offset the other portrayals of UK as a racist institution in films like “Glory Road”. Still, the unveiling of the statue is very timely in light of the tensions that are going on across the country. I have gone out of my way to raise my children to see people for what they are no matter their sex, race, orientation, or background. Sadly, there are still a lot of people who don’t see the world that way.



  10. za
    2:47 pm September 22, 2016 Permalink

    I’m from Middlesboro and my grandfather said that he remembers Greg as the most powerful athlete he’d ever seen in those parts. Middlesboro had spectacular talent in the 40s, 50s, and 60s.



  11. onsides
    5:26 pm September 22, 2016 Permalink

    Rupp received death threats from other SEC school fans for trying to integrate in the 50s and 60s.