A small town Oklahoma basketball coach, Ken Zacher, 31, took the stage at the 1972 NAACP convention and told of how his mostly white basketball team had elected a black captain. Back then, in the small plains city of Nowata, the basketball team captain traditionally escorted the homecoming queen in a ceremony that ended with a kiss. But with the town divided over a black captain kissing a white queen, school system leaders pressured Zacher to find a new captain. He said no. He lost his job. And despite a record of 91 wins and 46 losses, Zacher, head of the state coaches association, never coached another game in Oklahoma.
The next season, Zacher found work in Kansas. But he was never the same. And few years later, his professional and personal life coming undone, he died by suicide. Zacher's voice hasn't been heard in nearly four decades, but you can hear what he had to say that day in Detroit by clicking below. His words, preserved on old tapes at the Library of Congress, still matter. //Jim McElhatton
note: Jim McElhatton explored the moving story of Coach Ken Zacher for the Washington Times in 2012. Just after his original story was published, the Library of Congress made the audio of Zacher's speech available to him.
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