THE KIDS GOT IT RIGHT: How the Texas All-Stars Kicked Down Racial Walls
By Jim Dent, author of The Junction Boys
Published in 2013 by Thomas Dunne Books, St. Martin’s Press.
Reviewed by Laura D. Sanders
The Kids Got it Right is a celebration of courage. Courage to ignore color and see skill and abilities, courage to stand up against the predominant culture, courage to do the right thing.
For over 50 years the Southwest Conference had refused to integrate. Great Texas African-American high school football players had no choice but to go out-of-state if they wanted to play football in college. In May 1965, that situation changed: Jerry LeVias became the first Texas African-American high school football player to sign with a Texas college in the Southwest Conference. LeVias’ signing started a slow process: a few months after the signing Bill Bradley was the only white player willing to room with LeVias. Together the skill of the two and their willingness to be friends changed the face of both Texas and national football.
Bradley and LeVias, the visible images of the change that occurred that day in 1965, didn’t cultivate their courage by themselves. This book is also about the parents, family, churches, coaches, school administrators, and even journalists and others, who planted the seeds of bravery, teaching the two boys to respect others regardless of race. Sometimes their own courage put them on the front lines of the battle against racism; sometimes they worked behind the scenes for several years, waiting until the time was right to make a move towards integration.
Author and sports journalist, Jim Dent, has done a good job of telling the stories of both generations in this book. For those who love football in general, and especially Texas football, the book is full of game statistics and biographies of history makers, including the story of the 1965 Big 33 All-Star Game in Pennsylvania, and its aftermath. At a time when few games were televised at all, this game was televised in forty-two cities in Texas and at several closed-circuit sites, having an impact far beyond those who played in it or watched it from the stands.
For those, like myself, with a lack of knowledge of this era in Texas football, I recommend keeping this book around as a quick history reference.
The Kids Got it Right would be a good gift for someone who both loves football and wants to know more about courage and its place in changing history.
Laura D. Sanders is an editor and writer who resides in Austin and has been a member of the Writers’ League of Texas for several years. She currently has two books in process: a memoir of her Acadian ancestors journey from Nova Scotia to New Orleans, and a Christian romance novel. She is a member of the Editorial Freelance Association and enjoys bringing out the best in others’ writing. Website: www.lauradsanders.com