On March 19, 1966, history was made in the sport of basketball, the United States, and the Black community; Texas Western College Miners defeated the University of Kentucky Wildcats in the 1966 NCAA Division I Basketball Championship. At the height of the civil rights movement, Texas Western’s head coach Don Haskins made the decision to start five black players for the first time in the history of college basketball.
The 5’9” point guard and leader of the 1966 Texas Western Miners was Bobby Joe Hill. Hill led the 27-1 Miners in scoring during their championship season, with an average of 15 points per game. During the historical championship game, Hill scored 20 points on the Kentucky Wildcats and was named to the Final Four All-Tournament Team.
On December 8, 2002, Bobby Joe Hill passed away at the age of 59. Hill, his teammates, and head coach Don Haskins were the subject of the 2006 film Glory Road in which Derek Luke played Hill’s character.
Born in Highland Park, Michigan, Bobby Joe Hill represented a historical figure from the Detroit area that not only left his mark on college basketball, but on the Black community during a pivotal time in our long fight for civil rights. Hill and his teammates faced racism throughout their 1966 championship season, especially playing in the south, but they excelled and in the toughest of situations. Bobby Joe Hill represented the perseverance that is instilled in Detroiters and the Black community as a whole.
Contributed by Reginald Dozier