Monday, December 3, 2012

Book review: 1970 stories that need to be told


Editor’s Note: Here’s a book review on “November Ever After” that ran in the Charleston Gazette newspaper (West Virginia) on the day of the 42nd anniversary of the MU football tragedy.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Craig T. Greenlee was not killed in the 1970 Marshall plane crash for the simplest, least dramatic reason: He lost his passion for football and left the program in 1969.

Simple as that, he says. That is why he is not in that portrait of the '70 Thundering Herd, the one in which the players are posed standing up in rows on the Fairfield Stadium turf, a photo so indelibly etched in the minds of thousands of MU alumni and fans everywhere.

That is why he is alive, and more than 40 years after that fateful Nov. 14 crash, he has authored “November Ever After: A Memoir of Tragedy and Triumph in the Wake of the 1970 Marshall Football Plane Crash.” The book was released last year, but was not well publicized at the time.

Whether he wanted to admit it or not, Greenlee was right in the vortex of the crash's emotional aftermath. One-third of the players on the plane came to MU in 1968, as Greenlee did, to help reverse the school's gridiron fortunes.

As he tells it, “I'm the only living link with a connection to the Herd's undefeated freshman team of '68, who played in '69 and/or '70, and who also took part in the efforts to keep football on the school's athletic menu.”

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Greenlee to share insights on SuperTalk radio show

Craig T. Greenlee
It’s been 42 years since the Marshall University plane crash, yet the recollections from that time are still fresh in the minds of those who were on the scene at that time. A former football player-turned sportswriter knows all about it.

Craig T. Greenlee, the author of the memoir November Ever After, is one of the people who were left behind in the aftermath of MU aviation disaster, which is considered to be the worst in the history of American sports.

On the night of November 14, 1970, a DC-9 jet carrying most of the Thundering Herd’s football team, along with several coaches, school administrators and boosters, crashed while attempting to land. There were no survivors among the seventy-five passengers on board.

Greenlee will discuss his experiences and his book in an exclusive radio interview on the radio show, Planning For Tomorrow, Experiencing Today with host Fred Kitchen.

The 60-minute show will be broadcast on Friday (Nov. 30) at 9 a.m. on SuperTalk Radio 94.1 FM/WRVC 930 AM in Huntington, West Virginia. To listen to the live interview, 
go to http://www.supertalk941.com and click on: 


"Listen to SuperTalk Online!"

Planning For Tomorrow, Experiencing Today, which airs weekly, focuses on end-of-life issues and concerns as well as life events.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

November Ever After author: ‘It’s an amazing story’


Book author is a former defensive back for the Thundering Herd

       Editor’s Note: The following article appeared on the Life page of the Herald-Dispatch newspaper in Huntington, West Virginia on October 30.

By RACHEL BERRY
For The Herald-Dispatch

       The story of the 1970 plane crash that killed 75 people, including most of the Marshall University football team, has been told many times. But while films like “We Are Marshall” and the documentary “Ashes to Glory” focused on the events of the crash itself and its immediate aftermath, writer Craig Greenlee saw an important side to the story that wasn’t being told.
       “When you think about it, there were a lot of people who could have written this story, and I don’t know why they didn’t,” Greenlee said of his memoir “November Ever After,” a book that claims to tell the story of the Marshall plane crash as no one has before. “It’s an up-close and personal look at the Marshall plane crash and its aftermath as told by those who were left behind.”
       Greenlee, who played defensive back on the Marshall football team and quit just a year before the crash, counts himself among those who were left behind. For his book, he interviewed about 20 people who had some connection to the crash – girlfriends of the players who died, team members who were pulled from the plane at the last minute to make room for boosters. Woven through the book is also Greenlee’s story of grieving and helping rebuild after the tragedy.
       And Greenlee is an apt person to tell this story. In addition to his personal familiarity with the subject and those involved, Greenlee is a long-time sports writer who’s spent most of his career working in Atlanta and North Carolina. The idea for the book came when his editor at the Winston-Salem Journal (NC) asked him to write a story on the Marshall plane crash.
       Forty-two years after the crash, why do we need another account of what has become a well-documented event?  “It’s an amazing story. For most of us who were there, it was like it happened yesterday,” said Greenlee.
       He notes the little-known tales of how the crash altered lives, like that of a black preacher (Ed Carter) who was affiliated with the team. In the aftermath of the crash, his association with the Marshall football program allowed him to speak at churches that had previously barred black preachers from speaking.
       Greenlee also recalls students coming together to attend the far-flung funerals of deceased team members. “Maybe 55, 60 students, they chartered a bus and went to as many funerals as they could,” Greenlee said, noting that their caravan took them from Bluefield, W.Va. to Tuscaloosa, Ala., and back again.
       “November Ever After” is available now at Barnes & Noble stores around the country and locally at the Marshall bookstore and library, as well as the libraries of Cabell and Mingo counties and of West Virginia University. It is also available as an e-book (Kindle and the Nook). More information can be found on Greenlee’s website NovemberEverAfter.com

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Hicks has heavy heart in remembering crash

       Editor’s Note: The following article was published in the Herald-Dispatch newspaper in Huntington, West Virginia on Wednesday, November 14, which marked the 42nd anniversary of the Marshall plane crash. Hicks, a former defensive end has written a book about his days as a member of the Young Thundering Herd in the early 1970s. His book, “Against All Odds: Fourth Down & Forever,” is scheduled for release in December. Herald-Dispatch sportswriter David Walsh and Hicks were football teammates at MU.

BY DAVID WALSH
The Herald-Dispatch

       HUNTINGTON -- Lester Hicks heads to work Wednesday at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics in Marietta, Ga., with a heavy heart.
       Hicks will be thinking about Marshall University where his alma mater holds the annual plane crash memorial service at noon at Memorial Student Center. The ceremony honors the Thundering Herd players, coaches, staff, fans and flight crew -- 75 in all -- who lost their lives on Nov. 14, 1970, when the chartered jet bringing the them back from a 17-14 loss at East Carolina earlier in the day crashed short of the runway at Tri-State Airport in Kenova.
Les Hicks
       Hicks played for coach Jack Lengyel and the Young Thundering Herd in 1972-73. The 6-foot-5 defensive end came to Marshall after two years at Ellsworth Community College in Iowa Falls, Iowa. Hicks and his fellow teammates -- surviving freshmen from the 1970 class who didn't make the fateful trip, walk-ons, athletes recruited from other sports and the first post-crash recruiting class -- became one with the mission to revive a football  program that had been all but wiped out by the greatest air disaster in sports history.
       “That day will always etched in my heart,” Hicks said in a telephone interview from his home in Powder Springs, Ga. “I treat it like the loss of a family member. Every time someone talks about it, my heart breaks. The guys who went before me made the ultimate sacrifice.”
       To some people, the Marshall plane crash is a tragic footnote in sports history. To Hicks, it served as an inspiration to write a book about the event and how it inspired him to embrace a life of service. The title is, “Against All Odds -- 4th Down and Forever. How the Marshall football team plane crash inspired me.” Hicks hoped to have the books out in time for the crash anniversary, but said they should be available in early December. He is planning to do a Huntington book signing.
       “InSite,” a corporate publication of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, did an article on Hicks, an environmental safety engineer with Environmental, Safety and Health. Fellow employees and others -- thanks to all the social media -- either read or heard about that story and wanted to know more about Hicks and Marshall's rise from the ashes. Hicks later had a conversation with Dr. Marvin Mills, former safety department director at Marshall who is 91 and living in Lexington, Ky.
       “Dr. Mills told me that he wanted me to write this book,” Hicks said. “He said start writing it today.” Hicks received a big assist from Craig T. Greenlee, a Marshall graduate and former football player whose book about the Marshall plane crash – November Ever After – came out last year.
       Hicks, 61, talks about experiences ranging from age 4 when he lived in Reynolds, Ga., and his father George worked as a sharecropper all the way to earning college degrees, raising a family, climbing the ladder in business and blossoming into a community leader.
       He was a standout defensive end for Steubenville High School in 1969. Notre Dame, Ohio State, Nebraska, Pitt and other big-time schools made recruiting visits to the Ohio steel town. So did Marshall, but he didn't measure up when it came to grades, so it was off to community college.
       “I goofed off and it cost me,” Hicks said.
       As the first season at Ellsworth concluded, Hicks was in his room on that cold November night eating pizza and watching a football game when news about the Marshall plane crash came across the screen.
“I was in shock,” he said. “It was gut-wrenching. Eighteen to 21-year-olds flying off to play a football game, their girl friends and family waiting for them. In minutes, life was gone. There was a lot of heartbreak everywhere."
       Two quality seasons at Ellsworth meant Hicks had the big-time schools wanting him again. This time, Lengyel and the Young Thundering Herd won out over Notre Dame, Ohio State, Nebraska, Iowa State, Syracuse and Dayton to name a few.
       “Coach Lengyel was persistent,” Hicks said. “He said, 'I want you to be part of something. A lot of people want you, we need you. Step in and make a difference.' I thought about what if I'd gone there (1970). I could have been on that team. To lose them then would have been very difficult.”
       During his recruiting visit to Marshall in 1972, Hicks said he was walking in Gullickson Hall and saw a picture of the crash victims. One player, defensive end Scottie Reese, got his attention.
“I looked at the photo, saw Scottie Reese and said I want to play for him,” Hicks said. “He's a lot like me. I could play for this guy.”
       While at Ellsworth, Hicks battled injuries. At Marshall, the injury bug struck again. A partially torn deltoid muscle forced Hicks to wear a shoulder harness for two seasons. He passed out during a weight lifting session his first season and later nearly died before he learned he had viral hepatitis. He said he considered suicide in 1972.
       “My shoulder was constantly hurting and I was suffering with hepatitis, I felt like I let myself and my teammates down,” Hicks said. “I was always tired and weary. I thought where is my life going? Nowhere.”
Thank goodness for the talk Hicks had with Marshall supporter Nick Diniaco. “He talked me out of it. I made the decision I wanted to live. I became the citizen that Diniaco encouraged me to be.”
       Hicks wore No. 80, was known as “Praying Mantis,” and made yards tough to come by for opponents despite being undersized (212 pounds). Needless to say, Senior Day in 1973 was tough for Hicks. A 6-16 record for two years isn't what Hicks was used to.
       “I let Scottie down,” Hicks said. “I was never healthy. I didn't have my shoulder surgically repaired. That was not smart. However, I had a high threshold for pain. The competition kept getting better. You had to bring it or sit.”
       Marshall's down time in football continued until 1984 when the Thundering Herd won the final game that season at East Tennessee State to finish 6-5, its first winning record since 1964.
       Finally.
       Notoriety for something besides the plane crash.
       Championships in the Southern Conference and Mid-American Conference followed. Marshall won two NCAA Division I-AA national titles and was runner-up four times. The Herd went on to become the nation's winningest Division I program in the 1990s (114-25). Victories in six of eight bowl games, a No. 10 national ranking in 1999 after going undefeated, three Heisman Trophy candidates in wide-out Randy Moss and quarterbacks Chad Pennington and Byron Leftwich, and former Herd players suiting up for Super Bowl champions led by Troy Brown with three rings while with the New England Patriots.
       Hicks said having a part in helping the dreams become reality makes those days of playing in pain and making sacrifices worth it.
       “We kept the program going,” he said “We laid the foundation, one brick at a time. It didn't go well for a while, we were kind of mediocre, then came the late 1980s and 1990s. We took off. It made what we went through worthwhile. Seeing guys in the pros and on TV, success at the national level, Heisman candidates, all the bowls, the Joan (Marshall's Joan C. Edwards Stadium). ... Wow. We had staying power. It was meant to be.
       “Johnathan Goddard (former Herd linebacker who died in 2008 from injuries suffered in a motorcycle accident) is my favorite player. I loved his motor. I loved his heart.”
       Hicks said he got inspiration early in life from his mother Clifford Simmons Hicks, who died on Mother's Day in 1966. She was 51. He was one of 14 children and the first to go to college.
       “Her passion fueled my fire,” he said. “She literally worked herself to death. Football was my ticket out.”
       Adversity followed Hicks after he left Marshall. He had a near-fatal blood clot after a knee scope in 1992. And he was almost killed in a car crash in 2005, and later that year, suffered a ruptured appendix.
Hicks returned to the campus in October 2011 for a reunion of teams from the early 1970s. Hicks and the Young Herd also got attention from the 2006 movie “We Are Marshall” that made the world aware of one of the greatest comeback stories of all time.
       In 2005, Marshall University's Black Legends named Hicks as one of its 125 Most Impactful Black Athletes of the 20th Century.
       On Feb. 23, 2012, the Marietta Diversity Council and the African American Leadership Forum (AALF) held the 2012 Black History Month Celebration with a special employee recognition ceremony called, “Celebrating Our Legends of the Past, Present and Future.” Hicks was one of 22 Lockheed Martin employees honored. He was recognized for achievements in Sports/Community Service. He's been with the company 28 years.
       Hicks met his wife, Della, who is from Charleston, while he was at Marshall. They have a son Brian and three daughters, LeShea, Tiffany and Shante'. Hicks is actively engaged in the community, pouring the benefit of his experiences into others' lives on multiple fronts.
       He serves as a mentor to troubled youth, teaches Sunday school to 4-to-7 year old children, serves on the Cobb County (Ga.) Literacy Council to decrease the dropout rate and to improve literacy in the county and contacts colleges for prospective student-athletes if they first make it in the classroom.
       Yes, Hicks admits he will have mixed emotions Wednesday. Sorrow for the 75 individuals who had their lives cut way too short in his eyes. For the rise that university and that town has made from that dark day, the opportunity that university afforded a student-athlete and the tools it provided to help frame his character and prepare him to touch the lives of others through service and mentoring. ... grateful says it all.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

40+ years ago: it’s as if it happened yesterday


Memorial Fountain on the Marshall U. campus
       Today marks the 42nd anniversary of the worst aviation disaster in the history of American sports.          
       The night of November 14, 1970 was filled with unspeakable horror. The Southern Airways DC-9 jet carrying Marshall University’s football team, coaches, administrators and supporters, crashed into the side of a mountain and exploded. There were no survivors.
       The calendar confirms that the plane crash is a historic event that happened a very long time ago. Yet, my senses and my memory scream to differ. My recollections remain vivid. It still seems as if the crash happened yesterday.
        I played ball with most of the players on were on that plane. Had it not been for a decision I made to quit the team a year earlier, it’s quite possible that my life would’ve ended over four decades ago.
        This time of year is always a mixed bag for me. Memories of that night do not erase the enormous sense of loss that all of us felt. It forces me to wonder what might have been if there had never been a crash.
        Even though it was such a devastating time, there is a flip side to this. Eventually, there was cause for jubilation and celebration. In spite of near-decimation, Marshall did not kick its football program to the curb. The Thundering Herd endured some trying times, some frustrating times.
        But in the end, grit and perseverance fueled a comeback that is arguably the greatest in the history of college sports. After the crash, it took about a decade-and-a-half before the program would shed its losing image. Once that happened, the Herd was off and running. By the 1990s, Marshall had emerged a legitimate power. During that decade, no college football team in America won more games than the Thundering Herd.
       The ‘90s serves as a fitting tribute to those who perished in 1970. It was only right that Marshall continued the job that they had started so many years before.
       The 1970 Thundering Herd will never be forgotten.
       
       Click on video tab and watch the “November Ever After video tribute”
       

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Perseverance helped Marshall overcome ‘70 crash


Chad Pennington
By “The Coach”
       Chad Pennington dropped back to pass, looking downfield for the best wide receiver in the college game – Randy Moss. It was the 1997 Motor City Bowl and Marshall University would end up on the short end of a 34-31 loss to Mississippi.
       Moss would catch an 80-yard touchdown pass from Pennington on Marshall’s first play from scrimmage. For Marshall fans, however, it would mark another beginning, one of an era of dominance in which the Thundering Herd would win five Mid-American Conference championships in six years.
       Just 27 years earlier, Marshall football almost ceased to exist.
On November 14, 1970, while returning from a game at East Carolina, the Southern
Airways flight carrying 75 passengers, including 37 players and five coaches of the Marshall football team went down on a hillside outside of Huntington, West Virginia.
       Decision-makers at the university, including acting President Donald Dedmon, contemplated what to do with the football program. They wound up hiring Jack Lengyel, a Division III head coach at Wooster College in Ohio, to rebuild the program.
Randy Moss
       University officials pushed the NCAA for a waiver that would allow freshmen to compete at the varsity level, which was not permitted at that time. Lengyel, whose character was personified in the film We Are Marshall by Matthew McConaughey, built his team from the ground up, recruiting players from other sports and even advertising in the school newspaper for a place-kicker.
       Lengyel ended up winning just nine games in four seasons as the futility of the Marshall football program continued. Prior to “The Crash” (1966-69), the Herd had a winless streak of 0-26-1. After joining the Southern Conference in 1977, Marshall matched that dreadful streak before finally defeating Appalachian State, 17-10, in 1981.
       In 1984, under new head coach Stan Parrish, Marshall experienced its first winning season in two decades, finishing up at 6-5. What transpired over the next 20 years was nothing short of amazing.
       After Parrish led the Herd to two winning seasons, Coach George Chaump brought national prominence to Marshall at the Division I-AA level with back-to-back ten-win seasons and a trip to the 1987 national championship game.
       The success of Chaump’s teams in the late ‘80s led to a period of dominance in the ‘90s. Marshall won two NCAA Division I-AA championships, defeating Youngstown State in 1992 and Montana in 1996.
       The following year (1997), Marshall made the jump to Division I-A and became a member of the Mid-American Conference. Head coach Bob Pruett, a former Marshall player, would lead the Herd to five conference titles. During that stretch, the only team to beat Marshall in a MAC championship game was Toledo (2001).
       From ‘96 to 2004, Marshall won 94 games, which includes five bowl game victories. The Herd also had six seasons in which it won at least 10 games.
       Marshall’s gridiron success of the ‘90s was made possible by those who weathered the storm during the turbulent years following “The Crash.” 
       Without the vision of those who were willing to take a chance on continuing a football program in the wake of a disaster, Marshall would have never become the NCAA’s winningest football program in the 1990s.
       The scars of the accident still remain in the minds of those who were on the scene more than four decades ago. A historical road marker located near Tri-State Airport serves as a tribute in remembrance of the 75 crash victims. The flames of the horrible crash from so long ago have died out. Yet, the flame of Thundering Herd football will continue to burn for years to come.

Chad Pennington photo/ courtesy of The Bleacher Report
Randy Moss photo/courtesy of College Sports Kings.com

Click on “Audio” tab to listen to the featured episode
on the Black Authors Network
“An evening with Craig T. Greenlee and November Ever After”

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Blogger: Book 'gives the readers the rest'


       One of my favorite movies of all time is We Are Marshall. I am a sucker for movies like this, movies that tell of how a community overcame a horrible tragedy. I get goose bumps and teary-eyed every time I watch that movie.
Michele Mathews
       Of course, having actor Matthew McConaughey as the coach who rebuilds the team helps a little bit. In his memoir called November Ever After, Craig T. Greenlee tells the behind-the-scene stories of the football players who died that tragic night back on November 14, 1970.
       As a former teammate of those Marshall players, Greenlee has a unique connection because he did know most of the players who died. Greenlee is a freelance sports journalist and a Marshall graduate. Now he lives with his wife in North Carolina where he has become an accomplished photographer and graphic artist.
       Since the movie only gives some of the details of the tragedy, November Ever After gives the readers the rest. The book “delivers an up-close and personal look at the impact the tragedy had on those who were left behind.”
       After seeing We Are Marshall several times, I would love to read this book. The community is an inspiration to what a tragedy can do to people.
       If you want to read this book like I do, then go to Greenlee’s web site.

Michele Mathews writes contemporary fiction in novels and short stories and non-fiction as well as articles for various web sites.

Marshall football memoir featured on BAN Radio

       There’s a new featured episode on the Black Authors Network website.
       Host Ella Curry conducts a lengthy interview with Craig T. Greenlee who talks about his reasons for writing November Ever After, a memoir about the 1970 Marshall plane crash and its aftermath. During this interview, which was aired on blog talk radio, Greenlee announced that he will do a sequel, which he expects to publish within the next 12 to 18 months.
       Visit the Black Authors Network website here and scroll down to Featured Episode: “Evening with Craig T. Greenlee and November Ever After.”
       The Black Authors Network Literary Program aims to support the African-American community and to show people – through the Black Authors Network Radio – how that African-American writers are more than just a niche.
       BAN Radio brings wonderful stories to the minds and imaginations of everyone. We have stories to tell, using our voice and our experiences, that cross all races and cultures. The mission of the radio show is to give a platform for African-American authors, but to also show the diversity of genres within our literary community.
       The show, hosted by Ella Curry, publisher of Black Pearls Magazine Online, is a platform for authors who should be recognized as having cross-over genres. We are aware that there are authors that are totally targeted to AA readers, but why not discuss that? Why not make people aware that some books are written specifically for AA readers and some are cross-genre books meant to be enjoyed by all readers period?
     BAN Radio wants readers, all readers, to appreciate the work of Black Authors! Our stories are stories that can be embraced around the world.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Greenlee: ‘Memoir is a collaborative effort …’



       Author Craig T. Greenlee was the featured guest on last night’s Black Authors Network Showcase that aired on blog talk radio. During the 80-minute interview, Greenlee went into detail about how his book November Ever After sheds more light on the story of the Marshall crash than the popular film, We Are Marshall.
       The veteran sports journalist talks about former player Ed Carter and the evangelical global ministry he started that was based on him not being on the ill-fated flight. Carter’s Death Unto Life Ministry remains vibrant in its 36th year of existence.
       Greenlee also shares how he came to the decision to write a book about a story that’s so familiar to so people.
       “What I wrote has a lot of my perspective in it, but there’s more to it than that,” he said. “It really is a story whose time has finally come. This memoir is a collaborative effort that involves others, who like me, were left behind in the wake of the plane crash. What this book represents is the full-course meal. Watch the movie, then read my book and you’ll agree wholeheartedly.”


Monday, October 15, 2012

BAN Showcase interview rescheduled for tonight


        Technology doesn’t always work according to design. Due to unforeseen glitches, writer Craig T. Greenlee was unable to do his radio interview on the Black Authors Network Showcase that was scheduled to air last week.
       The live interview is rescheduled for tonight (October 15) at 8 o’clock.
       Greenlee, author of the memoir November Ever After, is a former college athlete who knew most of the players who died in the Marshall University plane crash that killed most of the school’s football team nearly 42 years ago. In tonight’s interview, he will discuss his book, which goes beyond the night of the crash and draws heavily on the never-told-before stories of those who were left behind.
       The one-hour show will be hosted by Ella Curry, president of EDC Creations and publisher of Black Pearls Magazine Online.
       Call (646) 200-0402 to ask questions or make comments. To listen to the program via computer, visit http://www.blogtalkradio.com/Black-Author-Network A chat line is available on the BAN website.
 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Review: (Book) great, but has flaws; a must read


       The book [November Ever After] is factually accurate. I remember Craig Greenlee as a Marshall player. I attended my first Marshall football game in person in 1969. That year I saw the East Carolina and Ohio University games.
       In the fateful season, 1970, I was a season ticket holder, and just a teenager. It was a difficult time for all in the Huntington community. The strengths of the book are numerous. The book covers racial events at Marshall University in the late 1960's-early 1970's in a mid-western and/or southern city in the US – Huntington, West Virginia.
       I liked the descriptions of the deceased players’ backgrounds and their brotherhood on and off of the football field. The author gives a first person account of the Marshall program, how it got to the fateful day, and the aftermath. The author, using his eyewitness experience, critiques with journalistic prowess the depictions of the tragedy via the Hollywood movie and the documentaries released describing the Marshall football program, past and present.
       However, I just wish the author had not made his perceptions of the racial harmony at Marshall and Huntington or lack thereof, prior to the time of the tragedy and its aftermath, a somewhat reoccurring theme throughout the book.
       A must read for any Marshall fan, or anyone interested in a human tragedy/triumph story involving collegiate athletics.
-- Samuel May, Amazon reviewer

Monday, October 8, 2012

Memoir’s purpose: to inspire and enlighten



 Hey Craig,

“… Finished reading your book … I have to say that it’s incredibly enlightening and thought provoking! Needless to say that I'm still in the overall “processing” stage. However, I no longer feel like I walked into a movie that was halfway over. I now have insight as to what happened before I arrived on campus (1971), and I can put together the pieces a whole lot better.
       I can better appreciate what you, Janice (Cooley), Ed (Carter), et al were dealing with amid all of the hope and hype concerning The Young Thundering Herd! I regret that you and I never sat and talked when we attended school together. I’m sure that I would have been a more “aware” young man – both socially and spiritually – than I was.”
Chuck Jackson
Houston, Texas


       Chuck Jackson’s comment to one of my blog entries confirmed what I already knew about the value of the memoir November Ever After. This is a story that needed to be written and it’s a story that’s worthy to be shared with the masses.
       For people such as Chuck, who came to Marshall after the tragedy, the book provides a proper frame of reference for what campus life was like before the crash. For those, like me, who were there at the time of the disaster, the book opens the door for some level of closure on an event that none of us will ever forget.
       Keep in mind that for those of us who were around on the night that Marshall’s plane went down, the football season of 1971 represented a truly a mixed bag. I can’t speak for everyone who suffered from the pain of losing their schoolmates. But I do feel safe in saying that most of us engaged in an emotional tug-of-war when it was time for the start of a new season with essentially a brand-new team – the “Young Thundering Herd”.
       None of would ever forget about the ’70 Marshall team that was gone and would never return. But on the other hand, there was cause to rejoice and cause to cling to renewed hope. In spite of the heavy losses, Marshall opted to continue playing football.
       In my mind, the fact that the school refused to deep-six its football program, will always serve as a fitting tribute to the seventy-five people who died in a fiery plane crash on November 14, 1970.

Tune-in tonight when author Craig T. Greenlee talks about his book “November Ever After” with host Ella Curry on the Black Authors Network Showcase. The one-hour show begins at 8 o’clock. Feel free to use the call-in line (646) 200-0402 to ask questions or offer comments.


Thursday, October 4, 2012

On Monday: BAN Showcase radio interview

Black Authors Network Showcase

Craig T. Greenlee, the author of November Ever After, will discuss his book as a featured guest on this one-hour show to be aired on blog talk radio. Show host is Ella Curry, president of EDC Creations and publisher of Black Pearls Magazine Online
... Showtime ... 
Monday, October 8, 2012
8 p.m. to 9 p.m.

All are welcome to tune-in and give some feedback

To get the hook-up:
Call-in line (646) 200-0402
Or, go online: 
http://www.blogtalkradio.com/Black-Author-Network
Chat room available on BAN's web site

The Black Authors Network celebrates the best in books, authors, book clubs and community leaders.

November Ever After: What readers have learned


       The Marshall University football plane crash is part of American sports history. The whole story, however, has never been told. That's all changed with the release of "November Ever After," a memoir written by a former MU defensive back who knew most of the players who died on the night of November 14, 1970. I've included a few factoids below that provides a clearer picture of what makes my book so very unique and so different than anything else that's ever been done on the topic. Here's a sampling of what you'll learn in reading a story whose time has finally come.
  • Previously-produced documentaries and the movie We Are Marshall created a much-needed national platform for the story. But, those media productions are only appetizers. November Ever After is the full-course meal.
  • This is high-profile sports history that's loaded with eyewitness input.
  • The complete story is so amazing that it sounds like fiction, but it’s not. As readers pour through the chapters, they discover how things played out in real life.
  • Content-rich memoir has provocative story line which includes romance, premonition, prophecy, denial, depression, revelation, relief and ecstasy.
  • This book is one-of-a-kind. It tells an old story with a twist that’s new and true.
  • Discover what things were really like when Marshall started rebuilding its football program in the months following the November plane crash.
  • Learn why life would never be the same for those who were left behind in the aftermath of the tragedy.
  • Get an up-close-and-personal look at personal relationships of girlfriends, personal friends, family members and loved ones of those players who perished.
  • The crash squashed a potentially-bloody race riot on the Marshall campus.                                                                                                                                                                 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Writer set for guest appearance on radio showcase


       The Black Authors Network Showcase celebrates the best in books, authors, book clubs and community leaders who address a wide range of subjects on blog talk radio on Mondays and Wednesdays.
       Next week, the showcase will feature November Ever After author Craig T. Greenlee as a special guest. He will discuss his book on the one-hour show, hosted by Ella Curry, president of EDC Creations and publisher of Black Pearls Magazine Online
       Show time is Monday, October 8 at 8 p.m.
       Greenlee is a former Marshall University athlete who knew most of the players who died in the plane crash that killed most of the school’s football team nearly 42 years ago. His memoir goes beyond the night of the crash and draws heavily on the never-told-before stories of those who were left behind.
       Everyone is invited to call-in and talk to the author at (646) 200-0402. You can listen in on your computer and enter the chat room at:
       Downloads of the broadcast will be available approximately one hour after the show is finished.
 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Feedback: Book offers fascinating look at crash

BY ED LANE

Editor’s Note: I’m always interested in what people think after they’ve read the book I wrote about the 1970 Marshall University plane crash – “November Ever After.” A few months back, I met Ed Lane and several other media people at a book signing event in North Carolina during the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Awards Weekend. Ed recently contacted me and shared his thoughts about my memoir (read below).

       Overall, I really enjoyed the book. It’s a quick read, concise, and to the point. It offers a fascinating look at the plane crash and its aftermath. So often when news stories of tragedy occur, people tend to focus on the immediate impact. They don't examine the after-effects. The book does a thorough job in covering that aspect of the disaster.
       In my opinion, the most memorable part of this book was reading about the trips that survivors went on as they attended the funerals of their schoolmates. There were countless examples how people showed their genuine care and compassion for one another. The writer’s decision to address the chilly racial atmosphere on campus serves as a sobering reminder about the ills of racial bigotry.
       I recommend this book because it delivers an accurate account of a historical event. It also introduces a side of the plane crash story that has generally been overlooked by the mainstream media. While the book’s author makes it clear that he’s not too thrilled with the movie “We Are Marshall,” I feel he was fairly accurate in his assessment of the film.
       The book did surprise me in one area in particular. Mr. Greenlee went the distance to explain and illustrate how this tragedy affected the crash victims’ significant others, friends and family members for many years after the crash.

Ed Lane is the host of the afternoon drive sports talk show “Southside Connection,” which airs Monday-Friday at 5 p.m.  on ESPN Southside 1160-AM in Martinsville, Virginia.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Paranormal happenings at Marshall crash site?

       Any reports of paranormal activity at the Marshall plane crash site? The question was posted in the Huntington, WVa. forum of the Topix.com website.
     On the night of November 14, 1970, a jetliner carrying most of Marshall University’s football team, coaching staff, school administrators and boosters, slammed into the side of a mountain as it attempted to land at Tri-State Airport. There were no survivors among the 75 passengers on board.
       You may or may not believe in the existence of the paranormal. Even so, the forum has some thought-provoking comments. A former airport employee – “A Witness” of Scott Depot, WVa. –  shared the following recollection on the forum in late October 2010: 

       Must have been 20 or so years back as far as I can remember. I was mowing the grass around the Tri-State Airport when I heard a loud roar and saw a large passenger jet slam into the hillside over the edge of where I was working.
       I thought I had lost my mind. But instinctively, I ran toward the site where I saw the plane crash. What did I find when I finally made it to what I later found out was the exact spot where the Marshall flight crashed?
       Nothing.
       It wasn't what I saw, but what I heard that sent shivers down my spine.
       I heard a faint chant, as if the 75 passengers of the doomed flight were speaking in unison, “we are, Marshall, we are, Marshall.” I didn't bother telling anyone for some time as I knew I would be labeled “psychotic.”
       To this day I know what I heard and no one will ever tell me otherwise.
       I always felt a presence in the air while I worked at the airport and that day was just far more bizarre than usual. People don't appreciate the great number of lives lost in the immediate area surrounding the airport. There's bound to be a lot of paranormal activity there. 
       “A Witness” isn’t the only person who weighed in on this topic. On this same Topix.com forum, “I Know” of South Point, Ohio wrote:
       There were some very strange occurrences that happened on campus while the crew for “We Are Marshall” was filming … especially during the filming of the fountain scene. I was there.
       The almost palpable presence of “something” is always there at the ceremony when MU celebrates the anniversary of the crash.
Photography: agrannysplaceisinthecockpit.blogspot.com

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Writer asks: Why tinker with a marvelous story?


Editor’s Note: Here’s a partial reprint of a news column that ran in a North Carolina daily paper about Craig T. Greenlee -- the author of the memoir “November Ever After.” The book focuses on the aftermath of the Marshall plane crash that killed most of the school’s football team. As a former teammate of the players who perished nearly forty-two years ago, Greenlee has a unique perspective about the tragedy.

BY SCOTT SEXTON
Winston-Salem Journal (NC)
       Like millions of others, Craig Greenlee saw "We Are Marshall," the 2006 film that depicted the rebuilding of the Marshall University football program after a plane crash Nov. 14, 1970 that killed 75 players, coaches and others.
       Unlike most moviegoers who were captivated by the film's can-do message, he didn't leave the theater feeling particularly upbeat.
       Greenlee knew most of those killed that day. He was on the team the previous two seasons — he walked away for personal reasons — and would come back to play the following season to help rebuild the program.
       And because of that, he knew that what was shown on the big screen wasn't what really happened.
       "So many things about what really happened were just … lost," said Greenlee. "The story is such a marvelous story. Why tinker with it?"
Click on the link below to read the rest of the column.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

August 1971: excitement, anticipation filled the air


        In the first season after the Marshall plane crash that killed most of the school’s football team, nobody had any idea of what to expect. Ten months earlier, on November 14, 1970, the unthinkable happened. A team that had showed so much promise was no longer around. Yet, there was an air of excitement and anticipation that engulfed the school and the city of Huntington, West Virginia when preseason practice started in August of 1971.
       Most of the players on ’70 freshman team came back, as well as the few varsity players who for one reason or another, didn’t go on the fatal trip. Marshall football, however, still was in desperate need of able and willing bodies. The NCAA helped out by allowing MU to play freshmen in varsity games, an unprecedented move at that time. That year, Marshall was the only place in America where freshmen could play varsity football for an NCAA-sanctioned program.
       Charles Henry, a 17-year old linebacker from South Carolina, was among that cast of college rookie hopefuls who were eager to take full advantage of the new freshman rule. Henry proved to be a mainstay during his days with the Thundering Herd (’71-’74). As a freshman, he became the youngest player to start in an NCAA varsity college football game. In 2006, Henry was inducted into the Marshall University Sports Hall of Fame.
       Henry recently shared his experiences and recollections during an interview on the “Lawson Brooks Show” on blog talk radio. Click on the link below to listen to this half-hour interview.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Bookwatch: Former jock’s memoir is a worthy read

       Editor’s Note: Here’s a summary note about the 2011 memoir regarding the Marshall plane crash that appeared in the Midwest Book Review.

       Dozens of young lives lost is a tragedy that should not be forgotten. November Ever After is a memoir from Craig T. Greenlee as he reflects on a terrible accident that claimed many lives in 1970, when a plane carrying Marshall University's football team tragically crashed.
       Greenlee writes he left the football team a year earlier for personal reasons, and in wake of the tragedy, he worked to rebuild the team. This is a story of recovery for the school and those who lost that day.
       November Ever After is very much worth considering for sports memoir collections.

-Helen’s Bookshelf
Midwest Book Review

Thursday, July 19, 2012

MU crash inspired Hicks to embrace a life of service

Les Hicks was honored by the Black Legends at MU in 2005.
Editor’s Note:   Les Hicks wasn’t around at the time of the Marshall plane crash that wiped out most of the school’s football team over forty-one years ago. Hicks, however, did play a significant role as one of the athletes who helped in the rebuilding of the football program. 
In 2005, Marshall University’s Black Legends named Hicks as one of its 125 Most Impactful Black Athletes to compete for any of the school’s sports teams in the 20th Century. A news article about Hicks was published in “InSite,” a corporate publication of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, an industry leader in aerospace, defense, and information security. 
Hicks, who earned his undergraduate and graduate degrees from Marshall, is a member of the environment senior safety engineer staff at Lockheed. Here's the "InSite" article in its entirety which was initially published in February of this year.

        For most people, the tragic aircraft accident that killed players, coaches and fans of Marshall University’s football team on Nov. 14, 1970, is a tragic footnote in sports history, as well as the subject of the 2006 movie, “We Are Marshall.”
       For Les Hicks, an environmental safety engineer with Environmental, Safety and Health at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics’ Marietta (Ga.) site, it is part of his life story. 
       Hicks was a member of the Marshall football program in 1972 and 1973, teams that took on the emotionally staggering task of re-establishing football at the school. A 6-feet-5 defensive end on what was dubbed the “Young Thundering Herd,” Hicks returned to the campus last October when the school held a 40th anniversary reunion of the Marshall teams of the early ‘70s that helped the school to rebuild the football program in the years immediately following the crash. Hicks and his teammates were honored during halftime of the 2011 Homecoming game against Rice University.
       The event allowed him to renew the bond he shares with his former teammates. Recently, he recalled the life-altering decision to choose Marshall over a range of more prominent suitors, such as Notre Dame, Ohio State, Iowa, Iowa State, Nebraska, California, Purdue, Illinois, West Virginia and Syracuse. 
       “Right after high school, I played at Ellsworth Community College in Iowa,” Hicks said. “When Jack Lengyel, the Marshall head coach, recruited me, he said, ‘other schools may want you, but we need you.’ It was then that I decided I needed to be at Marshall.”
       Hicks would join an eclectic group of athletes recruited from other sports, along with surviving freshmen players who didn’t make the fateful trip, and a host of walk-ons. Their task wasn’t so much to win championships, but to simply play competitively and position the program for future success.
       Along the way, the program endured its lumps, recording consecutive 2-9 seasons in 1971 and 1972 before managing a slight improvement to 4-7 in 1973. In an effort to get the program off the ground, Hicks and his teammates made their fair share of sacrifices, gaining perspective along the way.
       “I learned to sacrifice my talent for the betterment of the team by playing hurt and playing almost every position, including defensive tackle at 212 pounds, which probably cost me a potential career in the National Football League,” Hicks said. “On the football field, I worked as if I was to play for 100 years, and I prayed as if I was to die tomorrow.”
       Although the program struggled, the efforts of Hicks and his teammates eventually paid off. Marshall football would weather the lean years, grow stronger and ascend to elite status in Division I-AA, winning national championships in 1992 and 1996, along with eight conference titles. In 1997, the Thundering Herd would return to Division I-A, college football’s highest classification, as a member of the Mid-American Conference and would make eight bowl appearances from 1997 to 2009, winning six of the games.
       Marshall football would send noteworthy players to the NFL during that stretch, including wide receiver Randy Moss, quarterbacks Chad Pennington and Byron Leftwich and running back Ahmad Bradshaw, among others.
       All of that would not have happened without the dedication and perseverance that Hicks and his teammates demonstrated during the difficult years of rebuilding.
        “The program could have gone away,” Hicks said. “But we committed to the program, and later, guys like Moss, Pennington and Bradshaw would come through. It gives you a great sense of pride knowing you were part of the foundation of making that possible.”
       During his time at Marshall and in the years to follow, Hicks faced his share of adversity. He nearly died after passing out during a weight training session in college due to undetected viral hepatitis. He had a near-fatal blood clot after a knee scope in 1992. And he was almost killed in a car crash in 2005, and later that year, suffered a ruptured appendix.
       Those travails, as well as the memory of those who perished in the aircraft accident in 1971, taught him to treasure each moment and each breath.
       “I personally have learned that life is fragile. The loss of the players’ lives taught me to never take life for granted, regardless of my age. I felt privileged to be a Marshall University football player, and I felt an obligation to play through frustration, fatigue and a partially torn deltoid muscle.
       “I learned not to complain about anything because millions would love to have the good and the bad of my life. I treat each day as if it is my last day of living. As a result, I accomplish what I can by not leaving anything for tomorrow.”
       Hicks has been with Lockheed Martin for 27 years. His experience at Marshall cultivated life lessons that he brings to work each day, and, in fact, drove him to his career choice.
       “One thing about safety is that there are no trade secrets in this profession,” Hicks said. “The safety profession is a humanistic way of extending Godly love to the workforce by helping them stay safe. I am very passionate regarding the enforcement of safety rules because my father lost his eye while working on a job, and I have had a couple of childhood friends killed on the job.” 
       Hicks is actively engaged in the community, pouring the benefit of his experiences into others’ lives on multiple fronts. He serves as a mentor to troubled youth, teaches Sunday school to 4 to 7-year-old children at church and serves on the Cobb County (Ga.) Literacy Council to decrease the dropout rate and to improve literacy in the county.
       Hicks still stays in touch with Lengyel and shares something of a connection to the former coach with Tom Burbage, Aeronautics executive vice president and general manager of F-35 Program Integration at t Lockheed Martin.
       Burbage played football at the Naval Academy while attending there from 1965 to 1969; Lengyel served as athletic director at the academy from 1988 to 2001. Hicks and Burbage share occasional contact, discussing their football playing days and how their respective alma maters’ teams are performing.  
       In his wallet, Hicks keeps a lifetime pass to all Marshall University athletic events, a reward he and his teammates received for their crucial role in re-establishing the football program. It’s a fitting visual reminder for Hicks, who maintains an emotional tie to the program and university that did so much to form his character and prepare him to touch the lives of others through service and mentoring.