Updated: Dec 14, 2022
My long-ago high school in Dallas, South Oak Cliff (known as SOC), finally won a state championship today (Dec. 18, 2021) in the Texas UIL Class 5A-DIV II. The Golden Bears 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 won a state championship since 1958, 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 the "white flight" 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 the 6-AAAA "city 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. SOC's other captain was a rectangular block of muscle called Larry Haning, who could knock down just about any human. But just days before SOC's playoff game against Fort Worth's Paschal High School, then President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. As a result, the game was postponed for a week. This put SOC's football team at a huge emotional disadvantage. Due to the shock, grief, and shame that Dallas residents felt over President Kennedy's assassination, our school's collective spirits were so low, we could not summon the confidence to pull out a win.
As I marched on-field at halftime in my gold-satin drill team costume, I remember the anger I felt when some Paschal High fans shouted that we were "Kennedy-Killers." With that kind of verbal abuse, our drill team, our band, and our football players were too distracted, angry, shocked, or full of grief to perform as strongly as we had all season. So, we lost that crucial 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 of 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. An announcer stated that SOC's win was more about the South Oak Cliff community than merely a high school football game. I nodded in hope that the team's big win will help boost a community that often receives a bum rap and did so even back in our day. At that time, anyone who lived south of the Trinity River was somehow considered "less than" to the more well-heeled populations on the north side.
I don't know if today's SOC students and families are aware of the school's history as an all-White high school, and of our year as 6-AAAA Champs. But I wrote this post because I wanted them to know there were a whole lot of us 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.
Below is the official DISD letter showing the 1963 6-AAAA champions shown in the photo above. Photo and letter courtesy of '64 grad Shannon Morehouse, with many thanks.