At the 100th McClymonds High School anniversary dinner, many former athletes and alumni praised the late Coach George Powles for being the motivating force and the guiding hand that sent so many Mack and Bay Area stars into the professional ranks of playing, coaching and civil rights leadership that shaped sports in America.
During this week’s Baseball Hall of Fame meeting in Cooperstown, NY, Mackite Bill Patterson will lead a contingent of admirers of one of Powles’ greatest athletes, the late Curt Flood, who will be recognized for his outstanding achievements.
“Every baseball player owes a perpetual debt of gratitude for his bold fight to overturn the “reserve Clause” that had bound players to a team for life,” Patterson said. “Now, all players are Freed Men, thanks to a movement that had its genesis in Oakland, at Mack, and from Powles.”
The Post will publish interviews with Bill Patterson and Judge George Nicholson about Powles monumental career in a series of articles prior to the annual McClymonds picnic at Defremery Park in September.
In George Nicholson’s comprehensive treatise “Remembering George Powles,” Baseball and Freedom III, he was able to link the historically significant connections of Powles’ life and contributions to those of Jackie Robinson, Abraham Lincoln, Branch Rickey and Martin Luther King Jr.
Nicholson, an Oaklander who played against Powles’ Mackites at Oakland High, said, “Coach Powles was and remains an unsung hero of baseball and freedom.”
Nicholson and Patterson agreed that like Lincoln, Branch Rcikey and Powles, all white men were special men who seized the historical moment to make positive much-needed changes.
“One fundamental reason for retelling his story,” writes Nicholson, “is because he (Powles) was a white man who spent a major portion of his teaching and coaching career in West Oakland, the Black section of Oakland. He did things differently than pedagogically presumed correct by the teachers and coaches of his era, virtually all of whom were white.
“He did so, wisely and lovingly, with all appropriate tenderness and toughness while he taught, coached and mentored Black students, in all sports.”
In the upcoming series of interviews with Nicholson and Patterson, readers will learn of the umbilical connection to civil rights history of the Oakland’s intertwining sports, legislative, and judicial trailblazers that include Chief Justice Earl Warren, Associate Justice George Nicholson, Judge Lionel Wilson, Judges Donald P. McCullum and Clinton White, all of whom hail from Oakland.
After this series, Nicholson’s tribute to Powles and his other writings and interviews about Oakland sports and the history of the breaking down racial barriers in America will appear on the Post website: postnewsgroup.com
As a columnist at the Oakland Tribune, I wrote in my Good News Column on March 23, 1997 that “Oakland Demands recognition for Curtis Flood.”
I interviewed Flood’s wife actress Judy Pace-Flood at the Evergreen Baptist Church. She said, “Curtis was the Rosa Parks of baseball, but I say he was the Abraham Lincoln of professional sports.”
Abraham Lincoln helped to free all Black men, Branch Rickey opened the door for Jackie Robinson, but Curt Flood made it possible for all players to sit at the table as freed men.
George Powles helped Mackites become the “firsts” to break all barriers.