Wally Hall, the Arkansas Activities Association & the Loss of a State’s Athletic Heritage

Before Malik Monk, this man torched local nets like no other. His name, though, keeps being forgotten.

We’re taught in school that history, at its core, is comprised of facts: so-and-so did such-and-such on a certain date. Learn enough of those, and you know enough to write an essay, make your passing grade, and get on with graduation.

Unfortunately, history is a lot less clear cut than that.

The people wielding the most power often determine what the “facts” are, and which ones are passed down to following generations. Our past, it turns out, is riddled with voids. We can’t fill them all, but it can be enough of a start to acknowledge they are there.FullSizeRender

This came to mind when reading today’s column by Arkansas Democrat-Gazette sports editor Wally Hall. At the end, he praises Jim Bryan, an Arkansas prep basketball legend who recently suffered an embolism. Nothing wrong with that. In fact, Hall’s pretty generous when it comes to wishing folks well.

What concerns me is the part where Bryan is described as “the second all-time leading scorer in Arkansas high school basketball history.” That’s not true. In terms of all-time career points scored, Bryan is listed as the state’s fourth greatest scorer.

INDIVIDUAL – REGULAR SEASON OFFENSE – MOST POINTS SCORED
Career

4,896 Bennie Fuller, Ark School Deaf, 1968-71

3,619 Jacob Roark, Concord, 2011-14

3,238 James Anderson, Junction City, 2004-07

2,792 Jim Bryan, Valley Springs, 1955-58

2,755 Dederick Lee, Clarksville, 2009-13

2,317 Ronnie Parrott, Tuckerman, 1976-79

2,239 Payton Henson, Siloam Springs, 2009-13

2,018 Allan Pruett, Rector, 1963-66

The above records are kept by the Arkansas Activities Association, the state’s governing body of high school athletics. The fact that Hall missed Bryan’s standing by a place or two, to me, isn’t too big of a deal. What’s far more important is what the records don’t include. Namely, any mention of Jackie Ridgle and Eddie Miles – potentially the two most potent scorers in Arkansas high school history before current Bentonville star Malik Monk.

Miles, for one, averaged 21 points as a freshman, and then upped that each year to top out at around 32 points points a game as a senior. With numbers like that, there’s no doubt the North Little Rock native deserves a spot near the top of the all-time scoring list. But he’s not there, nor is Ridgle, because they played for all-black schools with records that have been largely lost, forgotten or destroyed. Even those which still exist and can be verified – such as Miles’ and Ridgle’s – haven’t been incorporated into the AAA’s record book. Until that happens, it shouldn’t be viewed as a true, official account of the state’s prep history.

This is a major issue that needs to be addressed. I’ve written about it time and time again. To the credit of the AAA, its assistant executive director Wadie Moore has been sympathetic to this problem and he has added Miles’ name to one category. But one mention isn’t enough when he (and Ridgle) deserve mention in multiple categories:

Per Game – Season

50.9 Bennie Fuller, Ark. School Deaf, 1970-71

46.0 Larry Stidman, Mount Ida, 1989

32.7 Josh Smith, Prairie Grove, 1996-97

31.0 Steven Delph, Guy-Perkins, 1987-88

30.3 Eddie Miles, NLR Jones, 1958

30.2 Marvin Newton, Viola, 1956-57

29.2 Glen Fenter, Charleston, 1977-78

28.8 Bill James, Armorel, 1957

28.0 Randy Porter, Luxora, 1979-80

28.0 Kyle James, Brinkley, 1986-87

The AAA means well, but I want it to do a more thorough job with its record books. Jim Bryan, for instance, owns the top two spots in the season scoring totals below. But where are the season point totals for the three people in front of him in the all-time career scoring list? Surely, a Bennie Fuller season or two should be here. Same with Jacob Roark and James Anderson, not to mention the likes of Eddie Miles or Jackie Ridgle.

 Season

1,190 Jim Bryan, Valley Springs, 1957-58

1,152 Jim Bryan, Valley Springs, 1956-57

1,125 Jermaine Mansko, Tuckerman, 1992

1,059 Matt Secrease, Weiner, 2002-2003 Season

1,041 Allan Pruett, Rector, 1965-66

This issue doesn’t just apply to Arkansas. It’s occurring in other states, too, especially in the South. But some states – like Texas – do a better job than others. Arkansas should join their ranks.


Below are more scoring marks, according to the AAA’s 2014 record book. (One glance down the names shows why Rex Nelson tabbed Bennie Fuller as the “Wilt Chamberlin of the Deaf“)

Single Game

108 Morris Dale Mathis (St. Joe), 1-25-1955

102 Bennie Fuller Ark. Deaf School, 12-4-1971

98 Bennie Fuller, Ark. Deaf School, 1970

77 Bennie Fuller, Ark School Deaf, 1970

65 Bennie Fuller, Ark. School Deaf, 1970

64 Bill McElduff, Marianna, 1944

61 Brooks Taylor, Buffalo Island Central, 2006

59 Wayne Lemon,s Dyess, 1952

58 Chester Barner, Jr., Marmaduke, 1959

58 Josh Bateman, Marmaduke, 2002

Making the Cut: The Vanishing Legacy of Arkansas’ All-Black Sports

During illustrious high school careers, All-Americans Eddie Miles and Jackie Ridgle took center stage in nearly every game they played. In a recent Associated Press list, though, they don’t even get off the bench. 

It may be a tired truism,  but those in power determine the history which will be passed down to future generations.

Eddie Miles should be included among the state's official list of 2,000 point scorers in prep basketball.

Segregation between races was Arkansas’ status quo for 120 years before the Civil Rights movement began picking up speed in the state during during the mid-1950s.  In the state’s northeast corner, the Hoxie school district became the state’s first K-12 institution to integrate in 1955. Two years later, the Little Rock Central High crisis was broadcast to every corner of the world.

A half century later, the accomplishments of the brave pioneers in these stories are now threaded into the state’s official history – into its textbooks, holidays and cultural encyclopedia.

It took another decade, but pioneers also integrated the state’s basketball courts and football fields. I was reminded of their legacy when last week when I saw a news brief about a Newport teenager becoming the state’s fourth basketball player to score 2,000 points in a high school career. The Associated Press fired this out to multiple news outlets in a couple paragraphs, wiped its hands and was done with it. A seemingly simple milestone duly recorded for posterity, then on to the next newsmakers.

But the full story doesn’t end there.

Continue reading Making the Cut: The Vanishing Legacy of Arkansas’ All-Black Sports