Playing for the University of Pittsburgh in 1956, Grier was the first African-American to play in the Sugar Bowl.
Pitt's opponent in that game was Georgia Tech. Grier's presence on the Pitt squad was such an affront to segregationism that Georgia's then governor, the late Marvin Griffin, actually demanded that Georgia Tech pull out of the Sugar Bowl in protest.
"The South stands at Armageddon," Griffin said in a telegram to Georgia's Board of Regents, detailing his request that teams in the state's university system not participate in events in which races were mixed on the field or in the stands.
"The battle is joined. We cannot make the slightest concession to the enemy in this dark and lamentable hour of struggle."
Black people and white people playing football together will bring on Armageddon? Alrighty.
Believe it or the most bizarre part of the story is not the quotations from the governor's rant, but rather, his son's downright bizarre attempts to whitewash them today.
Sam Griffin Jr., Gov. Griffin's son, is the publisher and editor of The Post-Seachlight newspaper in Bainbridge.
Referring to his father's actions:
Sam Griffin Jr. said his father was opposed to Georgia Tech's playing in the game as a matter of upholding segregation laws. If he had not, Griffin Jr. said, his father's critics would have panned him.
"It was a gotcha either way," said Griffin Jr., who edits and publishes The Post-Searchlight newspaper in Bainbridge, Ga. "It was one of those things like, 'Are you still beating your wife?' There wasn't a whole lot he could do about it."
Griffin Jr. added: "No one was going to get elected back then who didn't run on that type of a platform. He was not a racist. I don't know if you can understand that or not. A segregationist believes in segregation, equal but separate. It was the way things were. It had been that way for 100 years."
I don't expect someone to disown or trash his father, but how can someone honestly say that that Gov. Griffin was not a racist?
If you're the governor of American state and you loudly stick-up for support a racist political agenda, then DING-DING-DING! that makes you a racist.
"No one was going to get elected back then who didn't run on that type of a platform."
That doesn't mean Gov. Griffin wasn't a racist. It simply means that he was an unprincipled man who promoted a racist agenda in part so that he could get elected.
"There wasn't a whole lot he could do about it."
Yeah, it's not like he was governor or anything.