Friday, November 13, 2015

Part III: Author has weird kind of flashback

The Fountain of Names is a lasting tribute, which was produced by

Editor's Note: This is the final installment of a three-part series about the 1970 Marshall University plane crash. On a dreadful night nearly 45 years ago, the Thundering Herd's plane crashed on its return trip from a road game at East Carolina. Everyone on board – 75 people in all – lost their lives. In today's entry, sports journalist Craig T. Greenlee shares his thoughts. Greenlee played safety for the Thundering Herd, but decided to hang up his pads and cleats a year before the crash. As a former teammate, he knew most of the players who died. Four years ago, he authored “November Ever After,” a memoir which paints a different picture from what most folks know about the tragedy through previously published books, news articles, documentaries and the movie “We Are Marshall.”

Former Herd safety Craig T. Greenlee
A few decades have passed since I played college football at Marshall. And for reasons that I still haven't quite figured out, I always pay close attention to the calendar at this time of year. When October ends and November begins, I always check to see what day the 14th falls on, which is the date of the crash.

Maybe it's something that's hidden deep in my psyche which causes this heightened sense of awareness. A few days ago, I had a flashback of sorts about the night that the Herd's plane crashed into the side of a hill and exploded. Ironically, this all happened unexpectedly, just like the night of the crash.

A few days ago, I attended some youth football state championship games and was on the sidelines taking pictures for a story I was working on. The weather was far from ideal. The day was dark and overcast and it rained off and on for at least four hours. The weather conditions on the day of the crash were similar.

The stadium where the games were being played, was located close to a big-city airport. Every 5-to-10 minutes, a jet would emerge from the clouds as it started its descent to the runway. For no reason that I was aware of at that time, I kept watching the planes.

That's when it hit me.

I remember a sequence from the documentary “Ashes to Glory.” In this segment, folks who lived in the Kenova neighborhood close to the Tri-State Airport where the crash occurred, were interviewed. They talked about how the plane seemed to be coming in at too low of an altitude. These folks were vivid in their recollections. They said they could see the lights on inside the plane just seconds before the crash.

Every time I looked up into the sky at one of those jets that day, I was able to visualize – to some degree – what people in that Kenova neighborhood saw on a rainy, foggy night in November 1970. It's almost as if I could peek into the plane's windows and see some of the passengers.

Ironically, I had this flashback on last Saturday (November 7), which just happened to be one week before the 45th anniversary of the tragedy. And this year – 2015 – the days and dates are the same as they were in 1970. Marshall's plane went down on a Saturday night. This year's anniversary is on a Saturday.

This reminds me of the last chapter in my memoir, which pertains to having memories of events that happened so long ago. The title of that chapter?

"It's Always With You."

Craig T. Greenlee

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Part II: “Plane crash was a defining moment ..”

This bronze memorial, erected in 2000, honors those who perished in the crash.
Mickey Jackson is a Marshall graduate
who was also a star running back for the
Thundering Herd in the mid-1960s.
Editor's Note: Here is the second installment of a three-part series about the 1970 Marshall University plane crash. On a dreadful night nearly 45 years ago, the Thundering Herd's plane crashed on its return trip from a road game at East Carolina. Everyone aboard – 75 people in all – lost their lives. In today's entry, Mickey Jackson gives a straight-to-the-point synopsis of how the plane crash affected him personally. He was Marshall's  running backs coach in 1970. Jackson was out of town on a scouting assignment the weekend of the crash, so he was not on the plane. In the aftermath of the tragedy, he stayed on as an assistant coach and helped with the rebuilding of the program (1971-73). After leaving MU, Jackson joined the staff at Ohio State where he coached running back Archie Griffin, the only player in college football history to win the Heisman Trophy twice (1974-75).

The plane crash was a defining moment in my life. It was a defining moment for the University and the Huntington (West Virginia) community as well. 

That moment is one that none of us will ever forget and not want to forget.

The tragedy removed these words from my vocabulary:
* I quit.
* I can't.
* I give up!

Those words were replaced with the quiet voice of courage, persistence and determination. My commitment to help rebuild the football program and move forward in life required perseverance in taking small steps daily to achieve long term success.

We will always honor and pay tribute to the memory of those who we all miss so dearly.

Mickey Jackson

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Part I: “Numbed .. not knowing what to do .. "

This photo of the Campus Christian Center  was taken on the night
of the crash by a Marshall University  yearbook photographer. 
Editor's Note: The is the first installment of a three-part series on the 1970 Marshall University air tragedy. On a dreary night, nearly 45 years ago, the Thundering Herd's plane crashed on its return from a road game at East Carolina. Everyone on board – 75 people in all – lost their lives. Marshall alumnus Bill Dodson, who attended MU in the late '60s/early '70s, shares some of his insight about the disaster that touched the lives of so many people in Huntington, West Virginia and its surrounding communities.

On November 14, 1970 my life would be changed forever. But it was the day before that set in motion a chain of events that are etched in my memory.

An on-campus fight took place after an intramural football game between Black United Students (BUS) and Kappa Alpha Order, a white fraternity, who waved a confederate flag. This was a practice of theirs during a recreation of “Old South Week,” which was a custom on Marshall University's campus.

This irked black students as the game proceeded. There's a picture of me in Marshall's yearbook, blowing my nose on a piece of a confederate flag!
Bad referee calls and the outcome of the game (BUS loss) drew heated tempers and a confrontation followed afterwards. A few people were cut in the fight and students fled before the police arrived.

When a young man came into the Twin Towers cafeteria carrying that flag, a black female student punched him out! The disturbance moved to the dorm lobby where Marshall's dean of students and white fraternity members had assembled.
Two Marshall football players, Larry “Gov” Brown and Larry “Dupree” Sanders came through from the cafeteria on their way to the bus which took the team to the airport. 

That night we cautioned others not to go out alone fearing retribution.
This was the case the following evening as word came over the television of the plane crash. A pall came over us all with the realization of what had happened. As a resident adviser in South Hall, I went back to the dorm and sent my date to her room.

Everyone was numbed by this experience not knowing what to do. Emergency services were hastily set up at Gullickson Hall with cots and counselors.

Over the next few days, I was numbed by the amount of loss and attended the memorial service where Nate Ruffin spoke to honor our classmates. Nate played football, but he was injured and didn't make the plane trip, so his life was spared.

Ironically, a Philadelphia minister, Ernie Wilson, had visited the campus a week before the tragedy. Like the 'Pied Piper', students followed this former New Orleans jazz musician to a worship service held at the Campus Christian Center. He gave his testimony and offered an invitation to accept Jesus Christ.

I responded to that invitation along with '”the Gov” and “Dupree” that day. I did not recall this memory until much later and was struck by the irony.

Pastor Wilson had come (to town) reluctantly to fill in for another evangelist who had a scheduling conflict. This act is etched in my memory as a symbol of grace. I did not understand its significance, but was encouraged by this “flicker of light” during a very dark chapter of my life.

I have now grown to trust in God and I have the hope of seeing our friends again in eternity. The first person I will look for is my friend Nate Ruffin who will lead me to see “the fellas” once again!
Bill Dodson

Tomorrow: Part II – Former coach shares his thoughts

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Heads up ... 3-Part Series Is Coming Your Way

It truly is mind-blowing to eyeball a calendar this week and realize that in a few days -- it will be 45 years since the plane crash that nearly decimated Marshall University's football team. What I know about that time in history doesn't come from second-hand knowledge and/or hearsay.

I was there -- along with a number of others who were on the scene at that time. A few days ago, I saw a post on Facebook from a college classmate (Gina Starling-Gunn) and got an idea. Gina offered some of her recollections. The responses to her post revealed just how much of an impact that event had on the minds of all of us who were in our late teens and early 20s' back in 1970.

Those responses also serve as a reminder that my decision to write a memoir about "that night" was the right decision. The book November Ever After was published four years ago, and it continues to resonate deeply with readers of all ages (see

So .... here's what's coming over next three days. Starting on Wednesday, November 11, the first of a three-part series will be published. Three people who have deep and lasting connections to the crash, will share their thoughts about a devastating night that none of us will ever forget.

Stayed tuned.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Ex- jock's blog entry touches "A Fan Forever"

Archive photo of  author from MU media day in August 1969.
Editor's Note: Here's a response to one my entries on the November Ever After blog site. It's written by Ray Rideout, Jr., one of the co-hosts of the weekly podcast "Let's Talk Herd," a show devoted to Marshall University athletics. The podcast isn't a replication of most talk shows. It's unique in that discussions all come from a fan's perspective. You can check out the content at 

Recently I read a blog post written by Craig Greenlee titled “Return to Fairfield Stadium had a strange feel to it.” This post was centered around Mr. Greenlee’s return to Marshall University’s football team after the tragic plane crash that occurred November 14, 1970 where 75 players, coaches and fans were killed. What he wrote invoked so many emotions in me as a fan, it amazed me how he wrote so little, but said so much.

Greenlee had left the team in 1969 and had settled into being a “regular student” when the crash occurred. As I read his words, I felt that he conveyed the message of needing to return to the team in 1971 which shows his love of the sport and his university. 

I feel we all possess this love for our university sports programs. Greenlee was one of the few who were able to express this love through his God given ability and talent. He fought through the anger, and pain of loss to show us that there was light at the end of what seemed to be a never ending tunnel. It is because of this that I am honored to speak about him and his wonderful post.

When he wrote -- “As I trotted down the ramp from the locker room to go on the field, I couldn’t help but think about the guys who died in the crash” -- a chill ran over me, and I felt the lump hit my throat. He goes on to say that 13 of the 37 players that died that night came to Marshall in 1968, which was the same year he came to play football at Marshall. I would think that thought would be almost surreal, to the point that it almost seems impossible.

After losing so much, he returned to a field that was totally different from the one he left. Everything had changed for him; the field was now artificial, it had been crowned for drainage and the players he once played with on this field were now gone. 

“Depending on the direction of a given play, you’d run slightly uphill or slightly downhill. It took some getting used to, but I eventually got acclimated.” 

Mr. Greenlee, I am sure that the uphill plays were harder, but you pressed on and carried on a tradition that will never be forgotten. For this I truly thank you for being a Son of Marshall and being there when our town needed you the most.

A fan forever,

Ray Rideout, Jr
Let’s Talk Herd!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Review: Author reveals deep, personal connection

Craig T. Greenlee played safety in Marshall's secondary.
Everyone has heard about the horrific plane crash that broke the hearts of people across
West Virginia and the country in November 1970. Marshall University football players, coaches, family members, fans, and the flight crew were all killed returning home from a game at East Carolina University - just minutes from my hometown.

I wasn't alive then, but you don't grow up in the area I grew up in without knowing about that day.

There are books and movies about it, but there is always another side to the story ... the stories of those with a deep, personal connection to the tragedy.

November Ever After tells that story.

Author Craig T. Greenlee was a member of the Marshall football team for two years before leaving due to a lack of passion for the game. If not for that he could've (would've) been on that plane when it went down. He knew these people; had a vested interest in program and the people involved.

This is his story.
This is what he saw.

In the introduction, Greenlee is very clear about the fact that when it happened he tried to
avoid many of the news articles and things of that nature as he could. It was just too painful
to try to deal with.

But he couldn't avoid everything, and he still remembers what it was like
going through the grieving process. Greenlee has combined his own memories with a lot of
research to bring us the rest of the story.

November Ever After is a very well-written and emotional book. You can see the time that
was put into the writing and the research on every page, and you can feel the emotions as
you read. Greenlee puts it all out there so we as readers can try to get a better
understanding of what it was like in Huntington, West Virginia both before and after the

It's hard to explain how good this book is. No matter how many times you read about the
crash or watch the movie "We Are Marshall," you can't help but feel like something is missing.
The film shines an important spotlight on a dark spot in MU's history, but doesn't cover everything.

Greenlee successfully breaks it all down-the hope that the team was finally going to break
through as a top competitor, the devastation that overwhelmed the town, the rebuilding
process, even the racial tensions that almost destroyed the university before the tragedy took place.

The author makes it real. He makes you feel it all.

Whether you are just starting out learning about the crash or you are someone who has
done research of your own, this is a book you need to get. Now.

You don't just read this book, you experience it. Everyone needs to have this memoir on their personal book shelf.

Review by Vinzio

Monday, June 29, 2015

Not just a book .. it's an emotional experience

We all know about the tragedy that rocked West Virginia (and the country) in 1970, either from sports, reading about it, or watching the movie. The plane crash affected everyone-whether you lost someone on the flight or not. Both campuses at Marshall University and East Carolina University were silent that night. MU's football team was coming back from a game at ECU. 

People around the country struggled to understand what happened on the night when Marshall lost most of its varsity football team.. But there is always more to the story, especially for those that lived through it. 

Author Craig T. Greenlee gives us that part of the story in November Ever After.

Greenlee could have been on that plane when it went down. As a member of the storied '68 freshman team, he left the team before the start of the '70 varsity season that would end in tragedy. He has more than just a passing interest on the is personal to him. He knew these people and their families; he saw firsthand what the crash did to the university and the city of Huntington, West Virginia

Having that kind of personal account -- blended with the research that Greenlee clearly did a lot of  -- gives you a new perspective on everything that happened both before and after that fateful night, and it also helps you see the whole story.

No matter how much research you've done on the Marshall tragedy or how many times you've watched the movie  'We Are Marshall' you will learn things you never knew. You can't help but look at this event in a different light after reading this book. This is a much deeper look at the effect the crash had on the university and the town.

November Ever After is well written, informative, and it;s an emotional read. This memoir needs to be on everybody's must-read list whether you just have a slight curiosity about the rest of the story or whether it's a little more important to you. The first few pages lets you know that this book is different than the rest. This is more than just an incredible read -- it is an experience. You will feel the emotions on every page, and you will not want to put it down once you start.

Review by Renee