February is Black History Month. At the risk of leaving out some great names, here are some of our state’s past and present pioneers. Their contributions to our area and our state should never be forgotten.
William “Tootie” Carter: He was a pioneer in every way. He played at the all-black Buffalo High School in Logan County. He played with two future all-pros, Charlie Cowan and Lionel Taylor. After high school, they then drove cross country through the segregated south to play at New Mexico Highlands. Carter came back and became the longtime football coach at Man High School.
Hal Greer: A graduate of the all-black Douglass High School in Huntington, Greer was Marshall’s first black basketball player and went on to star in the NBA and was voted one of the top 50 NBA players of all-time.
Juanita Hooks: She is a state treasure in many ways. She was a longtime teacher, coach and educator in Mingo County. I met her years ago in Williamson and she spoke very fondly of her days as a coach at a mostly white Kermit High School. She oversaw a senior center in Williamson, and if funding ran short at the end of the month, she spent some of her own money to provide meals for the seniors there.
“Gloomy” Jim Jarrett: He was one of Charleston’s most interesting coaches. Before integration, he was the head basketball coach at all-black Garnet High School. After integration he was an assistant football and basketball coach at Charleston High and was a part of six state championships.
Randy Moss: Who knew that a little corner of the world like Rand would produce the best athlete in our state’s history? He is the first black athlete from our state, who also played college football in our state, to be selected for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Marvin Richardson: They loved “the old pro” so much in South Charleston that they named the school gym after him.
Ergie Smith: A four-sport athlete from Kimball High School, Smith went on to be an All-American running back at Bluefield State in 1951. Many know him better for basketball. He helped coach Gary District to a Class A state basketball title in 1965 and he then coached Gary High School to a Class AA state title in 1973.
Ed Starling: A former athlete at West Virginia State, Starling was a legendary coach at the all-black Liberty High School in Williamson. He went on to a long career as an administrator at Marshall and was one of the school’s unsung heroes during the recovery from the plane crash.
Ron “Fritz” Williams: An incredible athlete from Weirton, he and three others were the first black basketball players at WVU. Life was not easy for him in Morgantown or in the mostly white Southern Conference. The popularity of WVU basketball grew in large part due to Williams. The Coliseum used to known as “the house that Fritz built” even though he never played there.
Henry Winkfield: A member of the McDowell County Sports Hall of Fame, he was an all-American in football and basketball at Bluefield State. He would go on to be the head basketball coach at Kimball, and later was a longtime assistant with Jennings Boyd at Northfork. He was an assistant for all eight of Northfork’s national-record-setting teams that won eight straight state titles.