This past Thursday, Nov. 14, Marshall University stopped to remember the 75 people who were killed in the football team’s plane crash on that day in 1970.
It has been 49 years. For those of us in this region, it seems like yesterday as memories of that night come back. Here are some things I remember.
n When I first heard the news, I was in a car driving back from Morgantown, having just watched Dale Farley lead Bobby Bowden’s WVU team to a 28-19 win over Syracuse. The car was driven by a longtime DuPont High booster Scotch Winfree.
Many people remember that the tragedy happened after Marshall’s game at East Carolina. However, many don’t realize that on the Saturday before the crash, on Nov. 7, 1970, East Carolina hosted WVU in Greenville, North Carolina.
n Many communities in our region suffered loss. The town of Point Pleasant lost Barry Nash. Longtime Kanawha County radio executive Randy Daniels went to high school at Point Pleasant and remembers Nash.
“Barry was a tremendous football player and he was a kind person. In football, he would crush you and then help you up,” Daniels said. “His father, Normal Nash, was a Methodist pastor in town. Barry and his family were beloved in our town and, even now, many in the community struggle with his death.”
n Ravenswood lost a beloved son in Allen Skeens. He was an over-achieving walk-on for Rick Tolley who was being rewarded by making the travel squad for the first time.
n Bluefield lost Dennis Blevins, an outstanding athlete from the segregated Park Central High School.
n St. Albans lost a beloved multi-sport athlete in Roger Childers, who played at a time when the Red Dragons had one of the biggest fan bases in Kanawha County. He walked on at Marshall and became a starter. He then was diagnosed with a brain tumor, survived, and became a student assistant coach. His picture is still on the wall at St. Albans High School.
n Beckley lost high school broadcasting legend Gene Morehouse, who was doing the Marshall broadcasts in 1970.
n Channel 13, WHTN-TV (now WOWK), lost sports director Ken Jones. who was the host of the Rick Tolley television show.
n The Charleston High football team was having a party after winning the 1970 Class AAA state championship. Kennedy Award-winning quarterback Rick Hurt and other Mountain Lions knew many of the Marshall players as they had been on recruiting visits to Huntington. The celebration party was rolling when word came of the Marshall crash. Hurt recalled that almost immediately the party turned silent, the celebration ended and everyone went home.
n Former Milton and Marshall basketball player Don Perry had finished his eligibility and was still taking classes. One of his classes, Personal Hygiene, taught by Ed Prelaz, had over 30 students. “After the plane crash, I went to class the next week and we only had four students,” Perry recalls. “It was myself,[basketball star] Russell Lee and two football players who missed the trip, Ed Carter and Nate Ruffin. The rest of our class had been killed in the crash.”
The plane crash impacted many. Children lost parents and parents lost children. Sisters lost brothers. Girlfriends lost boyfriends. Small towns lost their local heroes.
It has almost been 50 years and, for many, the hurt is still there.