As his press secretary and one who traveled with Gov. Edward T. “Ned” Breathitt all over Kentucky, I take some small exception to the “political” label that Stuart W. Sanders in his column put on the governor for his all-out effort to recruit Nate Northington to integrate the UK football team.
By law, the governor then was chairman of the University of Kentucky Board of Trustees. Although the law was later changed by the General Assembly, Breathitt felt obligated as chairman of the board to do the right thing to integrate the football and basketball teams at UK.
The governor first discussed the matter with John Oswald, then UK’s president, and was met with great enthusiasm. As a result, both did all they could to integrate UK’s sports. Breathitt even visited Northington’s home in Louisville, talking to him and his mother about coming to UK, carrying with him the recruiting papers and trying to assure them of his safety.
Although Northington’s UK career was cut short by injuries and the death of his dear friend, Greg Page, he’ll long be remembered as the one who integrated the Southeastern Conference.
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Or as Sanders said in his column, “All Kentuckians should be proud that our state’s flagship university — and Nate Northington, Greg Page, Wilbur Hackett and Houston Hogg — bravely worked to erase the SEC’s racial line.”