Jasper Wright, who passed away last week in Roanoke, Va., could be considered the Jackie Robinson of Williamson High School (WHS).
Wright broke the color barrier at WHS. It was 10 years after Robinson broke the Major League baseball color line for the Brooklyn Dodgers in April of 1947.
No doubt Robinson endured some racial taunts similar to the nasty slurs Wright had to hear.
Not everyone wanted blacks to come over the hill from Vinson Street to Williamson High School once integration became legal back in the late 1950s. Jasper, along with Bobby Whaley, were two of the first to integrate into WHS.
Just like Robinson, it took a special person with the right personality to make the move. Liberty High School still existed and was not consolidated with WHS until 1967.
I heard several good stories about Wright and his family at last weekend’s WHS Hall of Fame induction. Since then I have received numerous e-mails and have heard many stories about Wright.
His brother Richard, who also played for the Wolfpack in the mid 1960s, said at many away games that Jasper really endured extra punishment in some football games. Players would try to get in a late hit or some extra-curricular activity in the pileups.
Ireland Smith, who played against Jasper and the Wolfpack, recalls when Wright took the opening kickoff from the 20 yard line and ran it in for a touchdown. Williamson ended up winning the hard-fought game 26-20. The kickoff return proved to be the difference in the game.
Wright went on to play football at Marshall University and later played semi-pro for the Charleston Rockets. In high school he played football, basketball and baseball. He also played for the Post 49 American Legion team during the summer months.
Richard Wright, II, who still lives in Williamson and has helped coach basketball the last few years, recalls his uncle with fondness. So do many other WHS grads.
SHORT STUFF: Phelps High School will be the first school to start the regular season this Friday night as they travel to Jenkins. First year head coach Randy Smith now has 28 players on the roster. Early in the summer, the Hornets only had 14 players and their head coach had left. It’s good to see that Phelps will have a team and compete on the grid iron this season.
… Mingo Central will travel to Inez, Ky. to take on Sheldon Clark in a scrimmage game on Friday. Belfry will hit the road for its second scrimmage as they take on Hazard Friday night. Tug Valley was hoping to schedule another scrimmage this weekend. They played against Logan last Saturday in their first scrimmage.
The University of Kentucky Athletics Hall of Fame has announced the six people who will make up the 2013 class of inductees, including men’s basketball’s Rex Chapman and Tubby Smith.
(Kyle Lovern is the sports editor for the Williamson Daily News. Comments or story ideas can be sent to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org)