Updated: Dec 20, 2021
My long-ago high school in Dallas, South Oak Cliff (known as SOC), finally won a state championship today in the Texas UIL 5A-DIV II. They beat a very strong Liberty Hill team that has amassed several state titles. This win was the first time a Dallas Independent School District (DISD) team has won a state championship since 1950, and it was a huge moment in the lives of those athletes, as well as the parents, families, and fans who reside in the predominately Black community of South Oak Cliff.
During my senior year of 1963-1964, South Oak Cliff had almost 2,400 students, and the football team was almost 100% White. No Blacks were allowed to attend SOC, although we did have a sprinkling of Hispanic students. In those days, Black students attended Booker T. Washington High School, and I admit, we horridly racist teenagers joked about that. Frankly, this was a time and place of white racist attitudes and beliefs, and I hope the majority of us have moved well beyond those backward views.
Although Dallas schools were officially desegregated in 1967, another two decades went by before DISD was officially declared desegregated. By that time, many affluent Whites had fled integration for the Dallas suburbs of Richardson and Plano. During this "white flight" era between 1966 and 1970 the student body of SOC changed from nearly 100 percent White to 100 percent Black. It was rare to see this shift happen in such a newly developed area.
If Not for Kennedy's Assassination ...
In 1963, SOC won its District 6-A championship and was touted as the team to win "state." After all, the four-sport dynamo and future NFL star Mike Livingston was SOC's quarterback, and he played a mean defensive game too. The team's other captain was a rectangular block of muscle called Larry Haning. But just days before SOC's regional playoff against Fort Worth's Paschal High School, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. As a result, the playoff game was postponed for a week, which put our football team at a huge emotional disadvantage. Due to the shock, grief, and shame that Dallas residents felt over President Kennedy's assassination, our boys' spirits were so low, there was no way they could pull out a win.
As I marched on the field in my gold satin drill team costume, I remember the anger I felt when I heard some Paschal fans shout that we were "Kennedy-Killers." With that kind of verbal abuse, our drill team, our band, and our football players were too full of shame, injustice, or grief to perform as confidently as we had all season. And so, we lost that crucial regional playoff game. To this day I blame the loss on the tragedy surrounding President Kennedy's death.
Many decades and events have passed since that time, including the full integration of Dallas public schools. However, the population shift during the late 1960s and 1970s continues to this day, keeping my former high school a 100% Black institution.
On the opposite side of the stadium today, I could see that Liberty Hill's students and fans were predominately White, although I did spot several students from other races and was glad to see that mix. But even an announcer made a point to say that SOC's win today was more about the South Oak Cliff community than just a football game. I'm not sure what he meant, but the team's big win should give a boost to a community that often—even in our day—receives a bum rap.
I don't know if today's SOC students and families are aware of the school's history as an almost all-White high school, and of our year as 6-A District Champs. But I wrote this post because I wanted them to know there was a whole bunch of old White SOC grads cheering as loudly and proudly for SOC-High as we did for our 1963-64 Golden Bears. Only this time, our team won.
White, Black, Hispanic, Asian, whatever ... for us, our school will be SOC-High Forever.
And here's the official DISD letter showing the '63-'64 team names in the photo above. Photo and letter courtesy of '64 grad Shannon Morehouse, with many thanks.