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Remembering the past using influences on Newton sports
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Over the years, I'll have to admit that I have grown disenchanted by how black Americans celebrate Black History Month.

We, referring to black American, aren't stressing enough the importance of where we came from, where we are today and where we are heading tomorrow, especially how it pertains to sports in general. Not only has examining black history lost its appeal to me, but it has caused me to stay distant from the issue at hand.

So, I needed something that would restore my mixed feelings of Black History Month by examining black history and sports in Covington. Basically, I wanted to find out information that could help restore my lost perception of why I should continue to acknowledge and celebrate this month.

Upon doing my homework, I was amazed and humbled by the story of the all-black R.L. Cousins High School of Covington (1955-1969). It existed only in part to the vicious cycle of segregation that loomed not only in Newton County but also throughout the state of Georgia.

And R.L. Cousins showed its dominance in football. In November 1967 against Westside (Lincoln County), the Wolverines, led by Coach Gilbert N. Truman, annihilated Westside, 102-0.

According to the Georgia High School Football Historical Association, that record still stands to this day.

In addition, the R.L. Cousins basketball team was exceptional, as well. It began with Coach Charles Tinsley, whose 1958-59 squad went perfect at 19-0.

The 1964-65 Wolverines basketball team, led by Coach Henry James "Jimmy" Wright, captured the District IV basketball title. It followed by becoming the state runner-up after losing to Liberty (McIntosh) at the Georgia Interscholastic Association (GIA) Class A basketball tournament in Darien.

During my research, I came across the Porterdale Blue Caps, a legendary black baseball team that traveled and competed throughout Georgia. There were other black baseball clubs in Newton that came from Oxford - Needmore, Spring Hill and Nelson Heights, which not only played against each other, but welcomed fellowship together.

As I continued to study with great interest and intrigue, I learned a bit more about the late John Robert (Ricky) Hammond, Jr. Many are aware that Hammond is famous for integrating Oxford College in 1968, but even fewer know he was the first black football player at Newton High.

Without question, his sacrifice opened the door for today's student-athletes, not only at Newton but other schools, as well.

Hammond knew of the hostilities and racial epitaphs he would have to endure on a daily basis, yet he fought on until the very end.

And his bravery did not go in vain. Hammond's courage is a reflection to former Newton alumnus, Dale Carter and Jake Reed, who both went on to star in the NFL.

Eventually, Hammond's bravery and determination prompted the hiring of Nick Collins, the first black head football coach in Newton's history and current coach of the Rams.

The spirit and legacy of Cousins basketball rests in the hands of Eastside's Michael Gerald and Alcovy's Eugene Brown, two head coaches who represent themselves as men of character and pride.

Like R.L. Cousins, Hammond and others, this was only a small part of history that we only talk about around this time of the year. Yet that is simply not enough. Though it is good that progress is being made and that some things are changing, but that is still not enough.

Learning about R.L. Cousins and Mr. Hammond has changed my position on the matter. I was humbled and proud to have received a bit more knowledge regarding the history of blacks in Covington, and fortunate to gain more about it.

We should never take for granted anything that was paid for by the human spirit. The legacy of black athletes - past, present and future - is built on courage, determination and honor.

My heart yearns for a new change of view that would challenge all of us to learn from the past, so that we may become better now, ultimately bringing hope for the future.

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