Purple Knights celebrate Golden Moment in History
21st October 2013 · 0 Comments
By Ro Brown
50 years ago.
Half a century.
The latter sounds longer ago than the former. For one fall weekend, it seemed like only yesterday to a group of mostly post-World War II babies. United by sweet memories tasted during a year of bitter events.
1963 was perhaps the benchmark year of the Civil Rights Movement. There was “Bloody Sunday” on the Edmund Pettis Bridge in Selma, Alabama when state troopers brutally beat peaceful demonstrators.
Alabama governor George Wallace blocked the door of the University of Alabama in an effort to prevent integration of the state’s flagship institution.
In Birmingham, the 16th Street Baptist Church was bombed, killing four girls attending Sunday school.
There was the assassination of the President of the United States, John Fitzgerald Kennedy.
In the midst of a changing society, prep athletics in New Orleans was changed, as the 1963 St. Augustine Purple Knight Football Squad posted a 10-2-1 record and grabbed the first state football championship in the school’s illustrious athletic history.
St. Aug ruled the Louisiana Interscholastic athletic and Literary Organization (LIALO), the all-black high school association during the days of segregation. The school, which opened in 1950 to educate Black Catholic boys, won three state championships in the LIALO in the sixties. They would win three during the decade of the seventies in the integrated Louisiana High School Athletic Association (LHSAA).
The 1963 Purple Knights started slowly, dropping two of the first three contests. Eddie Flint was a young coach in his second season as head coach. He knew there was plenty of talent on campus, and it came from a different source ….. public junior high schools.
“St. Aug got most of its students from Catholic elementary schools. But when I took the job I told Father Grant (school principal) I’d take it if we could get players from public junior high schools. We got them and built a championship team.”
The Purple Knights finished the regular season 7-2-1, champions of District 5 of the Louisiana Interscholastic Athletic and Literary Organization.
They went through the post season ringer, beating three extremely strong teams. An undefeated Booker T. Washington of Shreveport club that included future pros Essex Johnson (Bengals) and Richard Neal (Saints and Cardinals) fell 13-12.
In the semi-finals St. Aug embarrassed two-time defending state champ Carroll of Monroe, led by future Pro Bowl quarterback James “Shack” Harris, 20-0. That snapped the North Louisiana school’s 37 game winning streak.
In the final, it was Xavier Prep standing in the way of what would be the first of six state football titles at St. Aug.
For McArthur McLaughlin, a diminutive linebacker, he remembers playing arch rival Xavier Prep- — both times — during the regular season and for the state title. The regular season match ended in a scoreless tie on a rainy day.
“I remember they came out for the second half with nice dry jerseys while I was so wet and muddy I felt weighed down. So when I found out we would play them for the state championship I felt like I wanted to do flips!”
The result of the championship rematch? St. Augustine 18 Xavier Prep 9.
The “63” State Champs had 11 All-District, eight All-City and four All-State performers. Defensively, they held opponents to just under five points a game. Under Coach Flint the Knights would also win back-to-back titles in 1965 and 1966. It is the foundation of Purple Knight gridiron tradition today.
Sam Castle, a two-way performer at end, was accustomed to winning at the junior high level and he expected the same at St. Aug.
“Everybody was moving in the same direction by mid-season and I was happy that we were able to do it my senior year,” says the All-District and All-City performer. “I went there to help them win a championship and we did.”
YOU CAN GO HOME AGAIN
Fifty years later, “Homecoming 2013” brought the “Boys of 63” back together again. The death of a teammate earlier during the year was the motivating factor.
“The only time we got to see each other was at funerals. So we were determined to do something that celebrates living,” said Walter Good-win, a defensive back on the team and one of the reunion organizers.
It was a group of “guys” getting together to remember good times. The weekend became much more, however. A link was established between the past and the present.
After a homecoming victory over Brother Martin, the 2013 Purple Knights, currently ranked number one in the latest 5A statewide poll, got a chance to meet and talk with a group that knows what it takes to win a state title.
“We just wanted to let them know that we are living proof that losing a game or two does not end your season. You can still win a championship.” Goodwin continued, “We wanted to let them know that there was a legacy that was written that they should live up to and that they are living up to. That is the connection.”
50 years later, St. Aug’s first state title football team continues to pay dividends, literally. The team made a $1,000 donation to the school.
After five decades they still know how to win. Update the overall record to 11-2-1.
The 1963 roster of members, coaches and staff included: Coaches: Eddie Flint (Head) Otis Washington (Assistant) Raymond Webb(Assistant), Players: Glenn Alexander, Danny Bakewell, Michael Ball, Russell Bell, Jayson Blunt, Sam Castle, George Cuiellette, James Davis, Lionel Davis, Walter Goodwin, Irvin Hawthorne, Ernest Irving, Alfred Jenkins, Alvin Lee, Sidney Logan, Anthony Lowery, Ellsworth McKendall, McArthur McLaughlin, Anthony Pierre, Charles Richard, Byron Ramie, George Robertson, Louis Robinette, John Roussell, Macklin Simmons, Ernest Singleton, John Thomas, Leroy Thompson, John Walker, and Julius Wallace.
Coaches Deceased: George “Nick” Conner, John Crowe, Cirilio Manego. Players Deceased: Johnny Barksdale, Byron Dukes, Eddie Gibson, Larry Irving, Ernest Johnson, Isaac Jones, Harold Juluke, Emile Labat, Alvin Lewis, Steve Martin, Kenneth Maynard, Claude Soniat, and Roy Yerby.
Trainers/Equipment Managers: Eric Fobbs, Edward Gilbert.
This article originally published in the October 21, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.