HIS 365 - Public History (Spring 2019)

Rollins’ First Generation of African American Athletes

Following the The Supreme Court decision to mandate the integration of public schools in the landmark Brown v. the Board of Education case (1954), colleges across the country slowly began integrating their campuses and sports programs. Perhaps not surprisingly, the Sunshine State Conference (SSC), the Florida-based collegiate sports conference that Rollins College holds membership in, was among the last major conferences in America to be integrated (1968). This timeline chronicles the movement of those African American college athletes who first integrated college athletic programs in one of the nation’s most racist and unforgiving areas. Collectively, the events and individuals within this timeline gives context to the groundbreaking moment that was the integration of Rollins’ athletic program, including trials and tribulations that accompanied this process for Rollins’ first wave of African American athletes. [The 10 dates and images in the above timeline feature materials from the Rollins College Archives.]

Throughout the 50s, 60s, and into the 1970s, the struggle for equality in collegiate athletics progressed slowly as black college athletes began to see increased representation and equal treatment in their programs. In 1963, only white students attended Rollins. That changed in 1964 when Rollins admitted it’s first Black student, John Cox. By 1970, there were 27 black students at Rollins and several of them were competitive athletes. In 1968, after the SSC voided it’s gentleman’s agreement on segregation, Laurence Martinez, Charlie Morton, and Reggie Brock became the first African American student athletes to integrate Rollins’ athletic program. These trailblazers are highlighted in the above timeline and some short quotes and bios about each player are also presented below.

Laurence “Larry” Martinez

Larry played Men’s Basketball from 1968-1972. He wasted little time etching his name in Rollins lore. Following a record setting sophomore year, Martinez earned a spot in the‘69 edition of Most Outstanding College Athletes. He was a a leading scorer for Rollins in both 1970 and 1972. He was also Co-Captain of his team in his senior year.

Charlie “Chuck” Morton

Chuck played Men’s Basketball and Baseball from 1968-1972. He was actively recruited by his coaches as a highly talented, multi-sport player. Morton and Martinez forged the path for future black student-athletes entering a “notoriously white” basketball program in the late 1960s.

Reggie Brock

Reggie played Men’s Tennis from 1968-1971. His tennis team made repeat NCAA tournament appearances (1970, 1971). Reggie rolled to an 9-3 record in his final season at Rollins, serving as a major asset to his team’s outstanding tournament performance that year.

Often times, milestone moments within the history of civil rights era are celebrated as the the end of racism, and there is an assumption that an immediate shift in attitude occurred, almost overnight. But that is an inaccurate and unfair depiction of the history of integration and just not true of the lived experiences of Laurence Martinez, Charlie Morton, and Reggie Brock (see below quotes). While their participation in College athletics was important and groundbreaking, it also revealed continued underlying racist attitudes within Rollins and the larger community of Winter Park.

“Going into the classroom you could tell there were certain professors who didn’t want you in the room…There were nights you’d see a racist banner in a fraternity during Greek Week that prohibited blacks.” — Laurence Martinez

“The tone was set quickly. I came into the locker room after one of my first practices and spotted a substance like liquid heat in my jockstrap…Once or twice, drunken fraternity members would call out racist names.” — Chuck Morton

Resistance and animosity from whites were reactions that every incoming African American student, including student athletes, had to anticipate during this difficult time of change, and some came to accept that as one of the many obstacles they would need to overcome in order to pave the way for future generations African American students. This early cohort of black students were determined to show they they too were valuable members of the college’s community.

And they undoubtedly were. From the day that Laurence Martinez, Charlie Morton, and Reggie Brock arrived at Rollins in 1968, they were key contributors to their teams and the larger student body. For example, Reggie Brock became a leader on campus as a dorm RA and X-Club member. Chuck Morton was a frequent and popular performer at student-led functions, a part of the Annie Russell production team, and on the Dean’s List. And, Larry Martinez was an active member of the Black Student Union as well as the annual Homecoming Committee.

There is a saying that “the first ones through the wall always get bloody” (John Henry, Red Sox Manager). Considering the views and circumstances of Rollins’ student body in the late 1960s, not to mention the scenario of race relations in the larger state of Florida, the precedent set by Laurence, Charlie, and Reggie and other early black student athletes’ actions cannot be overemphasized. By 1972 Rollins’ enrollment of African Americans, both students and athletes, more than doubled and the athletic program had taken drastic steps towards becoming both more racially diverse and more competitive, a frequent contender in the SSC and on the national level.

— Peter Solien (Class of 2021)

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