The integration of black athletes into American sports was a pivotal moment in the fight for racial equality. The success of iconic black athletes such as Jackie Robinson and Bill Russell made sports integration a popular movement, and by 1960 white and black athletes were playing professional sports on the same team and in front of the same fans. As higher education institutions integrated their campuses following the Civil Rights Act (1964), collegiate sports teams’ rosters began to fill up with talented and dedicated black student athletes for the first time.
Rollins was one of the last institutions in the Sunshine State Conference (SSC) to integrate its sports programs. Almost twenty years after Rollins College President Hamilton Holt’s decision to cancel a homecoming football game against an integrated Ohio team due to the threat of violence, Rollins welcomed its first black athletes in 1967. Records from the College Archives provide some insight to the experiences of the first cohorts of these impressive and brave student athletes. As the short bios below highlight, early black athletes at Rollins excelled in their chosen sports, even in the face of extraordinary hardship both on and off the court or field. Importantly the two students featured here also made other major contributions to Rollins campus in non-sport co-curricular roles, showing a great deal of investment and interest in their broader campus community.
Laurence “Larry” Martinez (’72)
Larry Martinez (‘72) was on the men’s basketball team for all four years (1969-1972) that he attended Rollins, and furthermore was a leading scorer in his sophomore and junior years. He also earned a spot in the 1969 edition of “Most Outstanding College Athletes,” a national publication recognizing collegiate sports excellence. Off the court Larry was equally dedicated. He was a contributor to the newly formed Black Student Union (est. 1970), a member of the Lamda Chi Alpha fraternity, and he served on the annual Homecoming Planning Committee. Martinez also mentored students as a leader in “College Preparation Week” for incoming freshmen.
Reginald “Reggie” Brock (’72)
Reggie Brock (’72) was the only African American on the men’s tennis team from 1969-1972. He was a very gifted player, earning and impressive 9-3 record in 1971, and helping the Tars make a second straight NCAA tournament appearance that same year. While Reggie lettered in tennis, he was also a high scorer on the intramural men’s basketball team. In addition to his sports, Reggie was a very active member of the study body. He joined X-Club, was a chapel reader, and served as one of three RAs (Resident Heads) on campus in his senior year.
Larry and Reggie, and all the other early black athletes at the College not mentioned here, were true trailblazers who carved out their own space on campus during their four years in attendance and formed their own identities as they participated in and lead initiatives alongside their student body peers. These individuals paved the way for all future Rollins athletes, who share the court and field today regardless of the color of their skin.
— Jack Schwab (Class of 2019), with contributions from Peter Solien (Class of 2021)