Before Blacks Ruled the College Game

George Wilson struck a blow for integration even before he played in the 1963 NCAA basketball championship game.

Loyola Ramblers, 1963 NCAA champions (Loyola Athletics); George Wilson (Archives & Rare Books Library, University of Cincinnati)

“I’ll never forget, to this day, I always had ham salad on toast. I had a strawberry shake and Phillip had a chocolate shake. And we’d share one piece of apple pie. We were gentlemen. We were just as neat as could be. We’d finish our shakes and put ’em there, put our forks and our spoons together and count our little money. So guess what happened? After a while, all the waitresses and the managers at that Walgreens, who were all white, they would look forward to us coming in, sitting there, and they would ask us questions. How did it go this month? How are your classes? How are your grades? And that one piece of apple pie kept getting bigger and bigger.

“I don’t know what went on in those people’s minds, but I guess they figured if these two little brothers come in here and know what they’re doing, let’s see what happens. Instead of prejudging us as two little black fellas who are gonna come in here and steal everything, or throw everything around, just let us prove how we’re gonna be. You know, they treated us like their sons. That’s why I love Walgreens to this day.”

Excerpted with permission from Ramblers: Loyola Chicago 1963 — The Team That Changed the Color of College Basketball, published by Agate Midway. Copyright © 2013 by Michael Lenehan. For more information about the book and author, visit michaellenehan.com.

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