Support Ken

Click here to support Ken Steinhoff through your Amazon purchases.

Purchases made at Amazon.com from that link put 6% of the total transaction price in Dad's pocket at no additional cost to you. You're going to shop online anyway, right? Do it through Amazon.com to support this web site.

Or, if you'd rather just send him a random amount of money, you can do that too...







Cape Central High Photos

Ken Steinhoff, Cape Girardeau Central High School Class of 1965, was a photographer for The Tiger and The Girardot, and was on the staff of The Capaha Arrow and The Sagamore at Southeast Missouri State University. He worked as a photographer / reporter (among other things) at The Jackson Pioneer and The Southeast Missourian.

Come here to see photos and read stories (mostly true) about coming of age in Southeast Missouri in the 1960s.

Please comment on the articles when you see I have left out a bit of history, forgotten a name or when your memory of a circumstance conflicts with mine. (My mother says her stories have improved now that more and more of the folks who could contradict her have died off.) Your information helps to make this a wonderful archive and may end up in book form.


Curtis Williams – Trailblazer

Curtis Wiliams - SEMO's first black student-athlete 12-28-1966When I ran photos of the Southeast Missouri State Indians playing the Martin Branch of the University of Tennessee, several readers commented on Curtis Williams, #34. It turns out I had some action mug shots I took of him for either The Missourian or The Sagamore in December of 1966.

Central grad first black SEMO athlete

Curtis Wiliams - SEMO's first black student-athlete 12-28-1966What I didn’t know until I read an excellent profile by Marty Mishow in the February 19, 2004, Missourian was that the CHS grad was SEMO’s first black student-athlete and a basketball and track standout from 1964 through 1967.

Kermit Meystedt, Williams’ former basketball teammate at both Central and Southeast who along with Williams was inducted into Southeast’s Athletic Hall of Fame last October said, “He was just a very class individual, and an excellent, very gifted athlete.”

In basketball, Williams was a three-year letterman under coach Charles Parsley. He averaged 18.4 points per game as a senior to earn first-team all-MIAA honors after being second-team all-MIAA as a junior.

On the track, Williams earned four letters and excelled in all the jumps. He at one time held school records in both the high jump, at 6-8 3/4, and the triple jump, at 48-8 1/4. He was a multiple conference champion.

Wasn’t on a scholarship

Curtis Wiliams - SEMO's first black student-athlete 12-28-1966The story pointed out that Williams began his SEMO career without a scholarship, which meant that he not only played sports, but he routinely worked almost a full shift at Cape Frozen Foods, which specialized in butchering and storing meat.

Track coach Marvin Rosengarten said, “He worked at least 30 hours at the frozen food locker on Broadway. I always used to have him promise me he wouldn’t work the day before a meet so he wouldn’t be worn out.

“But after his sophomore year, I went to Charles Parsley and we worked out a deal where we split the scholarship. I think in his junior year he was just on a partial scholarship but by his senior year he was on full scholarship between basketball and track.

Flashbacks of racism

SEMO Indians vs Tenn Martin Branch 12-22-1966Williams was quoted as saying that he was well accepted by his teammates.

“Coming back from trips, sometimes we wouldn’t get served in restaurants, or they’d say I had to go eat in the back, but Coach Parsley said we would all eat together or we wouldn’t eat there. I remember we left one place outside Jonesboro.”

While Williams said he never encountered much negative reaction because of being black while at Central or Southeast, he was certainly not exempt from racism.

“During the early years of my life, I grew up at a time when blacks had to go in the back doors of restaurants to be served, where you were not allowed to attend movies or swim in public pools,” he said. “To this day, I still have flashbacks of those moments when one was made to feel less than human. You deal with it and move on.

 

 

 

 

 

.

10 comments to Curtis Williams – Trailblazer

  • Brad Brune

    It’s very painful now to realize how sheltered, unaware and naive I was growing up in Cape. It literally made me sick to just read Curtis’ words about growing up here and attending Semo. That he didn’t receive a scholarship until his senior year is shocking and shameful. Guys like Curtis and Paul Nugget Banks at CHS and Walter Smallwood at Semo were not only some of the best athletes I knew and admired but were also some of the finest individuals and young men.
    I guess I realized blacks were mistreated in the news and in other places, but not here in little Cape and especially not to these good and humble human beings. I truly idolized them and when they spoke to me and called me by name as a freshman and sophomore – it thrilled me and made my day. Even if it was “little Brun” – it was always said with a smile and accompanied by a pat on the head or back.
    I am ashamed that I didn’t realize more then or even later – what their lives were like and what they had to endure. And when I see them occasionally when back in Cape to visit or be honored for sports – I marvel at what they’ve accomplished with their lives, and that they are still the humble gracious men that I remember so fondly growing up.

  • Sue Creech

    Curtis was a great classmate and a gracious but shy friend. I still remember he received an Optimist Award in the 8th grade and didn’t want to come down to receive it. He always had a smile. Just an all around class person.

  • Bill Stone

    I remember Curtis an a high school sophomore football player at 96 pounds when I was a Senior. I had hoped to see him at Ritenour High School a couple of years ago as I was close at times with his fellow teachers. They would tell me about working with him when I was around them but I never got to see Curtis. There was a lot of respect for him in the Ritenour School District based on their comments.
    I never realized there was some discrimination in Cape. Such things I am sure were undercurrents and I never saw it on the team. I played school football, Church league basketball and summer baseball with Howard McGee, Paul Banks, Frank Baker, Lester Miller, Vernal Smith and Curtis to name a few blacks that come to mind. They were all good players but more importantly great teammates.

  • Jane Neumeyer

    Curtis Williams must have been an amazing athlete. I have never really followed sports and I remember Curtis Williams on the court very well. I was aware of the institutional racism, maybe in part because my father was from Mississippi and I grew up across the south. That is probably why I am currently so concerned about voter suppression efforts. It isn’t over yet.

  • Charles Bertrand

    Curtis Williams was and is a class act. His dedication to attaining an education and making things better for himself and his family was very evident throughout his career. He never complained, worked absurd hours, never missed practice, was always ready to practice and super ready for the game. Curtis should have been on a full ride with track and basketball. I would think the university made a little money on the skills of Curtis Williams. Houck was sold out his entire career.

  • Brad Brune '66

    You’re right Charlie – especially since tuition and books was only $80 per semester back then, and room and board was only a couple hundred dollars – if that. I could “may be” understand his freshman year – them letting him prove himself in the “culture of the times”… but after that letting him work full time at the meat locker while others were on scholarship …. was a crime.

  • Janet Robert

    Curtis was and is one of the finest humans on this planet! Always smiling , always happy to see you and give a big hug. As well as I knew him and went to school with him including Semo I never knew until this story that he was not on scholarship. Curtis is the ultimate role model and gentleman with an amazing family. Love ya Curtis… Thinking back I am so ashamed of Semo but proud of Coach Parsley and Rosengarten two good guys themselves.

  • Lynn Beaudean Hoffman

    I have pictures I found at Bill Harrison’s home of the wife and children of Curtis visiting Bill and Hazel. I believe Curtis lives in St. Louis but I do not have an address. I would love to be able to send these pictures to him. Bill and Hazel truly loved and respected Curtis.

  • Gwen Shields Holmes

    Lynn email me at holmes9263@sbcglobal.net and I will put you in touch with Curtis.

  • Michelle

    Curtis Williams was my PE teacher in Elementary school in the late 70’s, to 1981. He was an incredibly fun loving, warm and patient human being who still, almost 35 years later, recognizes my mother and asks about my sister and I when he sees her in a restaurant. I never knew about his experiences or that he even played ball in college. But then, I already respected the man he was/is.

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>