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.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The decade of the ‘70s got off to a tumultuous start

The Campus Christian Center at MU
       In retrospect, the start of the decade for the 1970s was tumultuous to say the least. As students at Marshall University, most of us were probably not too aware of how history continued to unfold as we dealt with the tragic loss of a football team in a fiery plane crash on a frigid night in November.
       It’s unlikely that any of us will ever forget the events that transpired during that time period. Aside from the November 14, 1970 plane crash, we witnessed drug raids where the National Guard was compelled to toss tear gas canisters in the direction of hostile groups of students.
       Violence did not take a vacation. The day before the plane crash, Marshall experienced one of its worst moments in a racial clash that had the potential to permanently wreck relations between the races on the Marshall campus. There was racism for sure. But it was not a one-sided proposition. Prejudice was evident on both sides of the fence. And sad part of it was that regardless of the source of racism, it was never justified.
        The Chief Justice Yearbook of ’71 addressed some of these issues in short piece that runs on pages 321-322. Here’s an excerpt from “A Recipe For Crisis.”

       A cup of drug raids
       A box of violence
       A jar of tear gas
       A dash of no president
       A jigger of administrative vacancies;
       Mix and let stand.
       Add an undetermined amount of tragedy, anguish, despair and grief
       Another dash of vacancies – football coaches, athletic director, sports information director, admissions director;
       Extract one football team
       Add one inept Board of Regents and too much WVU, complete with closed meetings and misplace priorities;
       Stir in (or up) some racial strife with stabbings, white and black racism…
       … and you’ve got the symptoms of crisis at Marshall University
       In the year of our Lord 1971 …

Friday, February 24, 2012

Book sheds light on "lives impacted by epic events"

Gary Young
By Gary Young

       My perspective might be a little different from others who have submitted comments to this blog.  I did not attend Marshall University, but I came to know about the tragedy through my connection with the Publishers Association of Los Angeles.
       I saw the movie We Are Marshall while I was visiting some of my family in Chicago.  We were thoroughly mesmerized.
       November Ever After presents the reality, which feels even more immediate, touching, absorbing, and personal.  Even from an outsider's point of view, this feels like an important book.  Even the clever title carries a rhythm that supports the poignancy in the book.
       Craig's personality comes through as a man who has embraced survival with vibrancy and humor, never forgetting the lessons learned along the way, including the continuing education that he has experienced through the publication of his book and the reactions from the readers.
       I do not want to review this book sentence by sentence.  It is colloquial, and therefore easy and friendly reading.  If there are a few “glitches,” they make the book even more real, and what book does not have editorial anomalies these days?
       This memoir is clearly an uplifting account of lives impacted by epic events.  I have loaned my copy of the book to family members, and I'm told it has been read four times so far.  
       I am impressed by Craig's ability to get the word out, and his mix of positive insights and realism in the words he wrote.  He is tireless and resourceful, which I applaud. I wish all of my authors would learn a little from his initiative.
Gary Young is president of the Publishers Association of Los Angeles ( and Director of Professional Development, Independent Writers of Southern California (  Gary and his wife Kathy co-authored the ground-breaking book  "LOSS and FOUND: Surviving the Loss of a Young Partner" (

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

“Never could get Herd football out of my system”

Fairfield Stadium got a much-needed facelift in 1970. (Photo/
        When I quit playing college football prior to the start of the ’71 season, I figured that I would have little or no affinity for Thundering Herd football. Oh sure, I attended home games, but other than that, didn’t keep up with it very much.
       My college career didn’t end the way I had hoped it would. Perhaps I should have hung in there a little longer and stayed the course. It wouldn’t have worked simply because I had no desire to compete—my heart just wasn’t in it. And there was no reason for me to pretend otherwise.
       As I would discover a little later, my personal feelings about football really didn’t matter all that much. It would be only a matter of time before I would reside right in the midst of those Saturday afternoons in the fall in which football dominated the mindset of a college campus and its surrounding community.
       When I say in the midst, I mean it the most literal sense.
       About eighteen months before graduation, I decided it was time for me to find another apartment. Eventually, I chose this location in this quiet neighborhood across town from campus. It was a brick house that had been divided into three apartments.
       When I read the newspaper ad about this place, I didn’t pay close attention to the address. So, I was surprised when I met the landlord for a visit and saw that the house was located across the street from Fairfield Stadium. Not only that, but from my bedroom window on the third floor, I could see most of the playing field.
       When I lived in that apartment on Charleston Avenue, it was like having a free ticket to every home football game for the Herd. All I had to do was open the windows, take a sit-down on my bed and watch the action in the comfort of my abode.
       Just goes to show that for whatever reason, I never could get Herd football out of my system.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Marshall finally gets its long-awaited breakthrough

       November 17, 1984
       The moment had finally arrived.
       Marshall University was only a few minutes from winning a game that would assure the Thundering Herd of its first winning season in 20 years. But it wouldn’t come easy and there would be more than a few sweaty palms by the time the final gun sounded.
       The Herd held a 31-28 lead in a road game against Southern Conference rival East Tennessee State University. With two minutes left to play, East Tennessee put together a promising drive that could prove to be the game-winner.
       ET running back Jerry Butler caught a swing pass and was headed for a big yardage, when the Herd’s Tony Lellie forced a fumble. The loose ball bounced around for what seemed like an eternity before Marshall cornerback Leon Simms finally recovered near midfield.
       Marshall still had to get a first down in order to retain possession and run out the clock. If the Herd failed, the home team Buccaneers would get the ball back and another opportunity to pull off a late-game comeback.
      The Herd takes a time out with a minute and twenty-nine seconds left to play. Marshall turned to its ground game to seal the deal. On second-and-long yardage, Randy Clarkson (105 rushing yards on 28 carries) found enough running room for an eight-yard gain to give the Herd a desperately-needed first down.
       Marshall ran out the clock to secure its sixth win of the season to finish at 6-5. More importantly, the outcome represented a long-awaited breakthrough. It highlighted the Herd’s first winning season since the mid-‘60s.
       This was the game in which Marshall shed its image as a losing program. Entering the ’84 season, the Thundering Herd had the longest active streak of non-winning seasons in college football.
        A jubilant crowd of 2,500 fans from Huntington, West Virginia traveled 287 miles to Johnson City, Tennessee with high hopes that they would be eye witnesses to history. On that night, those hopes became reality.

Friday, February 17, 2012

August 1968: "It was like an NFL training camp"

Editor’s note: Here’s an excerpt from the memoir “November Ever After.” The following passage comes from the opening chapter – “Back in the Day.”

       Nothing was going to stop me from achieving my goal of earning a roster spot on a college team. Motivation was not a problem, and neither was the possibility that I might get homesick. I dreaded the thought of returning home and having to answer an endless number of questions about why I didn’t make it. For me, that would have been the ultimate embarrassment.
       Some way, somehow, I was going to make the most of this opportunity. Back then, football was definitely a second-class sport at Marshall. However, a dramatic metamorphosis began to take place when Perry Moss took over as head coach in 1968. At that juncture, Marshall was in freefall as a member of the Mid-American Conference.
       In the two seasons prior to Moss’s arrival, the Herd was woeful at two wins and eighteen losses. Things would not change immediately because NCAA rules prohibited freshmen from playing varsity sports. Marshall went 0-9-1 in Moss’s first season, but help was on the way.
       Moss’s first crop of recruits, the freshman class of 1968, had an abundance of size, speed, and athleticism. At six feet, 160 pounds, I was not one of those ripped individuals. What I lacked in size, I made up for with good hands and better-than-decent speed (clocked 4.6 seconds in the forty-yard dash). Plus, I had the versatility to contribute as a wide receiver, defensive back, and kick returner. As for my weight room numbers, those were nonexistent because I never lifted weights. Speed and quickness were my fortes, and those tools had always served me well. I made the team as a walk-on wide receiver/defensive back. By the time our season began, I was the starter at free safety.
       More than one hundred players showed up for preseason practice in August. It was like an NFL training camp. The athletes, many of whom were black, came mostly from the Southern states. Marshall didn’t have many black students when the ’68 freshman class arrived. The previous year, the school’s head count was in the neighborhood of 7,000, which included an estimated 125 blacks. (Documentation of the number of blacks attending MU in ’67 is not available.)
       It was never said publicly, but it was clear that Moss’s master plan for a football turnaround centered on bringing in large numbers of black athletes. So it was hardly surprising that roughly half of the freshman football team’s sixty-player roster was black.
       Fast-forward by forty-plus years and the number count reveals some interesting findings. In the fall semester of 2010, Marshall had 13,718 students. Of that total, blacks
made up 4.6 percent of the student body. In the meantime, there was a noticeable boost in the number of black football players, compared to back in the day. Black athletes comprised 61 percent of the Thundering Herd’s ninety-eight-player roster for the 2010 season.
       In ’68, the coaches needed a way to help them sort through all the new faces. We had to put two-inch wide tape on the front of our helmets and write our names on the tape with a felt-tip marker just so the coaches could tell who was who.
       Dickie Carter, a sophomore running back that year, has vivid recollections about that first class of recruits brought in by Moss. He couldn’t help but take notice. The varsity occupied one of the practice fields and the freshmen practiced on an adjacent field. Those practice fields, which were mostly dirt with patches of grass here and there, had no need for manicuring. One of the fields was surrounded by a quarter-mile gravel track. There were days when the combination of dirt, gravel, and swirling winds transformed that field into a dust bowl.
       “I remember all the different-color jerseys,” Dickie told me during an interview. “It seemed like there were enough new players to make two or three teams. And when I looked around and saw so many blacks, it was something that I wasn’t used to seeing (at Marshall). After watching the players for a while, I got the feeling that these new guys are gonna be all right.”
       With so many players from so many different places, everyone on that freshman team had his own story to tell about coming to West Virginia to play ball. One of the most frequently repeated stories involved a recruit from Louisiana (I can’t remember who).
       On the long ride from Bayou country to Huntington, West Virginia, the Greyhound bus made its regularly scheduled stop in Bluefield, West Virginia. As soon as the prospect got off the bus to walk around and stretch his legs, he was approached by an inquisitive baggage handler who said, “Hey, son, where ya’ headed?”
       “Goin’ to Marshall,” the recruit answered.
       As he conducted a visual inspection of the recruit, the baggage handler
asked if he played football.
       “Sure do.”
       For some reason, he wasn’t convinced that the bulky youngster really was a football player.
       “Hmmmm. I don’t know. I heard they got some beef up there at Marshall. How tall are ya’?”
       “Six feet, three.”
       “How much you weigh?”
       “Two hundred and sixty pounds.”
       After taking another look at the husky specimen, he declared: “Hmmmm. You might make it!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Is Randy Moss's comeback bid realistic? Sure it is

Editor’s Note: Randy Moss represents the zenith of Marshall University football. But those players who came before Moss are the connecting links between the football program’s past and its glory years of the ‘90s. This is especially true for those football athletes from the late ‘60s/early ‘70s. The group from that era was the genesis of what was to come in later years. Had it not been for the recruiting scandal of ’69 and the tragic plane crash the following year, it’s safe to say that the Thundering Herd would have made its mark on college football way before the 1990s.

       Randy Moss is making a comeback to pro football. When the former Marshall star and future Hall of Fame wide receiver retired last August, I never believed he would stay gone for long. My guess is that he could have still been in the NFL this past season. What it came down to is that Moss wanted a bigger paycheck and those teams who showed interest declined to meet his salary requirements.
       This time, things figure to be much different. Some team will sign Moss if the price is right. Translation? Whatever salary amount Moss is offered will not be on the high-side of the pay scale.
       If Moss sincerely wants to get another shot at playing pro ball, he will gladly accept the NFL minimum paycheck. For a player with his length of tenure, that would amount to $925,000 a year. That’s not super-star money by any means, but it’s much better than zero, which is what he earned last season when he wasn’t under contract. To help ensure that Moss is adequately motivated to play his best, any contract he signs should be performance-based. With enough incentives added to his contact, he would have the opportunity to match or exceed his base salary if he meets the contract’s criteria for earning bonus money.      
       Yeah, sure, Moss is 35, which is considered ancient for a pro football wide-out. Moss, however, has never been your typical NFL athlete. At 6-feet-4 inches 210 pounds, he may not be as fleet on his feet these days. But that’s all relative. In his youth, Moss could run 4.2 seconds in the 40-yard dash all day. Now he’s a tad bit slower, probably runs in the 4.3s, which by the way still a lot faster than most NFL defensive backs.
       But just as importantly, he’s never suffered any major injuries during his 12-year career. The knees, legs and ankles are OK, which means he’s good to go.
       If Moss can produce and be a model citizen, he could be around for another two seasons, maybe three. If that turns out to be the case, you can expect Moss to make a serious run at Jerry Rice’s all-time receiving records...

Monday, February 13, 2012

'71 AD: Fan support critical for program's survival

        When Marshall hired Joe McMullen as the new athletics director less than three months after the 1970 plane crash, it was clear signal that Thundering Herd football would not bite the dust. It was reasonable assumption.
       After all, McMullen had been a college football coach for many years prior to him becoming an athletic administrator. Even so, there was one burning question on the minds of everyone who had any level of interest in MU football. How would the new AD go about rebuilding a program that had been nearly decimated?
       The choice was made to build primarily with freshmen as opposed to the wholesale recruiting of junior college players. The 1971 season exceeded everyone’s expectations, which included those pessimists who fervently believed that MU would be better off without football. Given the circumstances, the Young Herd looked pretty good after finishing up at 2-8 in its first season after the tragedy.
       McMullen, however, knew about the harsh economic realities of keeping a football program afloat. He knew all about the vision and commitment it takes to operate a successful program. But he was also keenly aware that it would take support in the form of putting people in the stadium seats and figuring out ways to boost season ticket sales. McMullen was candid in an article he wrote for the school’s Chief Justice Yearbook (1971-72 school year).
       “I think next season there will be more pressure to win and higher expectations,” McMullen wrote. “Opponents will be less likely to overlook Marshall. We have to see the season ticket sales increase, encourage more students to attend (games), and fill the stadium. In order to build, we need the support and the income from the tickets.”

Friday, February 10, 2012

Young Herd delivers unlikely upset at Homecoming

Reggie Oliver fires a pass downfield against Bowling Green's defense.
        There wasn’t a whole lot that went right for the Young Thundering Herd in ’71, which was the season after the plane crash that wiped out most of Marshall’s varsity football team. But on Homecoming Day of that year, all went well as MU delivered a shocking 12-10 upset of highly-regarded Bowling Green State University.
       In some respects, this was an unconventional victory. Marshall had a better than average passing game, but against the Falcons, the Herd rolled with a 193 rushing yards against one of the nation’s top defenses. John Johnstonbaugh ran for 98 yards and one touchdown to lead MU. Back-up quarterback David Walsh scored the game-winner on a two-yard run early in the fourth quarter.
       The Young Herd did its part to bring home the victory. Linebacker Charles Henry spearheaded an inspired defensive effort with his game-high 20 tackles. The Falcons, who entered the game with a 5-1 record and a shot at landing a berth in the Peach Bowl, had one final drive that would’ve spoiled Marshall’s Homecoming celebration. The Herd came through with a third-down stop at its 20-yard line. It appeared that Bill White would pull this one out for Bowling Green, but he missed on a 37-yard field goal try.
       This was supposed to be a no-doubt-about-it win for Bowling Green. A week before Marshall’s Homecoming, the Falcons handled Miami of Ohio very easily in a surprisingly one-sided 33-7 win. This was the same Miami team that walloped the Young Herd 66-6 earlier in the season.
        In retrospect, the Falcons doomed themselves by doing some homework. Bowling Green coach Don Nehlen provided plenty of bulletin board material with a public statement he made in the days leading up his team’s game against Marshall. The newspaper quote read: Marshall doesn’t have the personnel to hurt us on the ground.”
       As things turned out, that was just the beginning of Bowling Green’s miscalculations. The Falcons coaching staff didn’t bother to find out that Marshall had installed artificial turf and was no longer playing on grass. As a result, Bowling Green was outfitted with cleats that were designed strictly for grass. Wearing grass-surface cleats on artificial turf causes traction problems and the Falcons struggle with keeping their footing all game long.
       But that wasn’t all. The temperature that day was unseasonably hot (in the mid-80s) and the Falcons opted to wear wool jerseys. The heat combined with the heavy jerseys was the same as playing in a sauna. All game long coach, Bowling Green’s trainers were kept busy pouring cold water and ice over the players to keep them cool.
       On the opposite sideline, coach Jack Lengyel brought in a giant cooler for his team to sit in, which allowed them to stay cool.
       The Bowling Green game would be the second and last win of the season for the Young Herd. In a way it was like déjà vu from two years earlier when Marshall ended its 27-game non-winning streak with a 21-16 win in the mud over Bowling Green, which was also a Homecoming game.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A week after miracle win, Herd gets body-slammed

         Marshall’s heart-stopping 15-13 win over Xavier in ’71 had the whole campus riding on Cloud Nine. The afterglow of this historic upset produced seven days of euphoria for the Young Herd’s following.
        Reality was bound to set in, and it did, in a major way. A week after Xavier, Marshall’s youthful squad was in for a humbling experience. The folks at Fairfield Stadium had witnessed a miracle in MU's home opener. But the following week, they would cringe at hearing the news of how Miami of Ohio hammered Marshall by scoring nine touchdowns and a field goal in a runaway non-contest.
        The Young Thundering Herd suffered a 66-6 beat-down defeat. The loss ranked among the worst in school history. MU avoided a shut-out when linebacker Dave Smith blocked a punt and cornerback Felix Jordan picked up the loose ball and ran it back 36 yards for a touchdown.
        Entering the Miami game, most of the MU faithful had good reason to believe that their heroes would find a way to hold their own. After all, they did beat the same Xavier team that played Miami tough in a 17-7 loss earlier that season.
        Against Xavier, everything seemed to fall into place for the Herd. But on the road trip to Oxford, Ohio, it was quite the opposite. Everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong.
        This was a game in which the statistics provided an accurate summation of how over-matched Marshall was on that day. Miami ran for 359 yards and the Herd’s ground attack finished with –minus 21 yards.
       Marshall managed a meager two yards of total offense and two first downs for the entire game. But that’s not all. The Herd’s offense didn’t get a first down until the third quarter and the only reason that happened was because of a 15-yard penalty against Miami.
       Reggie Oliver, the sophomore quarterback who orchestrated the game-winning drive against Xavier, did not play against the Redskins. Oliver was sidelined by a shoulder separation, but he did make the trip and watched the onslaught from the sidelines in street clothes.
       No doubt, this game was memorable for all the wrong reasons.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Remembering the joy of the Marshall miracle in '71

Herd running back Terry Gardner

       Marshall University’s first home football game of the ’71 season was a game for the ages. Here are a few reasons why.
  • The Thundering Herd beat Xavier of Ohio 15-13 in the most dramatic fashion—on the very last play of the game. The final gun had already sounded when Reggie Oliver threw a screen pass to Terry Gardner, who raced to the end zone untouched for the 13-yard game-winning touchdown.
  • The ’70 plane crash wiped out most of the varsity team. To help MU field a team for ’71, the NCAA granted Marshall a special exemption which allowed freshmen to play varsity ball. The young Herd, comprised primarily of freshmen and sophomores, defeated an Xavier team whose roster had a good number of upperclassmen. Given those circumstances, Marshall’s victory was unprecedented
  • The game-winning touchdown is acknowledged as one of the most memorable in the annals of NCAA football. ESPN ranks the Marshall miracle on its list of the Top 100 Plays in College Football (No. 83).
       Minutes after Gardner scored, the near-capacity crowd at Fairfield Stadium (about 13,000) poured onto the field to bask in the celebration of an upset win that is arguably the greatest moment in the history Marshall’s football program.
        I hung around the stadium after that game for about thirty minutes or so. It was amazing to observe people’s reactions in the aftermath of the Marshall miracle. Some people broke down in tears. Others couldn’t contain their exuberance. There was more whooping and hollering than anyone could ever imagine. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think that the Herd had won a national championship.
        The fact that Marshall even had a team in ’71 was reason enough to rejoice. As someone who attended the Xavier-MU game, it’s hard to adequately explain my emotions as I watched a youthful squad win a game only ten months after the air crash that killed most of my former teammates.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Friday Q&A: Cheerleader's recollections ... Part II

In today’s Q&A interview, Carol Richardson McCullough shares her insights and memories about her time at Marshall University in the years following the plane crash (1972-76). She is a Marshall graduate and former Thundering Herd cheerleader.

       Q: What are your memories from the night of the Marshall University football plane crash?
       A: Many moons have passed, but I mainly remember what a terribly stormy night it was on November 14, 1970. The rain fell hard in Charleston, West Virginia, to the point that I was mildly concerned about my parents who were out for the evening.
       I was watching television when the crawl (about the crash) came across the bottom of the screen. I was stunned. I remember tears welling up swiftly as the magnitude of the loss sank in. For some reason, I tend to feel a strong sense of empathy for others when I know they hurt badly. There are times when I cry at movies, and lately when reading books, if the book is well written.  
       Q: Now that you’ve read November Ever After, does it help you to have a better understanding of why you never heard any discussions about the tragedy?
       A: I do have a better feel for reasons for the silence on the subject of the crash. Most likely everyone just tried to “soldier on” and push themselves through the daily activities of college life. They probably placed that horrific pain way back, deep inside their own minds. That way, they were able to pull out memories at such times when their psyches could process and handle it. Back then, people didn't talk about things. At least, black people didn't. If you had a problem, you kept it to yourself and did your best to work through it. As was stated in November Ever After, there were no grief counselors, no studies in post-traumatic stress. There was pot, and booze, and sometimes sex masquerading as love, which was used to try and patch the holes in the hearts of some of those who were left behind...or so I would imagine.
       Q: Were you surprised to find out that there were issues about Debbie (Bailey-Bowen) being the school’s first black cheerleader?
       A: I was quite surprised. I knew the “firstie” would most likely face a racial mountain, but I did not realize the squad wasn't integrated until 1970. Public schools in Charleston integrated in 1957 or so. I first cheered in junior high school, in the seventh grade circa '67 on an “integrated” squad at an integrated school. I do remember some concern about Huntington not being as progressive as Charleston ...crosses being burned on the highways connecting the two cities and that sort of thing. I owe Debbie a debt of gratitude for paving the way for me. My time on the squad at Marshall was a lot of fun, and I was never made to feel like an outsider. I'm glad the football players were protective of Debbie, and that they demanded that she be given a genuine opportunity to earn a place on the squad.
       Q: It’s been over forty-one years since the crash. What are your thoughts about it now?
       A: I can only imagine what it would have felt like to lose so many close friends and associates in an instant—and then to have to find a way to carry on...Those Marshall days were extraordinary, and the young men and women who lived through that time period and beyond were tested by fire... and they came out golden.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A cheerleader's recollections from back in the day

Hi Craig,

       Purchased and read November Ever After this past weekend. I attended Marshall University from 1972-76. I was born and raised in Charleston, West Virginia, the daughter of a high school coach who was a stand-out letterman at West Virginia State College.
       I remember the night of the plane crash even though I was just a sophomore in high school at the time. One of the things I remember about my time at Marshall is that no one spoke of the tragedy even though it had happened only two years earlier. It was only more recently that I fully realized how many wounded schoolmates and acquaintances were walking around on campus during those days.
       Your book mentioned some folks I hadn't thought about in three decades ... some I couldn't even remember. It was enlightening, to say the least. I was a cheerleader at MU, first for the freshman basketball team, and then for the varsity teams during my sophomore, junior and senior years.
       I did not know about the racially-motivated resistance to blacks on the (cheerleading) squad prior to Debbie. In 1970, Debbie Bailey-Bowen became the school’s first black cheerleader. Debbie was a senior my freshman year. I cheered on the varsity squad with Marilyn Johnson and Radine Anderson.
       By the time I arrived at Marshall, I think the racial tensions concerning the Kappa Alpha fraternity may have cooled out just a bit. I don't ever remember seeing the Stars & Bars (Confederate flag) at any Marshall games.
- Carol Richardson McCullough

Carol Richardson McCullough is a Marshall University graduate and former Thundering Herd cheerleader.