The police report, which called his death "an apparent suicide," couldn't begin to account for the welter of forces that had brought him to that moment. Patterson clearly wanted nothing worse than a lifetime spot on injured reserve. It was another high August afternoon. Football practice was to begin the next day.
All summer long, when Patterson disappeared in the mornings, friends assumed he was going to class. In fact he had never enrolled. As Warren says, "It must have been absolute torment to come up with some sort of endgame in order to save face."
All the while Patterson seemed to be searching for a place beyond college, which he bitterly came to regard as having no more than a gladiatorial interest in him. During the final summer of his life he spent hours with Ammerman discussing Voltaire's Candide for a phantom term paper in a class he wasn't taking. "We'll never know the answers," says Warren. "Maybe it was part of his tragic personality, not wanting to play. Because if you play you have to perform." Don't play, and you can never be accused of failing.
Only a few players showed up for the funeral, and not a single coach or administrator. "Nobody knew what to say to the family," says Warren, who went on to become a civil rights lawyer, winning huge discrimination settlements from such companies as Shoney's and Publix.
In 1992, at a Seminoles home game, Warren became angry when he saw commemorative plastic cups erroneously featuring J.T. Thomas as Florida State's first black football player. Over the following decade he lobbied the school to acknowledge Patterson's rightful place. A year ago Warren and his wife, Kathy Villacorta, both graduates of Florida State's School of Law, donated $100,000 to endow a scholarship there in Patterson's name, expressly for students committed to civil rights work. At the same time, the university honored Patterson with a ceremony and a brick in the Legacy Walk outside Campbell Stadium. "It doesn't change anything," Wetherell says. "But at least we can now say, We remember."
Ernie Cook, the recruit who took that hate mail seriously, became an All-- Big Ten fullback at Minnesota and is now a doctor in Daytona Beach. Calvin Patterson is buried in the graveyard he used to play in.
By the end of the '60s a San Jose State sociology professor, Harry Edwards, had staked out a place for the black athlete in the larger civil rights movement, which had taken a radical turn. Disciples of Edwards no longer contented themselves with being accepted. They wanted to be affirmed: to be called black, not Negro; to be permitted to wear Afros and facial hair; to see a face or two like theirs on the coaching staff.
This new order first breached the borders of the South in 1970, in the person of Eddie McAshan, a mortician's son who had been the first black quarterback at predominantly white Gainesville ( Fla.) High before signing with Georgia Tech. In college he put up with the predictable parade of harassments: slashed tires, a suspicious fire in his dorm room, an effigy of himself hanging from a tree as the team bus rolled through Auburn's campus. But the first black quarterback at a major Southern university was simply too good to be wasted at cornerback. Ebony proudly quoted him saying, "I usually announce the play at the line of scrimmage by calling audibles."
In 1972, several days before what was to be his final game, against Georgia, McAshan asked for four extra tickets for his family. Turned down, he skipped practice in protest. Coach Bill Fulcher suspended him for both the Georgia game and the Liberty Bowl, which McAshan spent outside the stadium, sitting next to Jesse Jackson in a white stretch limousine. His five conflicted black teammates crossed an NAACP picket line, but while wearing black armbands to signal their solidarity.
Earlier that season a black fullback for Southern Cal, Sam (Bam) Cunningham, had scored three TDs in a 42--21 win over all-white Alabama in Birmingham. Myth holds that the loss turned Crimson Tide coach Paul (Bear) Bryant into an integrationist. In fact, in the stands that day sat Wilbur Jackson, a black freshman receiver who would join Bryant's varsity the following fall. It's far more likely that the bitter experience of 1966, when undefeated Alabama placed only fourth in the final polls, convinced Bryant that, without change, his teams would no longer contend on the national stage. Bryant probably scheduled USC knowing that a waxing by a team with black stars would be a useful piece of agitprop in his efforts to hasten his school and state along. Indeed, according to Allen Barra's biography of Bryant, The Last Coach, upon shaking the hand of USC coach John McKay after the game, Bryant said, "John, I can't thank you enough."