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Civil Rights Summit Shines Light on Strong's Historic Hire

Updated: Thursday, April 10 2014, 03:39 PM CDT

As a child growing up in the segregated south, Bill Russell's mother wanted him to play in the front yard in hopes of exposing him to ignorance and hate at an early age

"They will say things to you, good or bad," recalled Russell. "But it has nothing to do with you. It has to do with them and their perspective."

What started in Russell's front lawn very well may have changed the overall landscape of sports. 58 years after Russell was hired as the NBA's first black head coach, Charlie Strong tackled Texas history as he became UT's first African-American head coach in any sport.

"This is a historical day," Strong admitted when he was introduced on January 6. "It was a historical day when the president was named the President of the United States also. There is always going to be a first somewhere, so this had to be the first."
 
Manor high school head football coach Sadd Jackson wasn't sure he'd live long enough to see a black head coach at Texas and Texas A&M at the same time. But Jackson says he hopes the door has been opened thanks to an open mind and not strictly skin color; a sentiment Hall of Famer Jim Brown backs

"Coach Strong feels like he was the best man for the job at Texas and not because he's an African-American, but just because he's a good football coach," Jackson said.

"Those who chose your coach and chose him for the right reasons did not choose him because he is black," Brown proclaimed. "And if you did, you did the wrong thing."

Those lessons Bill Russell learned on his front lawn and he shared just across this LBJ lawn Wednesday, prove that when it comes to opening a closed mind about civil rights: the grass is always greener on the other side.

by Adam Winkler

Civil Rights Summit Shines Light on Strong's Historic Hire


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