Charles Wilson amongst eight Monroe Excessive Faculty college students to Desegregate cocoa excessive in 1964
ABOVE VIDEO: Charles Wilson can be among the many first eight African-American college students to attend an all white faculty in Brevard County. Not solely was he a expertise on the soccer subject, however he was additionally the primary African-American captain on a public highschool soccer workforce within the state of Florida.
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – The yr was 1964. President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated lower than a yr earlier, the Vietnam Struggle was in its infancy levels, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had simply been signed into regulation, which, amongst different issues, outlawed racial segregation in public faculties.
All throughout this nation there was common unrest.
That is concerning the time Charlie Wilson began to make a reputation for himself, not solely within the sports activities area, but in addition in life. Previous to desegregation, Wilson attended Monroe Excessive Faculty, an all black faculty in Cocoa, Florida.
Nevertheless, in 1964, with racial desegregation of public faculties a legislative mandate all through the U.S., together with the South, the choice was made that Wilson and 7 different Monroe Excessive Faculty college students would attend Cocoa Excessive Faculty.
They might be the primary African-American college students to attend the all white faculty. Wilson and the others have been among the many prime educational college students at Monroe, and it was felt that as a result of of that, their risk of success was good.
Wilson was born at Wuesthoff Hospital in Rockledge and had been in Brevard County all of his life. His dad, Phillip James Wilson, Sr. (PJ) was a profitable golf skilled, and was one of one of the best educating execs within the space. His mother, Etta Ruth Wilson, with eight youngsters, not solely labored at house, however was a top-notch salesperson at a big division retailer.
As a younger youngster Wilson’s life revolved round sports activities. His dad coached him in little league and pony league baseball the place Wilson excelled in any respect ranges on the diamond. Nevertheless, soccer was the game that might ultimately land him within the Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame.
When the 1964 faculty yr started Wilson was getting into the 10th grade, and he and his seven Monroe Excessive Faculty classmates, now Cocoa Excessive Faculty classmates, have been prepared.
Nevertheless, there have been many unanswered questions. Would they slot in? Would they be accepted? Would the gifted Wilson be given an opportunity to show himself on the athletic fields? Solely time would inform.
Wilson beloved the sport of soccer and had been a beginning defensive finish on Monroe Excessive’s staff because the seventh grade. He beloved protection and he liked to hit. Sam Huff and Ray Nitschke, two of the highest NFL linebackers of all time, have been a pair of gamers that Wilson admired and needed to emulate.
There was no query that Wilson needed to proceed enjoying soccer at Cocoa Excessive. One of Wilson’s mentors, Monroe soccer coach Dick Blake, spoke with the teaching employees at Cocoa Excessive and was assured that Wilson can be given an opportunity to check out for the workforce.
If the identify Dick Blake sounds acquainted, it’s as a result of he was the primary African-American to show at an built-in faculty in Brevard County, the primary to be a head coach and the primary to be named highschool principal. Blake can also be a member of the Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame.
Wilson’s first apply at Cocoa Excessive was not your typical highschool soccer follow. There was an enormous crowd to observe, as a result of they heard a former Monroe participant was going to check out.
They needed to see how good he was, and if he might stand up to the strain of being the primary African-American soccer participant at Cocoa Excessive. Wilson was so spectacular in his first follow that, although he broke his arm, he locked up a spot on the varsity.
Two questions have been instantly answered. He was ok to play soccer, and he might stand up to the strain. Wilson performed three years of soccer at Cocoa Excessive and in addition performed basketball and ran monitor.
When requested concerning the variations between athletics at Cocoa Excessive and Monroe Excessive, what got here to thoughts for Wilson was not the play on the sector, however the amenities.
Based on Wilson, “The facilities were much bigger and better at Cocoa.” He stated that teaching methods have been barely totally different, which isn’t uncommon, and that each faculties performed at Provost Park.
“The individual talent level at both schools was about the same,” stated Wilson.
A pair of standouts that instantly got here to thoughts have been Andrew Howard and Billy Hughes. When requested about 2016 Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame Inductee Willie Ric-Rac Wright, Wilson stated, “He is a legend in Cocoa. He is one of the people that I admired. I grew up saying, I want to be like Ric-Rac.”
Wilson additionally spoke extremely of Walter Jackson, higher often known as “Alabama Red,” and Clyde Thomas. These gamers weren’t solely nice soccer gamers, however performed basketball and baseball as properly.
So, there was expertise galore at each Monroe and Cocoa. Each faculties had gamers that went on to school and the NFL.
FIRST AFRICAN-AMERICAN TEAM CAPTAIN IN FLORIDA
As Wilson entered his senior yr at Cocoa Excessive, he was being closely recruited. Not solely was he a expertise on the soccer subject, however he was additionally the primary African-American captain on a public highschool soccer staff within the state of Florida.
A number of schools have been taken with Wilson, amongst them have been the U.S. Naval Academy, Baylor, Kansas, Michigan State, Citadel, UCLA and Penn State. The Naval Academy stood out to Wilson as a result of of its custom and requirements of excellence.
The presents have been on the desk. However what makes this story so distinctive is that Charlie Wilson had determined he needed to attend a serious Division 1 college. Till now, it was widespread follow for African-American athletes in Brevard County to attend traditionally black schools like Florida A&M and Grambling.
Wilson and his dad have been extraordinarily shut and have been massive time soccer followers. They watched soccer on TV and knew concerning the huge faculties, Penn State included. Wilson was an enormous fan of Penn State gamers Lenny Moore, Rosey Grier and Roger Kaufman.
He was additionally very eager about Michigan State and was impressed with the Wolverines’ linebacker George Webster and Spartan head coach Duffy Daughetry. Quite a bit of issues about Michigan State intrigued Wilson.
He had gotten it into his head that he needed to go to a serious soccer faculty and needed to pick a faculty that was nationally recognized, that would seem on TV, and would go to bowl video games.
Blake, Isaiah Russell and LeRoy Smith working collectively to safe a scholarship for him ultimately landed Wilson at Penn State. Russell was one of Wilson’s academics and did his summer time graduate work at Penn State.
Whereas there, he met head coach Joe Paterno and struck up a friendship. Russell advised Paterno that he knew of an ideal student-athlete from his hometown of Cocoa that he ought to recruit. Blake, Smith and Russell put collectively recreation movie of Wilson, despatched it to Paterno, and the remaining is historical past.
Wilson went to Penn State on a recruiting go to, not understanding Coach Paterno, who had been there just one yr. Wilson was impressed with the varsity, teaching employees and all they needed to supply.
“It seemed like a good school with a good reputation,” Wilson stated.
Typically the alternatives you don’t make grow to be good ones. Wilson had an opportunity to go to Marshall College. They have been the primary faculty to supply him a recruiting journey to go to their campus. He appreciated it, and was impressed with what he noticed. It simply wasn’t big-time like Penn State.
Had he chosen Marshall, he possible would have been on the aircraft that crashed on November 14, 1970, killing all 75 individuals on board, together with 37 members of the soccer staff.
ABOVE VIDEO: A few years have handed since Wille “Ric-Rac” Wright attended the African-American solely Monroe Excessive Faculty within the early 1960s, however his former coach says watching Wright on the sector and the basketball courtroom was magical.
PENN STATE’S FIRST AFRICAN-AMERICAN RECRUIT FROM FLORIDA
Wilson’s determination to attend Penn State was groundbreaking. He was the primary African-American from the state of Florida to attend Penn State. He was additionally the primary African-American to attend a serious Division 1 college from Cocoa Excessive Faculty – and fairly probably Brevard County.
Wilson loved enjoying for Coach Paterno. “He was pretty tough,” stated Wilson. “He not only was a coach, but a friend.”
Paterno had Wilson over to his home quite a few occasions for dinner and appeared to take a particular curiosity within the younger man from Cocoa. In any case, he was Penn State’s first African-American recruit from Florida and he needed to attempt to assist guarantee his success, not solely on the sector, however off the sector. Many occasions they might speak about issues aside from soccer.
On the sector, Wilson performed operating again and extensive receiver. By his sophomore season he was the beginning operating again for the nationally second-ranked Nittany Lions.
A devastating knee damage slowed Wilson down a bit, however he performed a strong four years, and commenced his senior season because the beginning security.
Wilson went on to steer a really profitable enterprise profession. He began with the Kendall Firm, rising to director of human assets. After being employed by Frito-Lay, Wilson went to work for Clarian Well being, after which to Penn State – Hershey Medical Middle the place he was Chief Human Assets Officer till he retired in 2014.
He would be the first to inform you that he has not executed this alone. His mentors have been many, and have been extraordinarily necessary to him. Amongst them, he counts his dad and mother; his coaches, together with Reche Sims, Smith and Blake; and his instructor, Isaiah Russell. And, there have been many extra alongside the best way which have guided and molded him into the person he’s at the moment.
When requested about classes discovered on the soccer area that carried over to life, Wilson used phrases like by no means giving up, all the time giving your greatest, being relentless, persistence, all the time striving to be higher than the final time and teamwork.
He emphasised that not solely did the African-American group pull for him and the Monroe college students’ success, however the white group did as properly.
“I had a wonderful experience at Cocoa High,” stated Wilson.
“I had the support of the coaches. I made a lot of friends – friends for life. People I had known, we lived in different neighborhoods and came from different walks of life, but we were able to connect on a level that has carried on to this day.”
Sure, 1964 is the place it actually started for Charlie Wilson and his eventual induction within the Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame.
The query – would the eight Monroe Excessive Faculty college students slot in at Cocoa Excessive Faculty was answered – sure, they did. Would they be accepted at Cocoa Excessive Faculty – sure, they have been. Would Charlie Wilson be given an opportunity to show himself on the athletic subject and life – sure, from day one.
THE 2018 SPACE COAST SPORTS HALL OF FAME Banquet and Induction Ceremony will happen on the Cocoa Seashore Nation Membership on Friday, Might 11.
FOR INFORMATION ABOUT the 2018 SPACE COAST SPORTS HALL OF FAME, name 321-615-8111 or e-mail [email protected]
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