The impression Jerome Evans leaves in his wake is narcotic, tranquilizing but temporary. It has no substance. Once its effect wears off, people discover they are left with nothing tangible of Jerome Evans to add to their knowledge or experience, no word or deed or thought they can grasp and make their own, and thus allow themselves to transfer to Evans their allegiance. Evans' personality is devoted not to allegiances but to safety. In the back of his mind he deals always with the thought of potential enemies, never with the thought of potential friends. His policy is defensive, to leave people with nothing they can use against him.
Henry Crawford, the president of the Williams Booster Club and a man who had a prominent role in the effort to reinstate Frye just months before, declared in midseason he had no complaints against Evans. "I got along very well with Frye," said Crawford, a gray-haired businessman. "He had a clique of rooters, and I guess I was one of them. Jerome, he doesn't have any clique. He's more aloof with everyone. A lot of people like him for this, and I personally can't complain. So far he's handled himself wonderfully. The parents like him."
Not all the Boosters were as effusive in their praise. Lou Jones had been a friend of Frye's since 1956. For 19 years he carried the sideline chains at all home games. In 1970 he relinquished that duty to a Williams student.
"I guess Evans was the best-qualified one of the bunch if you want to look at it that way," said Jones. "Some don't like it any, but they ain't saying nothing. One father told me, 'My boys'll never play for no nigger, Lou.' Then one day in the paper Evans was quoted as saying the man's two sons would be real helpful to the club this year. Both sons are playing for Evans. When I asked the man why, he looked sheepish and said, 'Hell, Lou, that nigger's got a lot on the ball, you know.'
"Things ain't the same this year. Last season at the weekly Booster Club meetings Frye would introduce the Bulldog Player of the Week and then send the boy home and we'd all loosen up with a few jokes. Evans lets the boys hang around all night, and it makes us uncomfortable. And it seems Evans can't wait to get out of the meetings himself. If Marilyn Monroe was stripping naked on television you couldn't get Frye out of Booster Club meetings. But even when Evans is there he doesn't ever seem to loosen up. I'd like him a lot better if he did."
By late October the Williams team was assured of a winning record. The Bulldogs were 6-2 with two games left, and about the only question remaining was would they win their conference title and then go on to the state tournament? Although most white players acted as if a conference title and a state championship were their sole reasons for being, much of their enthusiasm seemed an effort. As one player put it then, "I'm tired of football. If Dudley wins the title, I'll cry like everybody else just to put on a good show, but I'll be glad as hell. The only reason I played this year was because Evans didn't make us cut our hair as Frye would have. Right now, I'm sick of football."
Although most white players would not express themselves this candidly, they seemed to share the view. They were tired of living each day consciously, with no recourse to instinct and habit that had marked their days before Evans' arrival. They were tired of being aware of their every word and act, tired of liking blacks, of liking their coach, tired in fact of all the pressures that had been theirs since the year's first practice session. They seemed anxious to simplify what had been a complex year in their lives, to plant their feet once again on solid ground with horizons that were familiar and obstacles that were cleanly defined.
That was why, after their seventh victory of the season and only a week before the final game, a number of white players got together one night and drank Ripple wine and vodka into the following morning. By noon they were drunk. Someone suggested they drive to Gibsonville to see Frye. When they arrived, according to some of the boys who talked about the visit later, they waited nervously in his tiny office, not sure just how Frye would take their call. He appeared, smiling. There were handshakes and backslapping, and it was obvious he was glad to see his former players. He was pleased they still thought enough of him to make the trip to Gibsonville and to know he still had a firm bond with these boys, one which Evans had not broken.
A player complained offhandedly about something Evans had done in practice. Frye called him "a dumb nigger" and added that the Bulldogs should never have lost to all-black Dudley High, which they had done three Fridays before. The players agreed. There was a momentary silence in which each boy seemed to be wrestling with something that made him feel uneasy about what was happening. One of them said Frye was right, Evans was a dumb nigger. Someone else asked, "What could you expect from them? They are inferior." Other players chimed in, and there was an almost audible sigh of relief around the room as the boys relaxed and began to talk easily with their former coach. A player told Frye that the previous day there nearly had been a riot at Williams.
"What the hell you boys doing here, then?" said Frye. "I expect my boys to be in the thick of any trouble."