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True We’ll Ever Be!

Guest Posts, University Archives

Karla A. Lira is a Ph.D. History student at the University of Houston. Lira’s research focuses on multi-racial dynamics of Latinos and Blacks in the space of Basketball during the 1960s. Her current project, “True We’ll Ever Be,” sheds light on the social relations Latinos and Blacks had in the city of Houston and the University of Houston Basketball Program through oral interviews. She was kind enough to share some of her research with us below.

“And to thy memory cherished, True we’ll ever be.”

HOUSTON, March 2019 — After the Spirit of Houston band finished the last stanza, first comes Galen Robinson Jr., then Armoni Brooks, followed by Corey Davis Jr., and the rest of the Men’s Basketball team to “The Cage,” the specially designated courtside student seating section, to high five all the student fans in a new cougar tradition. Black, Latino, Asian, all races celebrate together at the Fertitta Center as the University of Houston, one of the most diverse universities in the nation, celebrates another victory.

This freedom of celebration, race inclusion, and community was not always the case.

from the UH Alumni Federation Basketball Appreciation Dinner program (1966), Athletics Department Records

from the UH Alumni Federation Basketball Appreciation Dinner program (1966), Athletics Department Records

In 1962, the university integrated and signed the first African-Americans, Elvin Hayes and Don Chaney to play basketball. The social transition was eased by various people including Coach Guy V. Lewis, Harvey Pate, and student manager Howard Lorch. These individuals challenged the societal prejudice against the Black community. As Elvin “BIG E” Hayes recalled, student athletes such as Don Chaney, Warren McVea, and others helped create this integrated environment which everyone can enjoy.

Because of Houston’s unique history of desegregation and racial dynamics, I am researching Latinos in the basketball sphere. I am building my research on Katherine Lopez’s Cougars of Any Color: The Integration of University of Houston Athletics, 1964-1968, which emphasizes the many facets of racial integration at the university’s athletics program in the 1960s. I am also using The University of Houston Athletics Department Records in Special Collections where I have found pamphlets, donor records, and program guides that have uncovered race relations during the Civil Rights Era at University of Houston. My research breaks the Black and white racial dynamics by adding Latinos into the conversation.

The hardships of Hayes, Chaney, and McVea’s experience have set the pathway for diverse athletes to be here. This 2019 season is special. The UH Men’s Basketball Team won the regular season American Athletic conference championship, were the first to make it to the NCAA Sweet 16 since the Phi Slama Jama reign, were the first in the history of the institution to host ESPN’s College Game Day, and were one of the seven teams chosen by the NCAA to be part of their March Madness Confidential Series. The Cougars broke several records; Corey Davis Jr. has scored more than 1,000 points, making him the 48th player to accomplish this at the institution. The eccentric senior, Galen Robinson Jr. has triumphed in over 100 victories during his time in the Cougar uniform and is still counting.

With March Madness reaching its crescendo, it is important to give credit and acknowledge those that broke the racial barrier and made it possible for student athletes, coaches, staff, and students to come together and enjoy this communal winning moment.  Go Coogs!

Special thanks to Elvin Hayes and Howard Lorch. Your kindness is felt.

Fifty Years On – The Game of the Century

In the News, University Archives

College basketball used to be a small game. A niche sport, once it was played on small courts, in small gymnasiums, in front of small crowds. Just over fifty years ago however, on January 20, 1968 in the Astrodome, the University of Houston (and the University of California, Los Angeles) forever altered the scale of the game in what has become known as the Game of the Century.

program from the Game of the Century (Athletics Department Records)

Regardless of the particulars, it was destined to be a historic match-up. While any given season might feature similar, high-profile, games between highly ranked teams, the 1968 regular season game between UCLA and Houston had a number of compelling story lines that intrigued even the casual sports fan. There was the blue blood, #1 team in the nation (the UCLA Bruins), riding a 47 game winning streak that spanned two and a half years and boasting three of the last four national championships under the tutelage of the legendary “Wizard of Westwood,” John Wooden.  Their most recent in 1967 included a 73-58 defeat of the University of Houston Cougars in the Final Four. Anchored by the immeasurable talent of Lew Alcindor (later known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), the UCLA Bruins were a legitimate dynasty, ultimately claiming every national championship between 1967 and 1973. In the other corner, the up-and-coming “underdog” program, ranked #2 in the nation and riding their own winning streak (undefeated since their loss to UCLA the previous season), the University of Houston Cougars were coached by Guy V. Lewis, led on the court by the likes of Elvin Hayes, Ken Spain, and Don Chaney, and eager to prove just how good they were after last year’s setback.

Given all of these particulars, how could the game be any bigger? Mix in a grand stage of national television coverage (a first for college basketball) and the surreal setting of the Eighth Wonder of the World.

The court for the contest was shipped in from Los Angeles, ironically enough, and assembled in the Astrodome on top of what should have been second base. It must have looked like a postage stamp to most of the 52,693 fans (a world-wide attendance record for any basketball game) packed into the dark corners of the Dome. Even more watched at home as this “small” game was played against a grand, cavernous backdrop.

 

TVS Television Network promoted the game and sold broadcasting rights to over 100 television stations across the country. Previously, there had only been efforts to televise games locally and in 1961 a “national” broadcast of the Ohio State / University of Cincinnati game in the NCAA finals was televised in just two cities–Columbus and Cincinnati, Ohio. The pros in the National Basketball Association had only begun the broadcast experiment in the 1950s and were still torn on whether or not they wanted to televise the league’s “good games,” for fear of losing ticket revenue at the turnstile. What was happening now in 1968 was not just novel, it was radical. And, it was successful in more ways than one. Houston defeated UCLA 71-69, ended the Bruins winning streak, and solidified their place in college basketball lore.

In Houston Cougars in the 1960s: Death Threats, the Veer Offense, and the Game of the Century by Robert Jacobus, Houston’s Elvin Hayes reflected back on the legacy of the game saying, “It just created euphoria and an atmosphere for college basketball that wasn’t there previously. I think that game kicked the door down, opened the windows, and knocked the roof off the house. What we have today in March Madness is what I think the game in 1968 opened.”

KUHT’s Progressive Programming Now Available Online

Department News, Digitization, Exhibits, KUHT Collection, University Archives

Almanac hosts Betty Ann Bowser and J. D. Houston.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services generously funds a “grants to state program,” which uses a population-based formula to distribute funds to State Library Administrative Agencies across the country. In Texas, these funds are distributed via several different types of competitive grants, including TexTreasures, which is designed to help libraries make their special collections more accessible for the people of Texas and beyond.

University of Houston Special Collections is pleased to announce the online publication of over 500 recently digitized videos from the KUHT Collection. These videos, accessible via the newly unveiled UHL AV Repository, were digitized with funds from the Institute of Museum and Library Services’ TexTreasures grant, administered by the Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

Included in the project are several significant series and documentaries produced by KUHT between 1971 – 2000. One series, Almanac, tackled some of the major political and social issues facing Houston in the 1990s, including complex questions of race, gender, and economic inequality. Episodes such as those that cover the Harris County Grand Jury decision not to indict a Houston Police Department officer in the shooting of Byron Gillum and a discussion of the ban on homosexuals serving in the military exemplify the program’s willingness to pursue tough issues.  Notable figures, such as Mayor Sylvester Turner, made several appearances on the program early in his political career, and even President Jimmy Carter appears alongside Dominique de Menil to discuss the Carter-Menil Human Rights Prize.

All materials digitized were previously inaccessible due to their obsolete video formats, such as this U-matic video.

Another significant series, The Capitol Report, features interviews with Texas legislators discussing issues that remain of great importance today. Representation, prison reform, and education are just a few of the topics that are covered, and many guests will be familiar to those who follow Texas politics today.

Several noteworthy documentaries and feature programs were also digitized under the TexTreasures grant, such as Houston in the Age of AIDs (1985) and Wetlands (1991).

In addition to full episodes available on the AV Repository, an online exhibit created by graduate student Carolann Madden contextualizes the many series featured online: http://exhibits.lib.uh.edu/exhibits/show/kuht-textreasures, and includes contemporary documents from the KUHT Collection.

The KUHT series The Writer in Society featured guests such as Maya Angelou. https://av.lib.uh.edu/media_objects/gt54kn02m

Improving Access to the KUHT Collection AV Holdings

Department News, KUHT Collection, University Archives

When I arrived at the University of Houston Special Collections a year and a half ago as the first dedicated Audiovisual Archivist in the department, I was delighted to discover that UH was home to the KUHT Collection. I personally have a long-time love of public broadcasting, and KUHT holds the notable, and perhaps surprising, title of the “first educational non-profit television” in the country. Educational television was championed in the 1950s as a way to turn every living room into a classroom and would eventually evolve into what we know today as the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS).

1" Open Reel Video

1″ Open Reel Video

One of my first tasks was to gain better intellectual control of the collection in order to help set preservation priorities and ensure access to researchers. Under the guidance of Special Collections Program Manager Matt Richardson, several dedicated and hardworking student workers shifted over 2,000 films and 10,000 videos out of boxes and to new dedicated AV shelving. This new shelving meant that videos could be stored standing up on edge, rather than stacked in boxes, which put the fragile tapes at risk of damage.

KUHT videos

KUHT videos

The improved storage method also allowed for easier access to tapes for inventory purposes. Working on and off on the inventory over the past year, I am now nearing completion, with just a handful of shelves left to go. Over the year, I have learned a lot about the programming of KUHT over their sixty-three-year history. I’ve come across such curious titles as “Heartbreak Turtle” and “Teenager: A Disease of What?” as well as moments of historical significance captured on film, such as an early 1960s interview with Houston civil rights leader Rev. William A. Lawson. One of my personal favorites from the collection is the series, “People are Taught to Be Different,” available to view on the UH Digital Library. This series, a 1956 collaboration between KUHT and Dr. Henry Allen Bullock from TSU, utilizes interpretive dance and narration to describe the universality of emotion across race, nationality, and culture.

In an effort to make these materials more readily accessible to the public, the KUHT Collection finding aid has been updated to note the extent of the audiovisual holdings, and now includes an abridged list of collection titles, with an eventual eye at making the entire inventory available online. Furthermore, we have digitized and posted one pre-existing Rolodex-style catalog of 1″ Video for researchers to use. Our hope is that this resource will be a valuable asset to those with an interest in the history of public television, Houston, and the many other topics touched upon in six decades of non-profit television productions.

 

Remembering Dwight Jones

In the News, University Archives
Jones tips it in against the University of Southwestern Louisiana (Houstonian, 1973)

Dwight Jones tips it in against the University of Southwestern Louisiana (Houstonian, 1973)

Last week we lost a Houston basketball icon in Dwight Elmo Jones, who passed away on July 25, 2016 after battling a heart ailment over a number of years.

Before Clyde Drexler dunked his way to H-Town fame at Sterling High School, helped establish Texas’ Tallest Fraternity, and claimed an NBA title with his hometown Houston Rockets, Dwight Jones had already established himself as arguably the greatest high school basketball player in Houston history. Born in 1952 in Houston, Jones led Wheatley High School to three straight state championships from 1968 to 1970, played for the Cougars from 1971 to 1973, and even contributed to the Houston Rockets, from 1976 to 1979.

Coaches and teammates of Jones remember him being a special talent from a young age. Playing as a man among boys, playground lore suggests he was already dunking a basketball in the seventh grade. In high school, his Wheatley Wildcats racked up a remarkable 102-2 record and as a senior he averaged 28 points and 24 rebounds a game for the Wildcats in the newly desegregated University Interscholastic League. Recruited by the legendary Guy V. Lewis, Jones played on two NCAA Tournament teams for the Cougars while also leading the 1972 USA Olympic team in scoring before being ejected in the infamous gold medal game, as the Americans fell to the Soviets. Jones was drafted by the Atlanta Hawks in 1973 before joining the Rockets in 1976. His career in the NBA would run through the early 1980s and include stops with the Chicago Bulls and the Los Angeles Lakers.

A fierce competitor, his resolve was no doubt tested when he heard himself declared dead prematurely in an emergency room in 2012. Yet, to everyone’s surprise (except perhaps those closest to him), he survived the surgery and battled his illness with a fervent spirit for nearly four more years. In remembering Jones, current University of Houston Head Coach Kelvin Sampson said, “Dwight was a tremendous competitor, who represented the University of Houston and his nation well during his playing career. While his health declined in recent years, he faced those challenges with the same courage and spirit that made him one of our program’s greats. Tonight, our hearts go out to Dwight’s family and friends and all those who knew and loved him.” The Jones family has established a gofundme page to help defray the expenses they now face.

Dwight Jones (#12) and his freshman teammates pause for an impromptu team photo of the Cougar Kittens (Houstonian, 1971)

Dwight Jones (#12) and his freshman teammates pause for an impromptu team photo of the Cougar Kittens (Houstonian, 1971)

Jones showed his potential early as a freshman, scrimmaging against the Cougars' varsity team (Houstonian, 1971)

Jones showed his potential early as a freshman, scrimmaging against the Cougars’ varsity team (Houstonian, 1971)

Jones awaits the inbound pass (Houstonian, 1973)

Jones awaits the inbound pass (Houstonian, 1973)

Jones scores two against tough defense (Houstonian, 1973)

Jones scores two against tough defense (Houstonian, 1973)

"Sweet" Lou Dunbar and Dwight Jones share a lighter moment during the pregame (Houstonian, 1973)

“Sweet Lou” Dunbar and Dwight Jones share a lighter moment during the pregame (Houstonian, 1973)

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