Monday, January 11, 2010

My Favorite Alabama Football Story

It was the decade of the '60s, and in Alabama, the civil rights movement was beginning to cause great unrest. The popular Governor of Alabama, George Wallace, was a national segregationist leader and also a third party presidential candidate in 1968.

Richmond Flowers Sr. had the difficult task of being the Alabama State Attorney General. He opposed Governor Wallace at every turn. He was a progressive and he fought hard for school integration. He sought to enforce federal decrees calling for integration of public accommodations at every level. He aggressively fought to prosecute the very active Klu Klux Klan in Alabama.

Young Richmond Flowers Jr. attended public schools in Montgomery and was the subject of much abuse due to his father's role in state government. The young Flowers, a relatively small and thin youth, endured many fights and much verbal assault. He began to cope with his frustrations through running. As he moved through junior high school., he became a very dedicated and skilled runner. In high school, due to his speed, he was recruited to play football for his high school. He became one of the best Alabama high school runners (high hurdler) and football players of the era.

Richmond Jr. was recruited nationwide by college football programs his senior year in high school. As expected, Coach "Bear" Bryant "came calling" on him personally. Richmond Jr. told Coach Bryant, to his face, that due to the way he and his father had been treated in the State of Alabama, that he would not attend the University of Alabama if it were the last college on earth. He told the "Bear" that, in fact, he intended to go just up the road to the University of Tennessee, Alabama's arch rival, with the intent of beating Alabama his 4 years of college.

He attended the University of Tennessee, beat Alabama 3 of his 4 years, and became a consensus football All-American and track star. He had a successful NFL career as well. Terrible irony had his father, Richmond Sr., watching the last Tennessee / Alabama game in handcuffs from the stands. His father had been convicted of extortion by the state and was sentenced to 2 years in federal prison. Most people will tell you the State of Alabama set him up and framed him. He was pardoned by Jimmy Carter in 1978.

In an ironic twist, when Richmond Jr. applied to law school in 1975, he was rejected by all schools he applied to except one.....Alabama. "Bear" Byrant had written an unsolicited letter of recommendation on his behalf calling him a "winner".

Richmond Flowers III played football at Duke in the early 1990s. He was said to be one of the fastest players most had ever seen. Due to the lack of playing time, he to transferred to Tennessee his junior year.

In 2002, Richmond Flowers Jr. was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame. The sitting Governor of Alabama acknowledged his father, who was in attendance, then age 84, and his contributions to the state. His father was given a standing ovation by the 1,100 people in attendance.

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