Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Exhibit honors Alabama players who died in crash

The exhibit is on display at a museum in Tuscaloosa, Alabama (Photo by Chris Pow/
        In the days immediately following the tragic plane crash, two local ministers helped to put together a trip that allowed Marshall’s black students to pay their final respects to their schoolmates who died on the night of November 14, 1970.
       The venture would prove to be a mixture of joyous memories and painful agony. Over a span of five days, a group of more than 50 students traveled by chartered bus to four different locations for a wake and three funerals. During that extended weekend journey, which I refer to as the “Homegoing Caravan,” students said their goodbyes to seven of the ten black football players who perished. The trip was put together by ministers Charles Smith and Dick Miller.
       Tuscaloosa, Alabama was one of four stops on a trip that covered more than 1,500 miles. Exactly one week after the crash, a joint funeral was held for the four deceased Marshall players who called Tuscaloosa home. Close to 3,000 mourners came to Druid High School to attend the service for Larry Sanders, Joe Hood, Robert VanHorn and Freddy Wilson, all of whom were graduates of Druid.
       I wasn’t in attendance that same day. Instead, I said farewell to my best friend Scottie Reese at his homegoing in Waco, Texas. From what I’ve been told, the sheer magnitude of grief on display in Tuscaloosa was overwhelming for everyone in attendance.
       That was probably to be expected. I remember the deep sadness I felt as I sat in the sanctuary and stared at Scotties’ closed casket. I could only imagine what it must have felt like for the folks in Alabama, especially the family members. To sit there and look at four closed caskets positioned side by side, was surely a gut-wrenching experience that will never be forgotten.
       It’s been over forty-one years since that day, but the folks in “T-town” haven’t forgotten. Last week, a permanent exhibit to honor the memory of Sanders, Hood, VanHorn and Wilson was put on public display at the newly-opened Warner Transportation Museum in Tuscaloosa.   
       The exhibit did attract media coverage. The article “Tuscaloosa to remember football players killed in 1970 Marshall plane crash …” was posted on, a state-wide, all-news website that covers all of Alabama. The story was written by Chris Pow, a sports journalist who covers Tuscaloosa and the western part of the state. Click here to read Pow's article. Once you’re on the site, you can click on the photo of the exhibit and enlarge it.


  1. Rich Cisney Jr./WXII 12 News (Winston-Salem, NC)Wednesday, February 29, 2012

    I knew of the tragedy, but was unaware of the impact it had on the African-American community. In particular, your description of The Homegoing in Tuscaloosa, Alabama was very insightful. I thank you for writing this memoir. As painful as it may have been at times, it gives a unique perspective to the events of that night and afterward. By the way, I will listen to the song "One Less Bell To Answer" with a different set of ears now. Take care, Sir.

  2. Finished your book about the MU plane crash. Great job! Our paths almost crossed. I graduated from Marshall in journalism in 1968 and was in the Army in Germany when the plane went down. You mention toward the end of your book that you were a sports writer at The Herald-Dispatch (West Virginia) in the early '70s. I was a reporter there during roughly the same time period--July 1972-Oct. 1973.

  3. My friends at Marshall, R.I.P.

  4. I was there in 1970. The people in Alabama were so hospitable. Flozell Horton, a football player who left Marshall the year before greeted us at Druid High School. This is a great tribute to our fallen heroes.

  5. Craig, their is nothing like Southern hospitality and the love that's genuinely shown down in Alabama.

  6. I would love to have a print of the whole thing (exhibit). Even better to go see it!