ERNIE BARNES, ARTIST (233)

Burt Lancaster as Bob Starbuck in THE RAINMAKER (1956): “…BUT DON’T ASK FOR DELUGE!”

Hurricane Florence got us (Emerald Isle and lots of North Carolina). Luckily we could bolt for Son Dan’s home in Raleigh. Thanks for that.
We went one day to the North Carolina Museum of History. I was unaware of the artist/football star, Ernie Barnes, or his dual status as both. The museum’s exhibit of his artwork stunned me. Native to nearby Durham and a graduate of North Carolina Central University, his work portrayed the time I grew up in small town NC, but of a different culture. As I viewed his large showing of work, it looked vaguely familiar and yet different. It was.
Ernie died at 70, April 1990.
I went to Atlantic Christian College, now Barton College, from 1959-1963. And returned there as a teacher/coach/administrator until 1985. And served in similar roles at Elon College/ now University until 2004. Lots of changes. None more than in the sports world. Integration the most volatile. No football at ACC during my stays. And the only black guys I played against was when we played college basketball against military teams. As an assistant basketball coach, I was proud to help recruit ACC’S first black players–Clifton Earl Black, and Jimmy Jones of nearby Conetoe (pronounced kah nee tah) NC. Great young men. Black broke almost every record we had. Many followed and while I stopped coaching basketball I taught almost all of them. Being a small school you got to know the kids well. Speedy Gainor, Stan Lewter, Lorenzo Jones, George Bell, Richard Battle, Damien Carter, a few of these new friends. As Athletics Director, I knew the girls too–Cindy Wall, Sheila Keel, Annie May Wooten. Good people and players. A kid from Murfreesboro, William Bogues was 5’11” and led the Carolinas Conference in rebounding! Say what? Saw it!
The small town where I went to high school played 6-man football,and, while I loved playing, it didn’t resemble what awaited 25 later at Elon. Almost immediately I supervised the team’s trip to Orlando to play a tough Central Florida team. Many had never flown. The team operated in “herd mentality”. My small tennis teams sort of wandered around wherever.
As I saw these guys and their coaches work, I really appreciated them. Kyle Wills ramrodded the work-study players, a majority of whom were black kids. I watched them in their blue work suits clean the post-game gym with precision.
And as much as I loved those ACC kids, football guys are just different. I never missed a game at home. And they made it a great learning experience. Somebody said John Bradsher became a General in the US Army. I don’t doubt it. Everybody loved Dwayne Clark. I did too and wept at his funeral. Stanly Hairston, Russell Evans, Al Hendricks, Ronnie Purcell, Jeff Slade, Gino McLamb,
Willie Williams, Grady Williamson. Our defensive backs and receivers were often just a little smaller than those at big schools. I marveled at Arketa Banks, and Steve Ferguson. Leo Barker was a super coach and others too many to name.
Over those twenty years we played North Carolina Central University, Barnes alma mata. DR. Leroy Walker always spoke. BIG HOUSE GAINES and I sat together all day at the NAIA BASKETBALL CHAMPIONSHIPS in Kansas City in 1976 . The first of 8 games that day began at 11am, the last at 11pm. Coach Gaines and I watched all eight. We ate 3 meals plus at the concession stand. Popcorn, ice cream, pretzels, cokes, hot dogs, candy bars. Coppin State (with Joe Pace) won the NAIA. Big House won the concession contest.
Arthur Ashe was the Jackie Robinson of tennis. He spoke to Elon on PROPOSITION 48 in 1988. For years I have bought every copy of his DAYS OF GRACE I have found. I gave many of these, his most personal perspective of race in America, to those great kids I coached and taught. My thanks to Arthur.
I don’t know how long the Barnes exhibit will remain in Raleigh. I encourage its viewing and study. Mr. Barnes is well known in the art and football world. One book of his history and work is FROM PADS TO PALETTE (By Ernie Barnes). All football. When I finish I am sending my copy to Elon University Football. What a story.

P.S. for fun google 6-man football in Texas. going strong with scores in the 70 point range. I believe Crowell High School has had the best program.
P.S.S. Just purchased the new biography, ASHE, on Arthur Ashe. Into first 200 pages, and so far, so good. tp

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