Another new item to KC SportsNation:
Under escort from the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division, nine black students enter all-white Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. Three weeks earlier, Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus had surrounded the school with National Guard troops to prevent its federal court-ordered racial integration. After a tense standoff, President Dwight D. Eisenhower federalized the Arkansas National Guard and sent 1,000 army paratroopers to Little Rock to enforce the court order.
On May 17, 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka that racial segregation in educational facilities was unconstitutional. Five days later, the Little Rock School Board issued a statement saying it would comply with the decision when the Supreme Court outlined the method and time frame in which desegregation should be implemented.
Arkansas was at the time among the more progressive Southern states in regard to racial issues. The University of Arkansas School of Law was integrated in 1949, and the Little Rock Public Library in 1951. Even before the Supreme Court ordered integration to proceed “with all deliberate speed,” the Little Rock School Board in 1955 unanimously adopted a plan of integration to begin in 1957 at the high school level. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) filed suit, arguing the plan was too gradual, but a federal judge dismissed the suit, saying that the school board was acting in “utmost good faith.” Meanwhile, Little Rock’s public buses were desegregated. By 1957, seven out of Arkansas’ eight state universities were integrated.
In the spring of 1957, there were 517 black students who lived in the Central High School district. Eighty expressed an interest in attending Central in the fall, and they were interviewed by the Little Rock School Board, which narrowed down the number of candidates to 17. Eight of those students later decided to remain at all-black Horace Mann High School, leaving the “Little Rock Nine” to forge their way into Little Rock’s premier high school.
In August 1957, the newly formed Mother’s League of Central High School won a temporary injunction from the county chancellor to block integration of the school, charging that it “could lead to violence.” Federal District Judge Ronald Davies nullified the injunction on August 30. On September 2, Governor Orval Faubus—a staunch segregationist—called out the Arkansas National Guard to surround Central High School and prevent integration, ostensibly to prevent the bloodshed he claimed desegregation would cause. The next day, Judge Davies ordered integrated classes to begin on September 4.
That morning, 100 armed National Guard troops encircled Central High School. A mob of 400 white civilians gathered and turned ugly when the black students began to arrive, shouting racial epithets and threatening the teenagers with violence. The National Guard troops refused to let the black students pass and used their clubs to control the crowd. One of the nine, 15-year-old Elizabeth Eckford, was surrounded by the mob, which threatened to lynch her. She was finally led to safety by a sympathetic white woman.
Little Rock Mayor Woodrow Mann condemned Faubus’ decision to call out the National Guard, but the governor defended his action, reiterating that he did so to prevent violence. The governor also stated that integration would occur in Little Rock when and if a majority of people chose to support it. Faubus’ defiance of Judge Davies’ court order was the first major test of Brown v. Board of Education and the biggest challenge of the federal government’s authority over the states since the Reconstruction Era.
The standoff continued, and on September 20 Judge Davies ruled that Faubus had used the troops to prevent integration, not to preserve law and order as he claimed. Faubus had no choice but to withdraw the National Guard troops. Authority over the explosive situation was put in the hands of the Little Rock Police Department.
On September 23, as a mob of 1,000 whites milled around outside Central High School, the nine black students managed to gain access to a side door. However, the mob became unruly when it learned the black students were inside, and the police evacuated them out of fear for their safety. That evening, President Eisenhower issued a special proclamation calling for opponents of the federal court order to “cease and desist.” On September 24, Little Rock’s mayor sent a telegram to the president asking him to send troops to maintain order and complete the integration process. Eisenhower immediately federalized the Arkansas National Guard and approved the deployment of U.S. troops to Little Rock. That evening, from the White House, the president delivered a nationally televised address in which he explained that he had taken the action to defend the rule of law and prevent “mob rule” and “anarchy.” On September 25, the Little Rock Nine entered the school under heavily armed guard.
Troops remained at Central High School throughout the school year, but still the black students were subjected to verbal and physical assaults from a faction of white students. Melba Patillo, one of the nine, had acid thrown in her eyes, and Elizabeth Eckford was pushed down a flight of stairs. The three male students in the group were subjected to more conventional beatings. Minnijean Brown was suspended after dumping a bowl of chili over the head of a taunting white student. She was later suspended for the rest of the year after continuing to fight back. The other eight students consistently turned the other cheek. On May 27, 1958, Ernest Green, the only senior in the group, became the first black to graduate from Central High School.
Governor Faubus continued to fight the school board’s integration plan, and in September 1958 he ordered Little Rock’s three high schools closed rather than permit integration. Many Little Rock students lost a year of education as the legal fight over desegregation continued. In 1959, a federal court struck down Faubus’ school-closing law, and in August 1959 Little Rock’s white high schools opened a month early with black students in attendance. All grades in Little Rock public schools were finally integrated in 1972.
1897: William Faulkner is born
2005: IRA officially disarm
On September 25, 1965, the Kansas City Athletics start ageless wonder Satchel Paige in a game against the Boston Red Sox. The 59-year-old Paige, a Negro League legend, proved his greatness once again by giving up only one hit in his three innings of play.
Leroy Page was born on July 7, 1906, in Mobile, Alabama. Page’s family changed the spelling of their name to Paige to differentiate themselves from John Page, Leroy’s absent and abusive father. “Satchel” got his nickname as a boy while working as a luggage carrier at the Mobile train station. When he was 12, his constant truancy coupled with a shoplifting incident got him sent to the Industrial School for Negro Children in Mount Meigs, Alabama. It turned out to be a lucky break, as it was there that Paige learned to pitch. After leaving the school, he turned pro.
From 1927 to 1948 Paige served as the baseball equivalent of a hired gun: He pitched for any team in the United States or abroad that could afford him. He was the highest paid pitcher of his time, and he wowed crowds with the speed of his fastball, his trick pitches and his considerable bravado. Just for fun, Paige would sometimes call in his outfield and then strike out the side. From 1939 to 1942, the Kansas City Monarchs paid up for his services and were justly rewarded: Paige led the team to four consecutive Negro American League pennants from 1939 to 1942. In the 1942 Negro League World Series, Satchel won three games in a four-game sweep of the Homestead Grays, led by famed slugger Josh Gibson.
Paige’s contract was bought by Bill Veeck’s Cleveland Indians on July 7, 1948, his 42nd birthday. He made his major league debut two days later, entering in the fifth inning against the St. Louis Browns with the Indians trailing 4-1. He gave up two singles in two innings, striking one man out and inducing one batter to hit into a double play. The Indians lost the game 5-3 in spite of Paige’s contribution. That year Satchel Paige went 6-1 with a solid 2.48 ERA for the World Champion Cleveland Indians and was named to Major League Baseball’s All-Star Team for the American League in 1952 and 1953, when he was 46 and 47 years old respectively.
On September 25, 1965, Paige’s three innings for the Kansas City Athletics made him, at 59 years, 2 months and 18 days, the oldest pitcher ever to play a game in the major leagues. Before the game, Paige sat in the bullpen in a rocking chair while a nurse rubbed liniment into his pitching arm for the entire crowd to see. Any doubts about Paige’s ability were put to rest when he set down each of the Red Sox batters he faced except for Carl Yastremski, who hit a double.
Arguably the greatest pitcher of his era, Paige was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1971.
1882 – The first major league double header was played. It was between the Worcester and Providence teams.
1965 – Willie Mays, at the age of 34, became the oldest man to hit 50 home runs in a single season. He had also set the record for the youngest to hit 50 ten years earlier.
1978 – Melissa Ludtke, a writer for “Sports Illustrated”, filed a suit in U.S. District Court. The result was that Major League Baseball could not bar female writers from the locker room after the game.
1993 – Charles Barkley and Nirvana were guests on “Saturday Night Live.”
1997 – NBC sportscaster Marv Albert pled guilty to assault and battery of a lover. He was fired from NBC within hours.
2001 – Michael Jordan announced that he would return to the NBA as a player for the Washington Wizards. Jordan became the president of basketball operations for the team on January 19, 2000.