By Gwenda Jackson, NDG Special Contributor
There are two special events that took place in 1961 and both made history.
On August 4, 1961, the first Black President of the United States, Barack Obama was born, and four months later on Dec 16, 1961, Hamilton Park High School captured the title as “Class A Division Texas State Champions.”
In 1961, desegregation of public schools in Texas had not taken place and many Texas black high school sports programs including state football championships, were under UIL connections managed under the largest black college in Texas known at the time as Prairie View A&M College of Texas.
Richardson Independent School District’s only African American school located in Dallas Texas, Hamilton Park, grades 1 thru 12 was completed in 1955 and several of the faculty and staff were graduates of Prairie View A&M College which was later re-named Prairie View A&M University.
A tight knit community of 750 homes where faculty and teachers not only taught at Hamilton Park School, but lived in the community as well. The former students of Hamilton Park understand what it means to be a “Bobcat.”
Richard Bonner who played on the 1961 championship team as an inside linebacker for the Hamilton Park Bobcats and whose brother, Dr. Harold S. Bonner served as interim president of Prairie View A&M University, during the 90’s, recalls; “I was a sophomore in 1961, the previous year we made it all the way to the State Championship in 1960 and lost, but we came back in “61 and took the title.”
Bonner remembers traveling to Sweeny, Texas with his teammates and defeating the Wildcats of Carver High School to win the state championship. The game trophy, known too many in Hamilton Park as the “Golden Football” is in scripted with the words; Prairie View A&M, Class A, State Champions, 1961. Bonner is shown in a recent photograph with the game trophy along side of the late Head Coach and former Principal of Hamilton Park School, Mr. James O. Griffin.
For many, the history of Hamilton Park dates back to civil rights and education of African Americans across the country. The neighborhood streets of Hamilton Park are named after famous African American actors, and places and serves as a reminder of those that paved the way for many blacks for a better quality of life and education. Such names as Ebony, Bellafonte Drive, Campanella Drive, and Bunche are all part of black history. The neighborhood post office named after the HP community leader and Prairie View graduate, the late Dr. Robert E. Price.
Hamilton Park’s historic connection to black colleges is evident when entering the main entrance of the neighborhood and one of the first streets visible is Oberlin Drive. In 1844, Oberlin College graduated its first black student, George B. Vashon, who became one of the founding professors at Howard University and the first black lawyer admitted to the Bar in the state of New York.
Former Dallas Cowboy and a 1981 graduate of Grambling State University, Everson (Cubby) Walls, and Gwen Barrett Jackson, a 1981 graduate of Prairie View A&M University, both are former students of Hamilton Park School.
Mrs. Jackson grew up on Dandridge Drive, named after actress Dorothy Dandridge, but Jackson nor Walls never got the chance to attend high school at Hamilton Park, and both remember how desegregation and busing forced the closure of their neighborhood high school to what is known now as Hamilton Park Pacesetters Magnet, grades K thru 6.
“In the beginning I felt cheated,” explained Jackson, I remember in grade school during football season, each homecoming the high school band, floats, convertible cars, homecoming queens, all participated in the homecoming parade, marching through the streets of Hamilton Park with the entire neighborhood cheering and watching. Once I got to Prairie View, it was then I realized, I don’t think I was cheated at all, the experience was only delayed, it felt as though I picked up where I left off, only at a much higher level.”
Jackson is the third youngest of seven children, whose eldest brother was a member of the HP Bobcat Football team from 1960-61. A member of the Hamilton Park School Wide Reunion Committee, Jackson served as the first Scholarship Chair of the School Wide Reunion.
The first scholarship of Hamilton Park was awarded to a student to attend Prairie View A&M University. As the years followed a scholarship was awarded for a student to attend Grambling State University and other universities were soon added.
For more information or questions regarding this article, contact: Gwen Jackson at firstname.lastname@example.org
For information on how to support Prairie View A&M Foundation and the new sports complex, please contact www.helppvbuild.org.
For information on how to support Grambling State University please contact: www.gsutigers.com