Surrounded by memorabilia, photos, trophies and plaques in the Dunbar Hall of Honor, the Lufkin Panthers football team momentarily relived the history of the three-time state champion Dunbar Tigers on Wednesday evening. Sporting the Dunbar Tigers replica jerseys that they will wear Friday night against Nacogdoches, the Panthers learned about the Tigers through the eyes of Dunbar alumni Joe Harris, Curtis Garrett, James Self, Oscar Kennedy and Dunbar Alumni President Johnnie Ross.
Before integration of Lufkin ISD in 1970, African-American students attended Dunbar High School, where academics and athletics were of utmost importance. Joe Harris told the Panthers that the most important thing they can do is get an education.
“There are men who graduated from Dunbar High School who went on to be players in the NFL but also men and women who became teachers, lawyers, and a postmaster, like me,” he said.
Curtis Garrett, who won two of four championships and played football at UCLA, told the Panthers that they aren’t all going to play for the NFL.
“But you can go to college and get your college paid for,” said Garrett, whose son, former Panther standout wide receiver Keke Coutee, plays for the Indianapolis Colts.
Oscar Kennedy talked about the Dunbar football players’ nicknames, like “Whistle Britches” and “Cap,” for captain. His dad coached the team but didn’t give him any preferential treatment when it came to being on time.
Joe Harris told the team how the community supported Dunbar and how our community today supports the Lufkin Panthers.
On Friday night, Lufkin ISD will celebrate the rich history of the Dunbar Tiger football team by inviting the legendary players to be honored at the Lufkin Panthers football game in Abe Martin Stadium.
“Dunbar, and all of its achievements, is a rich part of the history of Lufkin ISD,” Lufkin School Board President Hall Henderson said. “I am thrilled that we will have the opportunity to honor and remember these teams and individuals that accomplished so much.”
Johnnie Ross has been instrumental in organizing the event. We are also grateful to the members of the Dunbar Alumni Association for helping locate players and provide history of Dunbar High School.
“The legacy of Lufkin Dunbar High School will last from generation to generation,” Ross said. “Through the community, former teachers, staff, and students, the bond will never be broken, and ‘Dear Old Dunbar’ will echo in our hearts forever.”
The night will begin with a reception for the former players and the Dunbar Alumni Association in the new Panther Activity Center. Afterwards, a recognition of the players will commence on John Outlaw Memorial Field. Then the team members will sit in bleachers in the end zone for the game.
PHOTOS BY: ANDY ADAMS/Lufkin ISD