article: Jackson State offers Therriault an oasis

By Pat Forde

“I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.”

— Martin Luther King Jr., Aug. 28, 1963

 JACKSON, Miss. — Scenes from an oasis:

A fence separated the old black woman from the football field, but it didn’t stop her. She wanted to meet the young white quarterback. She asked the coach to bring him over. If you don’t have a place to go for Thanksgiving, the old woman told the quarterback through the fence, we will feed you.

In the stands in Memphis, Tenn., weeks earlier, a black stranger struck up a conversation with the white quarterback’s father. He was easy to pick out, after all, a pale face in a section full of dark faces. By the end of the game, the quarterback’s father had been invited to stay at the stranger’s house for the next home game.

Everyone wanted to reach out to the white quarterback. He had come hundreds of miles from his native Michigan to this strange place — to Jackson State University, a historically black college — because he had nowhere else to go, with a past he was trying to escape. He didn’t know what to expect. He sure didn’t expect all this. All the support and attention and generosity directed his way was startling.

Just a few months before, no college wanted anything to do with him. Now, this novelty act of a quarterback was suddenly a minor celebrity.

In a state that was crippled by racial intolerance, the Jackson State fans didn’t care that he was different from them. They didn’t care about the trouble in his past and the chilling word that was attached to him. Or maybe it was because of the differences, and because of the trouble, that they reached out.

Maybe this was the latter stages of a dream come to fruition.

The guy was intensely drunk, with a blood-alcohol content that later would be measured at .27 — more than three times the legal limit to drive a car. He swung first. He hit Casey Therriault in the face.

The reaction was immediate, ………………. Read the rest of this article here.


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