- With this post, I'm kicking off a new category -- Black Gay HIStory.
In a country where black gay luminaries are often hetero-washed from history, Jackie Walker’s brother is on a mission to see that the linebacking great is remembered. Full story here.
October 16, 1971
Legion Field -- Birmingham, Alabama
It was the third Saturday in October, and the Tennessee Volunteers came rolling into town on a four-game winning streak over Alabama’s Crimson Tide. Bear Bryant awaited, intent on reversing his fortunes with a new wishbone offense, a retooled team, and a plan so brutally simple that it could be summed up in three words:
Stop Jackie Walker.
While it might be a cliché to say he was the Jackie Robinson of SEC football, it’s not a great exaggeration. It would also be true to say that his teammates were shocked to learn that he was gay. Marshall Walker says that’s why his brother isn’t in a hall of fame.
Jackie Walker has not been named to the National Football Hall of Fame, the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame, the Knoxville Sports Hall of Fame, nor has his picture hung on the Wall of Fame in UT’s Black Cultural Center.
“They’ve tried to wipe Jackie’s name out of history because of his sexual orientation,” says Marshall, who is on a quest to keep a promise he made to Jackie before he died of AIDS in 2002, even though Jackie was dubious about it.
“I told him I was going to get him into the hall of fame or die trying, and he gave me that little smirking laugh, like ‘Yeah, right.’ I can see him now, just sitting there laughing at me.”
But it was no surprise to Marshall, who had known the truth since the year before, when he’d run into Jackie in the lobby of Hess Hall, where both their girlfriends lived. Jackie was sitting on a rail looking forlorn.
“I asked him what was wrong, and he said ‘I told Melanie.’ I said ‘You told Melanie what?’ He said, ‘I told Melanie that I’m gay, and, man, she’s upset. She didn’t take it very well.’ Jackie had this secret life for a long, long time,” Marshall says. “The girlfriends? That was just a show. At that point, he could NOT let most of his teammates know. I promise you, it was ugly.” ~~ Metro Pulse