SI Vault
 
AN ACCIDENTAL HERO BERYL SHIPLEY, 1926--2011
John Ed Bradley
May 02, 2011
The onetime coach at Southwestern Louisiana was vilified for violating NCAA rules, but the author, who grew up in Cajun country, remembers him for doing something courageous: helping to integrate college basketball in the Deep South
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
May 02, 2011

An Accidental Hero Beryl Shipley, 1926--2011

The onetime coach at Southwestern Louisiana was vilified for violating NCAA rules, but the author, who grew up in Cajun country, remembers him for doing something courageous: helping to integrate college basketball in the Deep South

View CoverRead All Articles
1 2 3 4 5 6 7

"Coach had forgiven him."

My dad's good friend Ulysse Joubert knew somebody who worked in the USL athletic department's ticket office. This is how we got tickets to Shipley's games. Blackham Coliseum was an imposing name for an arena that doubled as a setting for rodeos, camellia pageants, dog shows and globe-trotting evangelists looking for Cajun souls to save.

When Shipley and his team showed up to play, the 5,500-seat venue sold out, some nights attracting as many as 8,000. "Let me tell you, you'd go there on a game night and see anyone in Acadiana you wanted to see," says Roy. "It became the vogue thing to do. Blacks sitting next to whites, poor sitting next to the affluent, and all as one enjoying what Coach Shipley was doing and how he was doing it."

I saw Marvin Winkler play. I saw Payton Townsend and Bo Lamar. When my brother Bobby and I got home after games, we turned on the porch light and shot baskets on the goal next to the driveway. Bobby imitated Lamar's jump shot, and I battled for rebounds against invisible opponents. We played until my dad came outside and told us to shut it down, we'd wake up the neighborhood.

What is wrong with those people? I'd asked myself not long before. Why don't they swim in their own pool?

By the time I was a teenager I was asking different questions: What is wrong with us? Why can't we swim with black people?

1 2 3 4 5 6 7