Blazing trails and beyond: the legacy of Robert Grant and Kenneth "Butch" Henry
The year is 1964.
A game-changing event takes place on more than just the gridiron. It's a game-changer for not just a top-25 institution located in Winston-Salem, NC, but virtually every major college in the South, from the ACC, SEC, and other conferences.
And to think, it all started at the smallest Power 5 school in the country, Wake Forest University.
Change is already on the horizon as in 1962, with the admission of Dr Ed Reynolds as the first African-American student enrolled at the university. Even with this breakthrough, the leadership of the university at that time, Dr Harold Tribble (university president), athletic director Gene Hooks, and head football coach Bill Tate, discuss the need to build upon a new era and doing so through one of the more visible mediums present, student-athletics. As a by-product of insightful leadership with men of courage, their recruiting efforts lead them to two men.
Their names are Robert Grant and Kenneth "Butch" Henry. And today's panel at the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum (in Winston-Salem, NC) helps shed much needed light on their and others' work which is overlooked too long, but no longer.
As noted previously, 1964 is the year it happens; in the midst of turbulent times (i.e. the race riot in Winston-Salem), these two took a trying yet true stand to bring social change to the campus community.
More, including the Wake Forest University community, need to know and remember who they are and their groundbreaking efforts. Not only are they the first African-American student-athletes to attend Wake Forest University. They leave even bigger "ripples" on the student-athlete pond/landscape as for any major university in the South, they are the first African-American student athletes to play any sport. Before Clemson, Alabama, and other schools noted for their student-athletics, it's these two Demon Deacons who set the stage, table, and tone for what is now considered much more commonplace.
During the panel discussion (please refer to the video), all speak to the matters of the day as well as the matters at hand. From teary-eyed testimony on the importance of simply doing the right thing), to former teammates speaking to how Grant and Henry are viewed as members of the team, and even answering the question of "What are you thinking" speaks to the focus of being positive change agents.
All stress the importance of making sure to better tell this under-told story of impact and change for the university and larger region (and even the nation). While viewing this as a reminder of coming a long way since 1964, it's the retelling and sharing, as well as building on needs to be done, is the call of day (and where all, regardless of age, ethnic background, and other demographics can still make the positive changes in our local, regional, national, and broader spheres of influence.
Set the tone.
Build upon hope.
These are among the many reasons to celebrate and build on the inaugural recipients of this award, Robert Grant and Kenneth "Butch" Henry.
Notes: Video captured by Andrew Snorton. All photos are captured and credited to EmoryRose Photography.