"Well, how come they won all those awards then, Lourene?"
"Yes, Virginia, they did win lots of awards, some of which nobody ever heard of."
Lourene says she prefers the '71 team that won the national title.
"Well, Lourene," says Virginia, "they didn't win the awards."
"Yes, Virginia. But they didn't lose the championship, either."
North Carolina A&T
When President Truman's telegram arrived, Mary Howell was out on the front porch, gazing at the crowd headed for World War Memorial Stadium. Her husband, Clifton, was already at the game, cheering on his alma mater, North Carolina A & T. The telegram said that their oldest son, Clifton II, had been killed in action in Korea. Mary sent a friend to the stadium to tell her husband, and the sad news was broadcast over the loudspeaker. "That was the only Homecoming I've missed in the 62 years we've been married," she says. "I guess God was in it somehow so we could get the message."
But Mary went back the next season and every one of the 32 since. For seven decades porch-sitting and Aggie Homecoming games have been autumn constants in the Howells' lives. And except for the time somebody snatched Mary's purse—"I really only had but two or three dollars in it," she says—the Homecomings have been a lot happier. In fact, Mary's and Clifton's Homecoming Day bashes have become legendary. "We just love the fellowship," she says. "We have chicken, ham, potato salad, candied yams—everybody loves candied yams—pickles and icebox rolls."
Both Howells are in their 80s. Their faces have the burnished look of old leather covering fine and learned books. Mary is a warm, comfortable woman in a cheery floral dress. The number "50" glitters on a gold chain around her neck. A dentist friend made it for her 50th wedding anniversary. On the wall of the Howell home in Greensboro, she proudly displays her diploma from the Academy of Millinery Design and a citation for "excellence and creative achievement in the subject of the bridal veil." Clifton is a happily mismatched kind of guy who'll wear a powder-blue shirt, bright yellow pants held up by red suspenders and Converse lowtops he keeps loosely tied because of bunions. He walks with a metal cane, and when he's not walking, he's rocking and chewing Juicy Fruit gum at the same pace.
When Mary and Clifton met, she was just a local girl and he was an Aggie football hero and president of the student body. He'd seen her drive across campus in a red Chevy, and said, "Now that girl is for me." He asked her to be his guest on the next hayride. "From then on we became friends," she recalls. They eloped in Clifton's senior year, but they didn't live together. "We still courted like we always had," Mary says. "We knew Clifton's daddy would pull him out of college if he knew we'd married."