Kansas to Honor Former Student-Athletes on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas Athletics will honor former student-athletes who were instrumental in the desegregation of Lawrence during the late 1950s on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day when Kansas men’s basketball hosts Oklahoma on ESPN Big Monday, Jan. 19, at 8 p.m.
When Wilt Chamberlain, Homer Floyd and Ernie Shelby arrived at Kansas in the mid-1950s they found a heavily-segregated community in which they were not allowed to dine in local restaurants, were refused service at barber shops and denied use of public swimming facilities. Along with Kansas All-American track star Charlie Tidwell, these young men stood up against the injustices of discrimination in the Lawrence community.
In 1957, during a meeting with then-Chancellor Dr. Franklin Murphy, they expressed their intention to leave KU if these issues were not addressed. Chancellor Murphy, inspired in part by this meeting, soon increased efforts to encourage change in the community surrounding KU. He then reported back to the students that the businesses of Lawrence had agreed to change their policies.
Following this historic meeting and progress of the desegregation of Lawrence, Chamberlain, Floyd and Shelby again made history as KU’s first African-American team captains. Never before had the captains of three major NCAA Division I sports; basketball, football and track and field, been African-Americans in adjacent years. Tidwell and Shelby would also lead KU to the 1959 outdoor track and field national title.
As part of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebrations, Kansas Athletics, in partnership with the Office of Multicultural Affairs, will welcome Floyd and Shelby back to campus. While visiting campus, they will participate in a candlelight vigil and walk from Strong Hall to the Kansas Union for a special social justice celebration. Later that evening they will be honored in Allen Fieldhouse during the Kansas men’s basketball game against Oklahoma.
For more information on KU’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day activities, please visit: mlklawrence.com.
Moving Forward with a Dream Celebration Timeline
· 6:30 p.m.
Gospel Music Explosion
– Lawrence Free Methodist Church
· 7:30 a.m.
– Maceli’s Banquet Hall
· 4:30 p.m.
Candlelight Vigil & Walk
– Strong Hall Rotunda
· 5:15 p.m.
Social Justice Celebration
– Kansas Union
· 8 p.m.
Men’s Basketball vs. Oklahoma
– Allen Fieldhouse
– MLK Jr. Community Choir Performance
– Homer Floyd & Ernie Shelby Recognition
· 3 p.m.
– Kansas Union, Traditions Area
· 7:30 a.m.
School District Awards Event
– Lawrence High School