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Black VC athlete talks about segregation (w/video)

Feb. 14, 2014 at 10:04 p.m.
Updated Feb. 15, 2014 at 8:16 p.m.

Victor Marshall keeps a scrapbook of the football team that he played for at Victoria College.  Booker T. Carter, the first black football player at VC,  strikes a Heisman pose for the Sports section of the Victoria Advocate in 1960.

Did You Know?

Pete Rydolph was one of Victoria County's first black millionaires.

A prominent cattle rancher, Rydolph's ranch was on the Bloomington Highway. He was also a veteran of World War I and a member of numerous ranching and civil organizations. Rydolph died in 1980 at the age of 92.

Source: Victoria Advocate archives

Victor Marshall hopped out of the car with his track teammates and walked into Ferguson's restaurant in George West.

They had just finished the Border Olympics in Laredo and were starving.

They all sat down, ready for a juicy burger after a hard day - it was victory meal time.

And then, the manager walked up to the group.

"Blacks can't eat in the restaurant," the man said. "You have to eat in the kitchen."

Surrounded by his white Victoria College Pirates track team, he looked around, grabbed his burger and stood up.

He did not have any animosity, and he did not want to cause a scene.

"I'll eat in the car," he said, walking out of the restaurant.

In 1960, Victoria College's second black athlete never felt discriminated against at his own school or city.

A graduate of F.W. Gross High School, Marshall, now 72, tried attending college outside Victoria - particularly Blinn Junior College - but he was turned down because "blacks were not allowed on the field."

"I'm human like everyone else," Marshall said Wednesday, remembering what it was like trying to leave Victoria.

Marshall ended up attending VC, where Booker T. Carter was the first black player for the Pirates football team in 1959. The two played football together at F.W. Gross.

The Pirates team, which was all white after Carter left, was more than happy to have Marshall play halfback on the team.

"They accepted me with open arms," he said, looking through old scrapbooks of his college days.

That's how Victoria was, he said. In general, segregation existed, but blatant racism was not something he experienced much in the 1960s in Victoria.

But as he traveled through states such as Alabama, Mississippi and Florida - and even throughout Texas - he noticed just how racist some cities were.

"We were fortunate not to have big issues here (Victoria)," he said. "I just loved to play football."

Neal Koonce, who now lives in Canyon Lake, played football with Marshall, and the two are still very good friends.

Koonce remembers some segregation issues Marshall had to deal with.

Being a good friend of Marshall, Koonce said he and the other teammates felt the discrimination.

"It was a team sport," Koonce said. "We didn't see any color. We did everything together. Those difficulties he faced, we faced."

Koonce remembers sometimes going to out-of-town games and having to leave Marshall behind because some of the schools would not allow him to play.

"Unfortunately, back in those days, there were vestiges of segregation and discrimination," Koonce said.

Still, Marshall prevailed.

Marshall ended up leaving VC before graduating and working for DuPont for 30 years. There, too, he said, he was one of the first blacks.

"I'm just a bunch of firsts," he said, adding that he also started the Victoria Aces, an all-black softball team back in the '60s.

As life went on, Marshall married twice and had two sons and two grandchildren.

While racism has subsided, it's still around, Marshall said.

"You've got good people, and then you have bad apples," he said. "We are trying to make this a better place to live."

For Marshall, playing on his college football team will always be a happy memory in his life, despite segregation in society.

"We are just one big family," he said.

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