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  Summer 2010 Issue Excerpts


Here's a bit of what you'll find in the 2010 issue.
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letters from home, pow mail

Letters from Home: Prisoner of War Mail at the Fort Robinson Camp during World War II · Thomas R. Buecker

One aspect of military life all soldiers looked forward to was receiving mail from family members and friends at home. The prompt and regular receipt of mail during wartime presented logistical problems that naturally caused delay in delivery. In the case of mail service between belligerent nations for enemy-held prisoners of war, delay was compounded due to other obvious complications. The Nebraska State Historical Society recently acquired a postal cover from a stamp dealer in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. At first glance, it appears to be nothing more than an envelope used during World War II to send a letter from a private citizen in Germany to a soldier of the Reich held as a prisoner of war in North Africa. After further analysis, the envelope (unfortunately minus the letter) tells the story of mail delivery from Germany to North Africa, to New York City, and finally reaching its addressee at Fort Robinson in northwestern Nebraska.

During the Second World War, some 430,000 Axis prisoners of war (PWs) were shipped to America where they were confined in 155 base camps. Initially, over two hundred thousand German and Italian soldiers were captured when all Axis forces surrendered in North Africa. Tens of thousands of others were captured and likewise transported stateside after the Normandy Invasion. The purpose of bringing enemy combatants thousands of miles overseas was to supplement the depleted home front labor force, particularly to help with agricultural work. One of the base camps built for German prisoners of war was at Fort Robinson, an army remount depot near Crawford.

The issue of proper care and rights of captured military prisoners fell under provisions of the 1929 Geneva Convention, signed by many nations including the United States, Germany, and Italy. As a consequence the Geneva Accord provided the fundamental basis for War Department manual Enemy Prisoners of War (TM19-500). This document became the Provost Marshal's "bible" for treatment of enemy PWs held in the United States. Among a multitude of strict guidelines, it provided for sending and receiving of mail between war prisoners and their homelands.

According to TM19-500, prisoners were allowed within one week of arrival at their first stateside camp, to send a postcard home containing their current mailing address. Each enlisted prisoner could mail two letters and four postcards per month, but only on authorized forms issued through the army's Provost Marshal General. Letter length was restricted to one sheet containing twenty-four lines; postcards contained nine lines. Additional seasonal greetings postcards, designed by the Y.M.C.A., were authorized, particularly for the Christmas season. Outgoing PW mail was forwarded to the district Postal Center at New York for final U.S. censor review. When they arrived in Germany, letters mailed from the United States saw further censorship by the Nazi government.

Prisoner of war correspondence had further restrictions. Writers could not make criticisms pertaining to their care, government agencies or officials, and could not contain quotes from books or use any marks, ciphers, or codes. Letters and cards were to be legibly written in ink and prisoners were not allowed to write letters or cards for other prisoners. All outgoing camp mail was subject to censor examination before being forwarded to the censors in New York.

As for incoming mail, there was no limit on how many letters a PW could receive, and inspected parcels were allowed. However, any mail sent between Germany, Italy, and the United States was not simply handed off. With war being carried on in earnest, an intercessor was necessary to complete delivery.

The entire essay appears in the Summer 2010 issue.

signing the pledge

Signing the Pledge: George B. Skinner and the Red Ribbon Club of Lincoln · Patricia C. Gaster

From 1877 until well after 1900, Lincoln, Nebraska, was the home of a vigorous temperance reform club headed for much of its history by George B. Skinner, a local livery stable owner. Temperance advocate John B. Finch, who had organized many such clubs in Nebraska and in other states, noted in 1886 that the Lincoln group surpassed "in point of numbers, influence, and power any temperance club known in this country."

Temperance reform clubs, with their colored ribbons worn as badges of membership and symbols of a promise to abstain from alcohol, were a prominent part of the dry movement. However, the custom of wearing such ribbons did not originate with Red Ribboners. The Blue Ribbon temperance movement, named for the small piece of blue ribbon worn by its supporters, sprang from the work of J. K. Osgood of Gardiner, Maine, in 1872 and received a great impetus several years later from Francis Murphy, who like Osgood, was a reformed drinker. A leading campaigner against alcohol in both England and America, Murphy also established reform clubs, asking his followers to sign a pledge to abstain from intoxicating liquors and don a blue ribbon.

Followers of Dr. Henry A. Reynolds, who founded a club in Bangor, Maine, in 1874 for reformed drinkers, signed a more restrictive pledge to abstain from all alcoholic beverages, including wine and cider. They took for their motto "Dare to do Right" and wore a red ribbon on the right coat lapel. Reynolds also suggested the use of white ribbons as badges for members of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, which adopted the white ribbon at its national convention in 1877. Through education and example the WCTU hoped to obtain pledges of total abstinence from alcohol, and later from tobacco and drugs.

The Red Ribbon movement, as Reynolds's reform clubs were known, was brought to Lincoln in 1877 by temperance worker and lecturer John B. Finch, who afterward traveled through eastern Nebraska, speaking and organizing more clubs. The group at Lincoln grew rapidly. In 1888, eleven years after its founding, it was reported to have sixteen thousand members or pledge signers. Its numbers and longevity were due chiefly to its perennial president, George B. "Bishop" Skinner, who presided over Red Ribbon Club meetings with all the dignity and fervor of a regular bishop, from his first election to that office in 1878 until shortly before his death in 1895.

Undoubtedly Skinner derived a great deal of satisfaction from this leadership role in Lincoln's temperance community. He was well known in Lincoln, where he had participated in an 1869 lot sale to raise funds for the fledgling Nebraska state government. Born January 3, 1833, near Hartford, Connecticut, he came West at about age twenty, settling in St. Joseph, Missouri. In St. Joseph, Skinner engaged in pork packing and stock dealing, and in 1860 began freighting across the Plains. In 1861-62 during the Civil War he secured a beef contract with the Union Army and later served as an inspector of horses for the army.

At some point during his years of freighting and stock dealing, Skinner became acquainted with David Butler, then a cattle shipper, and afterward the first governor of Nebraska. Governor Butler invited Skinner to Lincoln in 1869 to conduct a sale of publicly owned city lots, the proceeds of which were to be used for a state university building, insane asylum, and completion of the first State Capitol's dome. (Previous lot sales were held in 1867 and 1868.) Skinner recalled twenty years later, in 1889, that he had received $1,500 for five days of work and "would not give that roll of bills for the whole town and the whole county of Lancaster." However, he shortly afterward changed his mind about the value of Nebraska land, left St. Joseph for good, and returned to Lincoln in 1870.

Skinner speculated in lots in his new home city and entered its political life as well. Building upon his 1869-70 experience as St. Joseph's street commissioner, he served from 1873 to the end of 1875 as Lincoln's street commissioner and fire warden. These were years of economic hardship for the young city, which had its own small public works project in which Skinner set unemployed men to improving the streets around government square.

In 1877 Skinner opened a livery stable on Twelfth Street between P and Q. The business was described by a contemporary city directory as a sale and feed stable, stockyards, and carriage and wagon repository with Skinner, its proprietor, identified as a dealer in horses, mules, and cattle. Three years later Skinner's business occupied one third of a city block, with eighty to one hundred horses available for delivery anywhere in Lincoln and telephone links with the leading hotels.

Then in the fall of 1877, a dynamic figure arrived in Nebraska who changed the course of Skinner's life. John B. Finch, born and educated in New York state, opened his Nebraska temperance campaign with an October 7, 1877, speech at Nebraska City. Finch, a former schoolteacher and a member of the Independent Order of Good Templars, a temperance-minded fraternal and social order dating in Nebraska to the late 1860s, came at the invitation of lodge officer Mrs. Ada Van Pelt. He remained in Nebraska City for two weeks, speaking every night, inviting his hearers to sign an abstinence pledge based on that taken by Good Templars and to don a red ribbon. More than sixteen hundred persons signed the pledge during his lectures there.

Finch was soon invited to Lincoln, where he gave a series of twenty-one speeches at the Centennial Opera House and the Methodist Episcopal Church. A strong anti-liquor element had manifested itself in the city several years earlier in 1874, when the Ladies Temperance Society entered local saloons in an effort to win the customers for temperance by song, prayer, and personal appeals. Hundreds of people were persuaded by Finch's eloquence and personal magnetism in 1877 to sign a pledge of total abstinence from alcohol and to wear a red ribbon as an outward symbol of the pledge.

Skinner, reputed to be a hard drinker, attended one of the Finch lectures in Lincoln, signed the pledge, and obtained a red ribbon-although he confessed years later that he was careful to wear a coat over the emblem for some time afterward. The Red Ribbon Club of Lincoln was organized in November 1877 by Finch and a committee consisting of George V. Kent, R. N. Vedder, Charles Van Pelt, S. C. Elliott, and Skinner. With a beginning membership of "seventeen old soakers, who had sworn to live a sober life," the club's purpose was the reclamation of drunkards; the protection of the weak from temptation, so far as lies in our power; the encouragement of temperance work, temperance meetings, and temperance lectures, and the inculcation of sound temperance opinions.

According to its constitution, the Red Ribbon Club of Lincoln offered membership to anyone who had ever used intoxicating liquors, and who would sign the constitution and wear the Red Ribbon badge. All signers of the constitution pledged to abstain from the use, manufacture or traffic in any kind of intoxicating liquors, wine beer or cider, and to use every honorable means to discountenance and discourage the use and manufacture thereof, or the traffic therein.

By the end of Finch's speaking engagement in Lincoln, more than 2,100 persons had signed the pledge. During the concluding lecture of the three-week series, Finch urged Red Ribbon Club members to continue wearing the ribbon, to persuade others to do so, and to encourage backsliding members to re-sign the pledge. Other temperance lecturers--notably George W. Bain of Kentucky in 1880 and J. B. Montague of Illinois in 1885--visited Lincoln in the following decade, but none had the impact of Finch's Red Ribbon meetings. Skinner, who helped organize the club and first served as vice president, replaced R. N. Vedder as president in January of 1878. He served as president for the next seventeen years, until his death on February 7, 1895.

The entire essay appears in the Summer 2010 issue.

camp sheridan, nebraska

Camp Sheridan, Nebraska: The Uncommonly Quiet Post on Beaver Creek · Paul L. Hedren

Early in 1874 the United States Army founded two military posts in the Pine Ridge-White River countryside of northwestern Nebraska to oversee affairs at Red Cloud and Spotted Tail Indian agencies, also newly established in the same locale. Named in course Camp Robinson and Camp Sheridan, the posts shared close proximities, common purposes, physical landscapes, amenities (some said lack thereof), and prospects. For all they shared, however, the two installations could not have evolved more differently. While the story of Camp, then Fort Robinson is seemingly a narrative of one significant or calamitous event following another, certainly through 1870s, and with an existence that spanned some seventy-five years all told, at Camp Sheridan one necessarily looks beneath a veneer to find highlights of a place that was short lived and indeed uncommonly quiet, despite its location in Sioux Country during a remarkably tumultuous era. But Camp Sheridan's legacy had its own unique character that is perhaps best understood when seen within the context of one particular individual, a man of extraordinary temperament and influence who virtually alone explains why this installation and its locale were seemingly ever serene while nearby Camp Robinson was often on a tipping point.

***

The genesis for these White River posts is grounded in the government's attempts at finding permanent agencies for Spotted Tail's Brulés and Red Cloud's Oglalas. Article 4 of the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty had stipulated a single agency for the Sioux people to be located somewhere on the Great Sioux Reservation in the Dakota Territory, and preferably along the Missouri River. But clearly the commissioners brokering that treaty poorly understood or acknowledged the political and cultural geography of the Lakota people, and that within the broad expanse of Sioux Country there were northerners and southerners and people living in-between, and while the Sioux bands often united in the summer months, traditional homes were located somewhere else and invariably beyond that gathering point. The Hunkpapa Lakotas, for instance, while not unknown in the White River country, favored the Little Missouri drainage, and Montana's Big Open, and even British America, that sum comprising their preferred homeland. The Brulés and Oglalas, on the other hand, were southerners who just as strongly favored the southern margins of the Black Hills, the Platte River valley, buffalo hunting in Kansas, and the landscapes in between. While these people also hunted in the Powder River Basin, their traditional homeland distinctly spanned the southern reaches of old Sioux Country.

In the years immediately following the signing of the Fort Laramie Treaty, the Brulés and Oglalas were served at agencies whose locations shifted from time to time as both Indians and whites alike worked to accommodate the expectations spelled out in that fateful document. By 1874 Spotted Tail's people had tried and rejected farming, as stipulated in the Treaty, had moved from a short-lived agency on the Missouri River to the White River, and then moved again that summer to Beaver Creek. For the next few years, Beaver Creek, a cold, clear affluent of the White that headed in the Pine Ridge and coursed northward through pine, ash, and cottonwood speckled breaks, would figure prominently in the saga of the Brulés and the small army garrison that came to oversee their agency.

From the start, the Interior Department agents assigned to the Spotted Tail and Red Cloud agencies had their hands full. The relocations in the early 1870s were disruptive and the dictates of the Treaty--such matters as the agricultural expectations levied on the tribesmen, the education of the children, and the whole notion of permanent residency on the reservation instead of in those respective homelands or in the buffalo country--met considerable resistance. Of the two bands, Spotted Tail's Brulés were the more accommodating, but when other Lakota groups like Miniconjous and Sans Arcs appeared locally and disrupted beef issues, threatened employees, and generally disregarded the authority of the agents, chaos ensued. After Spotted Tail Agent Edwin Howard's life was threatened and a clerk at Red Cloud was killed by a Miniconjou warrior, both agents called for troops. The short-lived but successful Sioux Expedition of 1874 hastily organized at Fort Laramie in March brought order to the White River agencies and planted troops there, and from that time forward the army was in the southern Lakota interior to stay.

The five companies commanded by Major Thomas S. Dunn, Eighth Infantry, detached from the Sioux Expedition to Spotted Tail Agency at first simply temporarily hutted itself along the White River near the agency, then located several miles west of the mouth of Beaver Creek, and settled into an uncomplicated routine. Unresolved still was whether the White River agencies would move yet again, this time from Nebraska north onto the Great Sioux Reservation in the Dakota Territory, and whether the army would construct one large permanent post somewhere between the agencies or individual posts serving them respectively. Two different government commissions dispatched by the Indian Bureau met with the Brulés and Oglalas that summer and learned straight-away of the tribesmen's reluctance to move again. Spotted Tail especially opposed such a move. The second commission finally recommended a slight relocation of the Brulés to a more advantageous location on Beaver Creek, some twelve miles upstream from its confluence with the White. Spotted Tail agreed to this. And in early September Major Edwin F. Townsend of the Ninth Infantry, Dunn's successor earlier that summer and now commanding the local garrison, moved his troops onto Beaver Creek, hutting one half mile south of the new agency. On September 9, Townsend formally named the new station Camp Sheridan, honoring division commander Lieutenant General Philip Henry Sheridan.

Although considerable funding had been allocated for the construction of the White River posts, and work commenced almost immediately at Camp Robinson, the site selected by Townsend suffered a number of deficiencies including runoff from the high breaks of the valley that collected in the building area, and by the fact that it was surrounded by commanding hills on three sides, and these matters delayed permanent construction. In May 1875 the camp's subsequent commander, Captain Anson Mills of the Third Cavalry, recommended relocating the fledgling post again, this time to a site slightly more than a mile below the agency that offered better drainage, well water at twenty feet, and good visibility on three of four sides, although high creek banks shut off all visibility to the west and the important trails emanating from Camp Robinson and Red Cloud Agency.

Under Mills's supervision, permanent construction at Camp Sheridan finally commenced. No particular plan was followed, the post rising as Mills put it, "according to the pleasure of the commanding officer." Crook's aide, Second Lieutenant John Bourke, commented about the layout, noting in his diary that "the perimeter of the ground-plan is strangely like a coffin." Under the supervision of post quartermaster Charles Rockefeller of the Ninth Infantry, construction progressed steadily. The flagstaff rose July 5 on the center of the parade ground. The companies built their own barracks, three in all, and joined in the construction of seven officers' quarters, plus a small hospital, guardhouse, blacksmith shop, and storehouses. Several log structures rose but mostly the buildings were a balloon-frame type construction with batten exteriors, sun-dried adobe bricks infilling the frames, and interior walls that were plastered and whitewashed. Haste was critical. Says Mills: "Trees felled in the morning were often part of buildings before sundown," and the command was comfortably housed before the first of October.

During its short life Camp Sheridan's garrison was always small. Although Dunn brought five companies to the White River in 1874, and Mills imagined a five barrack post when he laid out the site since he then still commanded that number, only three company quarters were built, two for infantry, usually from the Ninth regiment, and one for cavalry, typically from the Third regiment. Usually a senior company captain commanded the post, a medical officer was always present, and the garrison was joined by a post trader, who set up shop just north of barracks row.

The entire essay appears in the Summer 2010 issue.

nebraska football: review essay

Nebraska Football and Michael Oriard's Bowled Over: A Review Essay

By Russ Crawford

Bowled Over: Big-Time College Football from the Sixties to the BCS Era
Michael Oriard
Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009. Illustrations, tables, notes, index, 352 pp., $30 cloth.

The 1960s and '70s saw challenges to the authority of all American institutions, including major college athletics. In Bowled Over: Big-Time College Football from the Sixties to the BCS Era, author Michael Oriard turns a spotlight on college football during those years, and later as the National Collegiate Athletic Association took steps to prevent any recurrence of those tumultuous times. Oriard, Distinguished Professor of American Literature and Culture and an associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts at Oregon State University, is the author of seven books on football and sports. He also played college football for Notre Dame and professionally for the Kansas City Chiefs.

Bowled Over is the latest in a growing body of work considering the history of college football and its connections to larger social trends in the post-World War II era, and turns on the question of control. Oriard examines the evolution of that control, which was held firmly by coaches until the so-called Athletic Revolution of the sixties and seventies. During those years, football players protested what they saw as racist and over-authoritarian policies, and brought about the removal or diminution of the authority of several head coaches. This did not happen everywhere. The University of Nebraska was notably free of the troubles that wracked other programs.

Oriard's central thesis is that the NCAA took steps to return control over athletic programs to the coaches in 1973, when that governing body enacted the one-year scholarship. This allowed coaches to withdraw financial support from players who no longer produced, or who challenged the head-man's authority. In the process, the student athlete, a semi-mythical construct of the 1950s, was transformed into the athlete-student. This amounted to a professionalization of the college football player.

The author presents a compelling body of evidence to support his contentions, but is largely silent on the programs that successfully negotiated these challenges. This leaves a large question unanswered: why did athletes in some programs (such as Wyoming) rebel, while others (such as Nebraska) did not? In this essay I will attempt to answer this question by reviewing Oriard's work within the context of the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers program of the same era.

In Part One, Oriard considers racial integration in the Southeastern Conference, which began with Kentucky in 1967, and the revolt of black athletes in the late sixties. Then, in an interlude titled "The NCAA Goes Pro," he makes his argument about the one-year athletic scholarship as a means of returning control to coaches. Part Two considers the college football world created by the NCAA's decision, and discusses reform movements in college football, the changing nature of the student athlete, and the author's thoughts on reform.
As in many of his previous works, Oriard examines the integration of the Southeastern Conference through the lens of press sources, including student newspapers. However, he argues that if one were to depend solely on those sources, one would conclude that integration in Southern college football was a smooth process-an incomplete picture of the challenges the first black players on Southern teams faced from opponents, coaches and teammates, and their peers on campus. Most press coverage fit the narrative of sport as a melting pot, where individual differences are submerged for the good of the team. This powerful narrative was largely the same one applied to Jackie Robinson; it said he was "just another player," and that his example would lead to improved race relations. Only in rare instances was the narrative challenged, such as when Lester McClain said in an interview that the University of Tennessee athletic department was presenting a false front on racial matters (73). For the most part, only in recent years have some former coaches and athletes begun to challenge the narrative. Oriard doubts that we will ever have a full story of the challenges that black athletes faced in the South.

The integration of University of Nebraska football began nearly eighty years before the Southeastern Conference, when George Flippin became a member of what was then known as the Old Gold Knights, and after his first two seasons, the Bugeaters. Popular with his teammates for his skill and character, Flippin was voted team captain, but head coach Frank Crawford overruled the players' decision, stating, "It takes a man with brains to be a captain; all there is to Flippin is brute force. . . I don't take exception to him because he is colored, but it takes a head to be a football captain."

In 1892, the University of Missouri forfeited a game with Nebraska when Flippin's teammates refused to sideline the star. Flippin was also involved in an early Nebraska civil rights case when he was refused service at a York restaurant. Despite these challenges, Flippin was a standout student. He was voted president of the Palladian Literary Society, and later earned a medical degree in Chicago.

The Huskers continued throughout the next six decades to have at least occasional black players on the team, which included lettermen William Johnson (1900), Robert Taylor (1905), Clint Ross (1913), Charlie Bryant (1953), Jon McWilliams (1953), Sylvester Harris (1955), and Clay White (1958).

In 1962, Bill "Thunder" Thornton became Nebraska's first black co-captain. New Husker coach Bob Devaney endorsed Thornton, a star two-way football player whose career highlights included outrushing Ernie Davis of Syracuse, the first black Heisman Trophy recipient, 132 yards to 112, in a 1961 game. Current NU Athletic Director Tom Osborne recalled that Thornton was also "kind of a 'Big Man on Campus' his senior year." Aside from football, Thornton was also selected for membership in the Innocents Society, a senior honor society composed of only thirteen men who are chosen based on academics, leadership, and service. Teammate Bob "Boomer" Brown recalled that "there weren't many black guys going to Nebraska in those days, but all the people in Nebraska treated us like we were Nebraskans--the same way they treat all the other out-of-state players who decide to come to Lincoln." After his Nebraska career ended, Thornton played four seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals before returning to the Huskers as an assistant coach; he later coached in the NFL.

As a state, Nebraska was by no means free of ethnic or racial strife. In 1919, Will Brown, a black man accused of raping a white girl, was lynched in Omaha. In the mid-twenties, the football series between Nebraska and Notre Dame was put on hold for over two decades because of anti-Catholic sentiment in Nebraska. The arrival of Japanese American students from internment camps during World War II, however, brought the subject of racism into sharp focus at the University of Nebraska. Students and faculty pressed for an end to the formal desegregation of the dormitories, and in 1949, they formally ended that policy for women's dormitories.

Cornhusker athletes faced discrimination off campus when the team traveled south. In 1954, the three black team members had to stay at the black YMCA when the team played Oklahoma. While Nebraska was not free of the racism that affected the rest of the nation, the leadership of the university, and of the football team as we will see later, worked deliberately to create a campus where these issues were mitigated. By the sixties, the university and the football program were on a path that would help them avoid the spectacular troubles that plagued other campuses.

This all points to a much different experience than that of the first black players to integrate the SEC. The experience of Nebraska players meshes more neatly with the narrative that sports writers attempted to construct for players like McClain or John Mitchell. According to Oriard, Mitchell, the first black player at the University of Alabama, recalled hostile glances in Tuscaloosa businesses until someone mentioned that he was a football player, and everyone relaxed (75). The positive comments of players such as Brown might well gloss over instances of racism that black players faced, such as the verbal abuse that former Husker linebacker John Pitts reported receiving from a fraternity house one night, but conditions at the university by the early sixties seemed to be conducive to more fully integrating black and white players in a common cause, as well as facilitating their more easy acceptance as part of the university community. So in 1969, when protests by black football players broke out at the University of Wyoming, Oregon State University, the University of Iowa, the University of Indiana, the University of Washington, and Syracuse University, Nebraska was able to weather the storm, despite head coach Bob Devaney's tenure being weakened after mediocre 6-4 seasons in 1967 and 1968.

Oriard describes common elements of the black football players' rebellions. In each instance, black players boycotted practice or were suspended for violation of team rules. Those athletes then framed the dispute as discrimination, after which support coalesced on one side or the other, with the coaches typically garnering the most widespread backing. Finally, regardless of whether the coach stood firm or was forced to compromise, some of the players lost their position on the team for defying their coach's authority. None of the coaches lost their jobs as a result of the rebellions, but their coaching careers in all cases ended soon thereafter (91). In most of the protests, the complaints seemed to come out of the blue, against coaches who often had decent records in building integrated teams. Lloyd Eaton at Wyoming had been Bob Devaney's assistant coach in the early sixties when they had integrated the team; in 1969 he had fourteen black players, all of whom defied the coach's orders by joining a protest against segregated Brigham Young University. At Syracuse, head coach Ben Schwartzwalder had coached some of the most famous and talented black athletes to that point, including Jim Brown, Ernie Davis, and Floyd Little.

Oriard describes each of these coaches as fitting into the authoritarian model. Some of the protests were precipitated when black players felt that the coaches' rules impinged on their rights as men. A protest at Oregon State began when an assistant told linebacker Fred Milton to shave his goatee, which violated team rules. Many of the coaches also seemed to be searching for some excuse to assert their authority over their players, and their players were often backed by campus civil rights organizations such as the Black Students Union. Both sides in the disputes quickly drew hard and fast lines, with little room for compromise.

When Bob Devaney became the Nebraska head football coach in 1962, he immediately produced results, winning nine games with the same players that had won only three during the previous season. He also created an atmosphere that allowed black players to feel a part of the team. Former players have testified to the tremendous tongue lashings that Devaney could deliver when they failed to live up to his expectations, but he also listened to his players' concerns. In an interview on Huskerspot.com, John Pitts, the "monsterback" on the 1970 and 1971 National Championship teams, remembered Devaney's "Irish temper that just boils over," but also told of how black players complained to the coach that while there were several black players on the football team, there were no black cheerleaders. Pitts reported that Devaney apparently took their concerns seriously, and the next season there were two on the cheer squad.

Devaney also knew where to allow players personal freedom. Long time Sports Information Director Don Bryant recalled that Devaney "recognized that everybody of that squad [1962] was a man who had his own individual concerns and he treated him that way."

The entire essay appears in the Summer 2010 issue.

 


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