Monday, November 10, 2014

From the ashes of disaster, a ministry is born

Ed Carter uses his football background as a means to communicate the Gospel.
November 14 marks the 44th anniversary of the Marshall plane crash. For former Thundering Herd player Ed Carter, the memories will never fade to black.

Ed, a starter at offensive tackle on the 1970 team, would more than likely have been on the fatal flight that killed 75 people, which included most of Marshall’s varsity football squad. Ed was absent because of a death in his immediate family.

Dr. Carter is in his 41st year of ministry.
On the day Ed learned that his father had passed away in Texas, his mother told him in a phone conversation that she didn’t want him going on the flight.  There would be a crash, she explained, and there would be no survivors. Ed didn’t believe her. But because he didn’t want to upset his mother, he agreed to stay for a few extra days after the funeral.

It was a life-saving decision. But that’s only the beginning of the story.

Prior to his graduation from Marshall in 1974, Ed gave his life to Christ. Not long after that, he answered the call to preach. Evangelist Ed Carter is now in his 41st year as founder and director of Death Unto Life Ministries, which is headquartered in Chattanooga, Tenn.

This global ministry has touched the lives of people in America as well as other parts of the globe. Ed recently shared some of his reflections about the night of November 14, 1970 – a night that changed his life forever.

Q: It’s been over forty years since the plane crash. Why does it still matter?
EC: I should’ve been on that plane. The Lord sent me home for my Dad’s funeral and my Mom asked me to stay after the funeral. It’s for that reason that I missed my own funeral.

Q: Over the years, the central theme of your ministry has remained the same. Why do you believe the message still resonates?
EC: The name of the ministry is taken from John 5:24. The philosophy is that when I gave my life to the Lord, I passed from death unto life. Through this ministry, I’ve watched others do the same.

Q: What are some of your most vivid memories from the night of the crash?
EC: I was at my mother’s house when the news came that the Marshall plane had gone down and that there were no survivors. The next day, a reporter from United Press International called my Mom to offer condolences. She told them that it was a mistake – that I was not on the plane – and that I was actually sitting right next to her as she talked on the phone.

Q: How could your Mom know that the tragedy would take place?
EC: There were many times after that night when I asked her how she knew. What I do know is that it was not a premonition on her part. God put that bit of information in her mind when she called me to come home for my Dad’s funeral. I’ve always looked at that conversation as God’s warning to me of what was to come [on November 14].

Q: After your Dad’s funeral, you still had enough time to go back to West Virginia and join the team to make the trip to East Carolina. Are there times when you wonder why you weren’t on that plane?
EC: God is sovereign. I don’t know why I wasn’t on that plane. I don’t know why the lives of my teammates weren’t spared. What I do know is that He had a plan for my life. He saved my life, and then my soul. God allowed me to serve Him by calling me to preach.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

It's a rite of passage for Thundering Herd football

A college classmate of mine (Carol Richardson McCullough)  tagged me on Facebook recently. I was somewhat surprised when I checked it out. It's a newspaper article about Thundering Herd coach Doc Holliday and his insistence on requiring that all new MU players watch the movie "We Are Marshall."

When asked why watching the movie is required, Holliday spelled it out in the article. "I want to make sure they understand what it means to be a football player at Marshall," he said.

For those of you who have followed this blog on a regular basis, you already know my thoughts on the Hollywood version of the Marshall football tragedy and its aftermath. For those of you who don't know, here's my quick take on the film.

It's a good thing that the story finally got some play on the big screen. However, the film leaves out a lot of key details that shouldn't have been omitted. In other words, the complete story is so good that it doesn't need to be altered. That's one of the reasons why I pressed ahead to write November Ever After, a memoir about my time as a former Marshall defensive back who played with most of the guys who were on the fatal flight.

For all the notoriety that the movie provided, it's still only an appetizer when you consider the complete story. As I've said often and will continue to say: November Ever After is the full-course meal. It's a story whose time has finally come.

Given the feedback I've gotten from so many people since the book was published three years ago, a sequel is in the making. I'll provide more details about that in the coming months

The article mentioned earlier in this blog entry ran on October 1 in the Virginian-Pilot newspaper in Norfolk, Va. The piece ran as part of the coverage for the Marshall vs. Old Dominion football game played on October 4 in Norfolk.

By the way, Marshall crushed ODU 56-14 to go 5-0 for the season.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Flashback '70: unforgettable, unbelievable night

On a Friday afternoon in November of 1970, Marshall University's football team boarded a chartered jet plane at Tri-State Airport. Little did anyone know that by the next evening, the Thundering Herd's season would end abruptly and under the most tragic of circumstances.
 Thundering Herd takes the field from back in the day

On the night of November 14, Marshall's plane crashed short of the runway on the team's return trip from East Carolina. There were no survivors among the 75 passengers on board. Crash victims included most of the team and coaching staff, along with athletic administrators, media people, civic leaders, MU athletic supporters and the flight crew.

The school and the city of Huntington, West Virginia were stunned overwhelmed by deep sorrow. Not only did the crash touch everyone on and off the Marshall campus, but it cut across all racial, gender and socioeconomic lines. Right after the crash, there were stories circulating about how some of the players were superstitious and felt uneasy about leaving town to travel on a Friday the 13th.

But that's just part of the story. What really hits home is how life ended prematurely for so many young and talented men. Death prevented them from pursuing their dreams and aspirations. It's especially sad when you look at it from the standpoint of being in your early 20s, a time when most young adults are beginning to come into their own.

November 14, 1970 will never be forgotten. 

The memory will certainly remain fresh in the minds of those who were there at that time. This story, though, has a timeless quality to it that resonates with people who know little or nothing about Marshall University or the state of West Virginia. Even though the story strikes a strong cord among college football fans, it's also well received among those who have little or no interest in college football.

- David K.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Golf tournament honoring 1970 Herd kicker set

Latjerman played a key role as MU's placekicker
Marcelo Latjerman played just one season of varsity football at Marshall University. But during that one season, he showed much promise as one of the nation’s up-and-coming place-kickers. As a sophomore, his longest field goal of the season was a 47-yarder vs. Western Michigan.

Latjerman, a native of Lynhurst, New Jersey, was unable to finish his college career. He was among the 75 passengers who died in the Marshall plane crash on the night of November 14, 1970. There were no survivors in this tragedy which nearly decimated the Thundering Herd’s football team. Although it’s been nearly 44 years since the crash, the memories have not faded away.

Since 2007, the Latjerman family has honored the memory of Marcelo and the 1970 team with a golf tournament. This annual event serves as a fundraiser for a scholarship award which bears his name.

The Marcelo Latjerman Memorial Scholarship Golf Tournament will be held September 12 at the Silo Golf Course in Lavalette, West Virginia. Registration begins at 8 a.m. and tee-off is 10 a.m. Tournament proceeds are earmarked for academic and athletic scholarships at Marshall. Initially held in New Jersey, the tournament was moved to West Virginia last year.

Entry fee is $100 player/$400 per team. The fee entitles tourney participants to a light breakfast, along with lunch, a golf shirt, hat, and a mug. For more information, contact the tournament’s assistant director Mike Stapleton by email at or call 304-634-5274.

Monday, August 11, 2014

A "must read" for sports fans and media junkies

The horrific plane crash that killed most of Marshall University’s football team on November 14, 1970 is well known and will always be a fascinating part of college sports history. But what’s been revealed up until now contains a number of missing links.
Sports writer Craig T. Greenlee’s memoir November Ever After fills that void. The author has a unique connection to this story as a former teammate who knew most of the players who were passengers on the fatal flight.
Greenlee’s book delivers the details that only a seasoned journalist could dig up, and with the reverence that only someone personally touched by the tragedy could provide.
A number of facts about the Marshall story have been curiously left out in other media portrayals. A few examples include:
• The plane crash more than likely averted what could have been a full-scale race riot on the MU campus.
• Ed Carter, a former Marshall player who missed the trip, started an evangelical ministry as a result of him not being on that plane. Carter’s global ministry is still going strong today.
• Star running back Art Harris spoke frequently about death to his girlfriend Janice Cooley in the days leading up to the crash. Cooley confides to readers about how she has coped from the night of the crash until now.
• Approximately 60 Marshall students rode a chartered bus to attend the funeral services of seven of the players who perished. The group went on an emotionally-draining four-and-half day journey that covered over 1,500 miles.
The above is just a sampling; Greenlee covers much, much more.
Credit must be given to the media that have done their part in keeping the spirit of the Marshall football tragedy alive. But those versions are incomplete. Read November Ever After and get the raw, humbling story as told by those who were there.
What people are saying about November Ever After: “I was there. I saw the plane go down. This book was very real to me. Well written, factual. I learned some things I never knew. I’m glad I read it.” Karen Hauk – Amazon reviewer

Monday, July 14, 2014

Marshall story fascinates graduate filmmaker

My name is Katie Thompson and I am a graduate student in the Institute for Documentary Filmmaking at The George Washington University in Washington, DC. As part of our program, we were assigned a large project where we had to take a historical event with historical film footage – and on paper – produce a shooting script that detailed every shot and scene for a 5-minute film. This may sound easy, but I assure you it was not.

Most of my life growing up, I heard family stories about how my Uncle Billy was recruited to play football for Marshall University, but he chose not to go to college. Instead, he launched his own business, which later became quite successful. Had he gone to Marshall and played football, he would have been on the team in 1970, the year of the plane crash.

These types of “sliding door” moments have always fascinated me so I have never forgotten my uncle's story. Years later, the big blockbuster film We Are Marshall came out. As a result, Marshall University and the crash became known by a new generation. I couldn't believe the story I heard as a youngster was up on the big screen with Matthew McConaughey cast in the lead role.

The drama of the Hollywood film was striking, but as with any story, I knew there was more to it. I knew my uncle's experience was just a teeny-tiny fraction compared to those people who were directly or indirectly impacted by this horrible event. So, when we got the large-project assignment, I decided to dig deeper and find a smaller, tighter, more personal point of view for my project.

To my surprise, a friend sent me some information about author Craig Greenlee, who wrote November Ever After, a memoir about the crash and its aftermath. Craig so kindly agreed to be interviewed and shared his wealth of knowledge, insight and personal experience regarding Marshall and the crash.

It was wild for me to hear that he was on the team and decided not to play that year. Craig’s best friend was killed in the crash and he even joined the team the following year when the program was rebuilding. I was honored to hear his stories and I could have listened for hours! I think this event in history was obviously horrible and tragic, but I also think there were parts of it where the community came together, which is inspiring as well.

Barriers of race, personal differences, or conflicts were temporarily put aside. It was a much needed effort for the school and community to pull together in the wake of having to deal with so much loss. My project presents just a tiny piece of this huge story. On a personal level, researching this project proved to be an experience that was both eye-opening and amazing.

It’s my sincere hope that through this project, I can help continue sharing the story and the legacy of Marshall University in a positive way.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

So much more to memoir than football

The well-known story of the 1970 Marshall University plane crash goes far beyond the gridiron and the near-decimation of a program that found a way to survive a tragedy of the highest degree.

There are so many stories that have yet to be told about the night of November 14, 1970, when the plane carrying MU’s football team, coaches and supporters crashed on a hillside and exploded. There were no survivors among the 75 passengers on board. In other media accounts (books, documentaries, plus the movie We Are Marshall), much of the focus is on the chain of events from that night and the struggles that the school faced in rebuilding the football program.

There’s nothing wrong with that. But that doesn’t paint the complete picture. There’s something missing – the stories of those who were left behind. These are the folks who suffered immensely. These are the same people who were on hand to applaud one of the greatest comebacks in the history of college sports. The Thundering Herd went through some hard times in rebuilding, but eventually emerged as one of the winningest football programs in the nation.

That’s one of the reasons why I wrote the memoir November Ever After, which addresses the night of the crash, but it also takes an up-close and personal look at the lives of the people who were connected to the school and the football program at the time of tragedy. Even though the memoir was first published about two-and-half years ago, it continues to get five-star reviews on Amazon.

November Ever After is a story whose time has come. And I’m discovering that the story has many more elements to it than I ever imagined. I’ve come across so much new information from reputable sources that I’ve decided to write a sequel. I’ll provide more details about that in the coming months.

In talking to folks at book signings and during media interviews, it’s always apparent that this story is timeless. It has staying power. There’s huge interest and it has nothing to do with age, race or gender.

In my mind, the memoir covers a wide range of emotions. In recalling the tone of the conversations I had with people I interviewed (for the book), that sentiment comes across loud and clear. Certainly it’s a story about a painful and tragic event, but it’s also about hope, dogged persistence and resiliency.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Disabled athletes: a different perspective

Alabama has one of the top men;s wheelchair basketball teams in the country.
Editor's Note: Here's a story that's vastly different from what's normally published in this blog. But that's OK. Any story that educates, enlightens and inspires is worthy for public consumption. Disabled athletes are just as passionate and just as dedicated to their sport as their abled-bodied counterparts. After reading this article, it's quite possible that you'll view disabled athletes in a much different light than you used to.

Dalton Herendeen is an amputee who swims for U of Indy
A little over a year ago, the U.S. Department of Education issued policy guidelines that sparked a renewed thrust to create and expand opportunities for disabled athletes. Activists for the rights of the disabled applaud the directive as a game changer that will have the same impact for disabled athletes as Title IX did for women’s sports .....

Want to know more? Just click on the link below

Monday, March 3, 2014

Former Marshall DB's memoir: "a marvelous story"

The author during his college football-playing days at Marshall University.
"This book is history. The folks featured in the memoir actually lived through it all and collectively, they have a marvelous story to tell. As for impact, the answer is a resounding 'yes.' Those who have yet to read the book will discover that there's a lot more to this story than what they already know. Sure, football is the central focus, but there's so much more and it transcends what's been revealed in other works (books, documentaries and the movie)."

Craig T. Greenlee
"November Ever After" 

Excerpt of Greenlee's interview that was published on Cheryl Holloway's blog 
during Black History Month.

Friday, February 7, 2014

“Event forged indelible bond among all of us …”

Editor's Note: Here's a reader response to the blog entry “Vivid Memories of a New Jersey classmate” which ran in December.

In the year 2000, I attended the screening of the Ashes to Glory documentary about the Marshall University plane crash of 1970 in Huntington, West Virginia.

Prior to the screening, there was a memorial service held at First Baptist, the church that several of the players who died attended. My friends Nate Ruffin and Reggie Oliver (former players) along with Mickey Jackson (MU assistant coach in early 1970s) were there and I also met the brother of one of the crash victims, Marcel Lajterman.

Afterwards at another reception, I saw Dennis Foley, who also played football, but quit the team before the crash. Dennis and Marcel were roommates at the South Hall dormitory where I was a resident adviser. When I introduced Dennis to Marcel’s brother, it was overwhelming for both. Dennis had not spoken much about that experience to anyone.

The film had a lot of impact. In one sequence, I spotted my sister (Angela Dodson) on camera. As a writer for the student newspaper at that time, she was among the media that covered the press conference when Joe McMullen was introduced as Marshall’s new athletics director in February 1971, three months after the crash.

Also in the film, Felix Jordan was incorrectly identified as Craig Greenlee because Felix had the same uniform number that Craig had the year before the crash. Craig played two seasons and left the team in 1969.

Coincidentally, I recently received a phone call from Evangelist Ed Carter, a player who missed the fatal flight because he went home to Texas for his father’s funeral. We spoke for over an hour about our friends and our experiences at Marshall. That event has forged an indelible bond among all of us who were affected by the tragedy.

I read Les Hicks’s book Against All Odds and attended his book signing at Marshall's Homecoming in October 2013. Craig had a book signing two years earlier when his memoir November Ever After was published. We are all proud of the Nate Ruffin Lounge which is part of the new Alumni Center on the Marshall campus. There is also a bust of Nate and some of his memorabilia that was donated by his wife Sharon to display there.

As one who traveled with the “Homegoing Caravan,” I was elated to hear that Tuscaloosa, Alabama now has a permanent memorial exhibit which honors the four Marshall players from Tuscaloosa who died. None of us who attended the joint funeral for Joe Hood, Freddie Wilson, Robert Vanhorn and Larry Sanders will ever forget that day.

Craig has done a great service to amplify this story in the backdrop of the national notoriety that Marshall has enjoyed in recent years because of its gridiron success and the movie We Are Marshall.

-William Dodson
Urban Church Watch

Monday, January 6, 2014

“Thank you for sharing the story of the 75”

This past Christmas, I was given a copy of November Ever After. I just want to say thank you. Thank you for sharing your story. Thank you for sharing the story of the 75. Thank you for sharing the story of Marshall University.

I graduated from Marshall in 2011, with a degree in journalism. This comes after a six-year stint as a military journalist. So, after reading the introduction, I was already hooked, as we (you and I) have that in common. Then, getting further into the book, I couldn't put it down.
I've seen the documentaries. I was at Marshall for the filming of We Are Marshall. I've flown in and out of Tri-State Airport. I worked as a reporter at WOWK-TV in Huntington, West Virginia and covered the Fountain Ceremony several times. I have interviewed Jack Lengyel (MU coach in the years immediately following the crash). I’ve visited Spring Hill Cemetery and have attended many Marshall football games.
I know the story. I know how it affected both the campus and the city. Being from Richmond, Virginia, I know both a former classmate and high school baseball coach of MU defensive lineman Tommy Zborill, one of the crash victims.
Your book, however, really put it over the top.
I had never heard of Ed Carter and Felix Jordan, the two “other” guys who didn't make the flight. I never knew about the “Homegoing” trip which was remarkable in and of itself.
I never knew that seven players on that flight came from two high schools. I never knew about the racial tensions that were ultimately squashed because of the crash. I never knew that Coach Tolley was such a tough coach.
I’ve learned more about the plane crash from your book than I ever did in my six years going to school and working in Huntington. I could go on for days about the things I learned, but I think you get the point.
I’m very glad that you decided, even if it was more than 40 years later, to share your experience and memories. It means a lot to me.

Warmest Regards,

Brooks Taylor
Public Relations and Marketing Specialist
Virginia Commonwealth University
Richmond, Virginia