Bob Jones learned harsh lesson about racism after loss at LSU

By LARRY VAUGHT

Want to know what it was like to be a black football player in the Southeastern Conference at the University of Kentucky 50 years ago?

Well, just ask Bob Jones.

He’s a former Kentucky placekicker who was on the Kentucky team when the Wildcats had players breaking the color barrier.

“What we saw them go through and endure … we shared their pain,” said Jones. “They even had some issues with players on the team that I was not aware of for years.

“But we were not thinking about history being made. We were just trying to win football games.”

Jones remembers a night game at LSU. He kicked a first-half field goal to give UK a 3-0 halftime lead before the Cats lost 13-3.

“We went back to the hotel to spend the night. You didn’t fly right back home like teams do now,” Jones said. “The coaches gave us money to go to a restaurant and eat. We had our presume meal in a room together, but after the game we were going out to eat.”

That did not turn out well but became a lasting memory for Jones.

“We went to a restaurant and sat down. Wilbur Hackett and Houston Hogg were sitting there and you could tell the waitress was almost embarrassed when she came over and said, ‘Sorry, but we will not be able to serve you,'” she said.

“That was a shock to all of us. We got up as a team in mass and walked out as a team. We went hungry that night. We were raiding the snack machines in the hotel. But we were not going to eat where they would not serve our teammates. It just was not right and I’ll never forget that.”

3 comments

  1. UK football led the way integrating the SEC, and despite the common narrative of Rupp being a racist, Coach Rupp also was a leader in the integration of SEC basketball. The details of these facts from the UK history need to be told more often.

  2. Professor, it is interesting how history and circumstances work out. If UK had lost in the semi-finals of the 1966 NCAA, it would have been all-white Duke who would have had the stigma of that game against Texas Western. I wonder if they would have made a movie about that one.

  3. Not a chance. Vic Bubas, the Duke Coach at that time, was praised all season long as the master of getting 5 (not so talented) players to play as a team but never a word along those lines about Rupp’s handling of the Runts, a group of basketball misfits if there ever was one, with Pat Riley jumping center, and prior to the 1966 season, not a star among them. The narrative relative to UK basketball has always been on a different plane from that for Duke. Rupp ruffled more basketball feathers in his time than we can imagine today, and most of those in the sport at that time despised him, and I think most in the sport since then have continued to despise him.

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