The 1965 R.L. Cousins basketball team has enjoyed a historical revival during the past year. With the rehabilitation and subsequent reopening of Wolverine Gym for use by the Newton Recreation Commission to the court dedication in honor of Jimmy Wright earlier this month, the Wolverines are finally getting the recognition they deserved more than 45 years ago. It will culminate Jan. 31 when Newton's basketball program honors the team next to its own in the rafters with a state runner-up banner ceremony.
Newton will hang a banner in the original R.L. Cousins colors alongside the 1964 state champion banner in the Rams' gym where it will remain as a lasting symbol of the '65 Wolverines that lost in the state finals.
"The history of R.L. Cousins High School is part of the history of Newton County high school sports, and we are so thankful that those times of segregation are over," Newton basketball coach Rick Rasmussen said. "Certainly the history of R.L. Cousins and those who accomplished so much should be a part of the history of our school, as the two schools merged in the late 1960s."
The ceremony will take place between the girls' and boys' games. The girls' game is at 6 p.m. followed by the boys at 7:30.
R.L. Cousins was opened in 1959 and closed in 1970. Beginning with the 1967-68 school year, black students were able to attend what was then Newton County Comprehensive High School. In the years that followed, the facility which once housed R.L. Cousins was sold and has served many purposes. It was the home of Troy University until last year and part of it houses a Department of Motor Vehicles office.
The Cousins Community Center Inc. owns the entire property including Wolverine Gym and Wolverine Field. The gym and field had fallen into a state of disrepair and were nearly leveled until the Arnold Fund stepped in 1999 to partner with Cousins Community Center Inc. to lead the preservation process.
Without a current active gym to fly the Wolverine's colors, Rasmussen along with R.L. Cousins captain Johnny Johnson felt Newton's gym was the best place to preserve the legacy.
"Several staff members here at NHS remember those times of segregation and in honor of the accomplishments of those at the all black high school, we are going to hang the crimson colored banner up in our gym next to our NHS boys' basketball banners," Rasmussen said. "Certainly this is an important part of the high school sports history of Newton County."