“How come the Negroes live in shacks?” I asked with the innocence of an ten-year-old.
“Because they are so poor,
“Why the poor?”
“Cause they don’t have any land.”
“Hey, I see lots of land,” I said pointing to towards a sprawling plantation with stately white pillars. “The whole town could fit in that house; it’s bigger than a hotel!”
At Piney Woods School, my brother and I played basketball with the black boys on a dirt court in a sun-baked paradise surrounded by pine and honey-scented pink and white magnolias. I thought I had died and gone to heaven
Now what kind of a man who knew the glamour of Hollywood and the glory of the White House would remain kind enough to call his old college coach every year to extend well wishes? Reagan played right guard for my grandpa, Coach Mac, at Eureka College from 1928-1932. Though grandpa remembered Reagan for being a better orator than athlete, the relationship forged on a football field at the small private, Christian school in central Illinois lasted a lifetime. “Dutch” Reagan and Coach Mac remained together for every crucial moment of each other’s career.
“I played football with Franklin Burkhardt and we remained lifelong friends,” President Reagan recounted when he introduced his Coach Mac at the Washington D.C. Touchdown Club where my grandpa was to receive the prestigious Timmie Award for his contribution to college football.
“It wasn’t so easy for a young black man to come to college and make his way back in that day,” Reagan continued, “But Dr. William Burkhardt went onto become the athletic director at Morgan State. Before Burgie died, he said something most fitting for the man I am about to introduce, ‘the man who had the most influence in my entire life was Coach Ralph McKinzie.’”
I teach at an international school with students of over a hundred different nationalities where the notion of racism is non existent, so during Black History Month every February I try to help my students understand how prejudice can pass through generations even in a nation founded on democracy. Though I grew up in small town, USA, at the heels of the Civil Rights Movement, I don’t have a racist bone in my body. I credit that to the two families who taught me that everyone should be treated equal; the white one I was born to, and the black one I adopted through basketball.
I am X-Pat, a feisty globetrotter. Teacher, writer, coach, speaker, and trailblazer with the down-to-earth, open-armed persona of The Heartland and a European twist. I have lived in four different countries, speak three languages and raised two bi-cultural kids with one très bon Frenchman. My passion is inspiring courage, breaking barriers, and creating connections.
Down and out? Hopeless and helpless? No matter where you are in your journey, my stories can help pick up your spirits, make transitions, gain new perspectives or just escape the daily grind.
If you deny a woman’s history, you erase her identity. I reveal the athlete’s untold story, from the passage of Title IX through forty years of social change. What makes it different from other sport biographies is the voice of a woman who walks the talk, who dribbled the ball and tells the story. Learn more by clicking here