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.
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.
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:
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.
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