Leon W. Blevins, M.A. political science, 1967
My wife, Shannah, and our two sons were living in El Paso between 1965 and 1967. I was a graduate assistant taking and teaching some classes at Texas Western College. Because of our work and family schedules, we did not get to attend any Miner games.
We were very vocal supporters of the team. I had only one team member in one of my classes. I got to visit with coach Don Haskins occasionally in the faculty lounge. He had a lot of great stories to tell. I was writing a master's thesis about slavery and civil rights. I found it exciting that Don Haskins' starting line-up involved black ball players.
When the Miners moved up to the finals, Coach Haskins expressed great excitement about his winning team. I remember when Don Haskins began to get "hate mail" regarding his victory over the all-white Kentucky team. He showed disappointment and depression and told some of us about the mail, but he never showed me any of the correspondence, even though I was writing about racial discrimination.
The most memorable night for me and Shannah was the night of the final championship game. We had a small black-and-white television set in a small apartment and we placed the mattress from our bed on the floor so that we could be close to the small screen. We yelled throughout the game, as if we were there.
At one point during the game, Shannah became so excited that she threw her tuna fish sandwiches across the room. We hugged and yelled at the top of our lungs. A few days later, I was on campus when a parade was held for the victorious coach and his team.
As an observer of civil rights, I knew that what had happened was more important than a national championship. It was a civil rights milestone. Don Haskins and his team members did not go out to "make history," they went out to win games, regardless of the color of the skin of those who played the game.
Viva Don Haskins and Viva Miners. From 1986 until the present year of 2016, my family has lived next door to Willie Cager, one of the 1966 Miner players, and his family. Our lives are filled with memories of those days of the Glory Road.