Former Principal Recalls Segregated Days As Pupil

February 24, 1991|By John Harris III | John Harris III,Staff writer

Second-hand donated uniforms, routine bus rides to Delaware, Virginia, Washington, Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, and hard, unforgiving playing fields.

These were the conditions in which N. Jerome Edwards and the rest of the Wiley H. Bates High School football team endured during the early 1950s, a period in county athletics thathe says he wouldn't trade for anything in the world.

"We didn't have any stands back in those days, just a rope dividing the crowd from the field. There would be people lined up four or five deep to see our games. We always had a long way to travel, a gooddistance whenever we had to play away. Our uniforms were donated by the Naval Academy. Our school colors were purple and gold, and here we were wearing blue and gold. Those were the (good) years," recalled Edwards with a smile.

The 54-year-old special assistant to the county's assistant supervisor for student services has nothing but fond memories of his athletic and academic career at now defunct Bates -- the county's only high school for blacks until desegregation in 1966.

"It was just so much different then than it is now. Back then, the emphasis wasn't on winning, but in participation. Our coach (Jim Webb) made his best effort to see that everyone had a chance to play, but you had to earn it during practice," Edwards said. "We were also alot better disciplined than you see the kids today. Back then, everyone knew everyone else's family, so you had to do things the right way or suffer the conse


During the segregation era, black students from as far north as the Baltimore City line and as far south as the Calvert County line made the trek to the Annapolis school. Athletic contests started

at 1 p.m., enabling students to catch most of the action before taking the bus home.

"Most of the time, the students were able to see only the first three quarters of the game. They'd miss the fourth. But we still played onjust as hard as when theywere there," said the Severna Park resident.

Not only did Edwardsplay hard, he did his best in the classroom as well. In addition to being a member of the honor society, he

also sang in the chorus, was a member of the Student Government Association and participated in dramatics.

Edwards graduated in 1954 and went then to Penn State University, where his athletic career came to an abrupt end.

"I thought I was a pretty good offensive lineman in high school, so I decidedto walk on at Penn State," recalled Edwards. "Things were going along pretty well for the first couple of days while I was practicing with the freshmen. Then, a couple days later, the veterans came in.

"The first day they came back, I had to take on Rosie Grier (former lineman of New York Giants and Los Angeles fame during the '60s). Rosietotally misused me that day, but he and (former Baltimore Colt running back and Hall of Famer) Lenny Moore became good friends of mine. That experience taught me that I'd make out a whole lot better by cheering for Penn State in the stands."

Edwards graduated in 1958, which led him back home to teach eighth-grade general science at Bates in the fall of 1958. After two years in the Army (1960-1962),he returned to the school as a special ed instructor, a position he held until1966. He then was moved from Bates to Annapolis High,where he taughtseven years.

After receiving certification as an administrator, Edwards was transferred in 1975 to newly opened Old Mill High School as assistant principal and administrative liaison to the school's physical education department.

"I really learned a lot from (Athletic Director) Jim Dillon. He ran a very tight ship, the way it's supposedto be done. I also learned a lot about what kids could do through high school athletics," said Edwards.

"My best recollection of Jerrywas the interest that he had in the kids in the athletic program," said Old Mill head lacrosse and golf coach Bruce Lawton. "He always made sure that they were doing the right things in the classroom and throughout the entire school."

In the fall of 1985, after 10 years at Old Mill, Edwards became principal at Andover High School, a position he held until the school merged with Brooklyn Park last fall. He will retire from the county school system next month.

With high-pressured recruiting and win-at-all-costs attitudes becoming the norm, Edwards stresses the need for coaches, parents and student-athletes themselves to place high school athletics in their proper place in the total learning experience.

"I see athletics as being a co-curricular activity, not extracurricular," he said. "The two go hand-in-hand.One should not place too much emphasis on one or the other.

"Academics always comes first, but sports can also be used as a positive learning mechanism as well. It taught me the values of teamwork, cooperation, and dedication. It teaches you to never quit. A lot of thingsyou learn on the playing field, you can apply to real life."

Edwards also emphasizes the need for minority youth to throw away far-flung aspirations of National Basketball Association or National Football League stardom and use education as their tickets to success.

"Too many of our black youths have the notion that they're going to make the professional ranks and make a whole lot of money. You can't take a 5-3 high school point guard with a little bit of talent and buildup in his mind that he'll be the next Michael Jordan," Edwards said.

"Someone has to show him how to set realistic goals in life, and help him go out and achieve them. This is where the parents come in. They have to play a major part in the development of the kid's mind, and teach him good study habits and work ethics. The schools only have them for six hours, the rest is up to the parents."

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