Kilgore High School honors 1973 first all-black basketball starting lineup

Kilgore High School honors 1973 first all-black basketball starting lineup
Published: Feb. 7, 2023 at 11:18 PM CST|Updated: Feb. 7, 2023 at 11:19 PM CST
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KILGORE, Texas (KLTV) - Fifty years ago, the Kilgore High School boy’s basketball team had an all-black starting lineup for the very first time.

In honor of Black History Month, five men from that team were in attendance and were honored at Tuesday night’s basketball game.

Derek Winkley, Carlton Hutchings, A.C. Garrett, Bobby Dunn, and John Settle were the first ever all-black starters for the boy’s basketball team in 1973. Winkley says at the time, they didn’t know history was in the making. But now...

“Now we think about it. And it has drawn us closer together as a result of it. That was only five years after Martin Luther King Jr. had died, so you know, the racial climate in the country was terribly divided. But when we were on the court we didn’t think about it.”

It all started with their coach, Donnie Oden, who set ethnicity aside and focused on skill.

“The coach we had was very fair, so we knew that if we competed and we did our best and, you know, we could get a shot.” said Bobby Dunn.

Oden has since died. But at that time, his decisions were questioned by the Kilgore community.

“But he, against all of the resistance that he had, he persisted and he did it. And we’re so forever thankful because he’s the one that put this team together.” said Winkley.

Tuesday night, the five men were introduced back on the court just like it was 1973, and were recognized for this historic moment in time.

While Coach Oden wasn’t here for this momentous occasion, his wife, Mary Oden, was in attendance, showing support for this team now and then.

“I never ever would have imagined something like this would happen, but I thank God that we have this opportunity to live all these years and we still have the same bond that we did when we were playing.” said Dunn.

The men tell us it was great to come back together, reflect on the past, and celebrate this great accomplishment.