Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Forgotten memories resurface with uncanny clarity

By Bill Dodson

       EDITOR’S NOTE: The following entry comes from a former schoolmate. Bill Dodson reminded me about a part of the November Ever After saga that should have been included in the book, but wasn’t. Gotta “fess up.” I missed it and have no excuses. Let me take this opportunity to publicly thank Bill for bringing this up. As you read this entry, you’ll come to understand that it’s yet another example of how there’s so much more to the Marshall tragedy than even the people who were left behind ever realized. Seemingly-dormant memories aren’t really dormant. All it takes is the proper stimuli for those forgotten memories to resurface with an uncanny clarity. Dodson writes:

       I noticed in your recollection of the organizing of the caravan, there was no mention of (book author) Alex Haley attending our (MU black students) meeting at the “Bus Station” that was held a few nights after the plane crash. Gaylord Stewart, a junior from Charleston (West Virginia), told me that this man doing research on slavery was speaking at Old Main Auditorium.
Bill Dodson

       He and I went over to explain to Mr. Haley why the black students were not in attendance. Mr. Haley asked to come to the meeting with us. It was not until the Roots television series came out that we knew anything about this man. He had also written The Autobiography of Malcolm X, which was one of the most highly-acclaimed books of that time period.
       There’s also something else I remember about the days and weeks leading up to November 14, 1970. Ernie Wilson, a Philadelphia minister, came to the campus a couple weeks before the crash. He told me that another man, evangelist Ross Rhoads, was supposed to come instead. Rhoads had a scheduling conflict and asked Ernie to come in his place.
       At first, Ernie begged off but was troubled by it and later agreed to come. David Buchanan, a friend of mine who most people referred to as a “Jesus Freak,” told me about Wilson, who came across the campus like a “Pied Piper” with students following him to the Campus Christian Center. He gave his testimony about being a jazz musician and how he came to the Lord.
       When he gave the invitation to accept Christ, many (including me) came forward. I recall that several football players, which included Larry “Dupree” Sanders and Larry “the Gov” Brown, responded to the call. I believe the Lord opened a window for those brothers at that meeting! We will see them again!
       All these memories had escaped me until a couple of weeks after the crash when Ernie Wilson returned to Marshall. I ran into him and he was startled by the events. But it was in those weeks after the crash that my memory of his earlier visit was revived. My mother lived in Philadelphia and I asked him to look in on her and he did.

Bill Dodson is the executive director of the Dayspring Christian Community Development Corporation in Columbus, Ohio.


  1. Reading your book. Well done brother, well done. I know a whole lot more now than I ever knew about Marshall, the Huntington socio-political landscape, the events that led up to that tragic night, and the tremendous effort by the entire community to cope and move forward.

  2. I finished the book in one sitting..... Back down memory lane ..