Ernest Green as homecoming grand marshal
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Ernest Green as homecoming grand marshal

Michigan State's leading integration legacies extend beyond athletics

Photo: Ernest Green at WKAR interview

NOTE: Michigan State president John Hannah did much more than provide Biggie Munn and Duffy Daugherty the backing that established Michigan State as the college football leader of the integration. Hannah brought Ernest Green, a Little Rock Nine graduate, to Michigan State with a scholarship that he provided anonymously. It was after Hannah' death that Green learned the source of his college education.

The following is excerpted from "Raye of Light," a book on Jimmy Raye as the South's first black quarterback to win a national title and Michigan State's role in leading the integration of college football.

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Michigan State athletic director Biggie Munn and Duffy Daugherty, his successor as head football coach, worked under long-time Michigan State president John Hannah, another progressive voice.

Hannah was Michigan State’s president from 1941 to 1969. During his tenure he was appointed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower as the first Chairman of the Civil Rights Commission in 1957. That was the year of the Little Rock Nine when President Eisenhower sent federal troops into Little Rock, Arkansas, to enforce the desegregation of Central High School. He served in the role under three more presidents, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon.

Ernest Green was among the nine black students enrolled at Central High that came to be known as the Little Rock Nine. Green was the lone senior and thus the first black student to graduate from Central High in the 1957-58 school year. Green then attended Michigan State and graduated on a scholarship anonymously provided by Hannah.

“Hannah was very progressive, but I was president of the campus NAACP for a couple of years, and we of course were very active,” Green said. “We picketed outside of Hannah’s house, but I didn’t know at the time he was responsible for my scholarship.”

Green learned Hannah was his benefactor in 1995 when he returned to Michigan State as a speaker at the school’s commencement ceremony along with President Bill Clinton. The nation's 42nd president knew Green’s history from growing up in Arkansas and serving as the state’s governor.

Then-Michigan State president Peter McPherson and Michigan State Board of Trustees member Joel Ferguson informed Green his scholarship had been recently discovered in the papers of Hannah, who died in 1991 at the age of 89.

“Michigan State has a long history of African-American achievements in sports and other endeavors,” Green said. “It was an atmosphere I found very invigorating. The accomplishments of all the people made it the vibrant place it was. We had our problems, certainly. There was segregation in East Lansing in terms of housing and some of the white students had to adjust to having never been around people of color. But basically the school was a real launching pad for many people.”

In this environment with Hannah as a boss, Daugherty was unhindered by when he began recruiting the South. For Daugherty, it was an unencumbered step to accept recruiting tips from southern black coaches. There were no limitations on the number of black players recruited or if he played them at quarterback or linebacker. Black athletes were largely excluded from those positions at other schools for such myths as they weren’t smart enough to call signals, couldn’t play under pressure and white players wouldn’t follow their leadership.

“Hannah encouraged Duffy,” said Hank Bullough, Daugherty’s long-time defensive coordinator that went on to a long NFL coaching career. “”Dr. Hannah was a leading proponent of integration.”

By the 1962 season, The Associated Press reported that Michigan State’s 17 black players formed “the largest delegation of Negro players in the history of major college football."

Michigan State’s 1962 roster had only six black players from the South, but by the 1965 Rose Bowl season, the Spartans’ 20 black players included 11 from the segregated South. The 1966 team had the same numbers.

Daugherty’s teams not only cracked open the segregated doors in the South, it pushed open doors wider at integrated schools.

In 1966, Michigan State’s Jimmy Raye was the South’s first black quarterback to lead a team to the national title.  In addition to Raye commanding the huddle, Michigan State's leadership is represented by linebacker/safety George Webster and running back Clinton Jones as the first pair of black team captains voted by the players without a white teammate sharing the role.

Consider these numbers that illustrate Daugherty’s impact on college football:

In 1960, national champion Minnesota had only five black players. One was Sandy Stephens of Uniontown, Pa. He was the first black quarterback to win a national title and was Raye's inspiration to leave the South and attend a Big Ten school.

In 1966, national champion Notre Dame had only one black player, Alan Page. The Spartans lined up 20 black players against the Irish in the 1966 Game of the Century that ended in a 10-10 tie. Michigan State and Notre Dame were declared national co-champions by the National Football Foundation.

In 1967, USC’s national championship team had only seven black players, but by 1972 USC’s national champions numbered 23. Daugherty’s Spartans had shown the Trojans and the rest of the nation the way.

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Many myths surrounding the 1970 USC-Alabama game are dispelled in "Raye of Light." Those myths concern Alabama coach Bear Bryant's role in the integration of college football, In that game USC had only five black starters (quarterback Jimmy Jones, fullback Sam Cunningham, tailback Clarence Davis, defensive end Tody Smith (Bubba's brother) and linebacker Charlie Weaver).

The reality is Bryant had a history of dragging his feet on integration. Five Southeastern Conference schools integrated before Alabama. Nevertheless, Bryant has received too much credit from myths surrounding the 1970 game -- credit at the expense of Duffy Daugherty's legacy.

For the full story of Daugherty's Underground Railroad teams, purchase the book.

Raye of Light

Jimmy Raye, Duffy Daugherty, the 1965-66 Michigan State Spartans and the integration of college football


Click here for the link to order from August Publications

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I invite you to follow me on Twitter @shanny4055

Tom Shanahan, Author: Raye of Light

-- Book on Michigan State's leading role in the integration of college football. It explains Duffy Daugherty's untold pioneering role and debunks myths that steered recognition away from him to Bear Bryant.


Tom Shanahan

Tom Shanahan

Tom Shanahan is an award-winning sportswriter and the author of "Raye of Light". Tom spent the bulk of his career in San DIego writing for the San Diego Union-Tribune. He has covered NCAA Tournaments, Super Bowls, Rose Bowls, the NBA Finals and the World Series in a career that included writing for Voice of San Diego, the San Diego Hall of Champions and He contributes to the Detroit Free Press, Raleigh News & Observer,, and the National Football Foundation's Football Matters. He won multiple first-place awards from the San Diego Press Club and first place from the Copley News Service Ring of Truth Awards. The National Football Foundation/San Diego Chapter presented him its Distinguished American Award in 2003. USA Track and Field’s San Diego Chapter presented its President’s Award in 2000.

Raye of Light: Jimmy Raye, Duffy Daugherty, the integration of college football and the 1965-66 Michigan State Spartans. It explains Duffy Daugherty's pioneering role and debunks myths that steered recognition away from him to Bear Bryant.

By Tom Shanahan; Foreword by Tony Dungy; August Publications

David Maraniss, Pulitzer Prize winner and biographer: "History writes people out of the story. It's our job to write them back in."