By: Evan Powell
Sixty-two years ago, the Quincy College men’s basketball team competed in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and recorded its best season as a team up to that point. It was also the very first team to qualify for the national tournament for the college. The team consisted of five white players and five black players.
The Quincy team had a lineup of black players Dick Thompson, Ben Bumbry, Edsel Bester, Ed Crenshaw and Bill Lemon.
At the time, very few schools had black players on their rosters, but that didn’t stop coach Harry Forrester from playing these men on his team. Other than the rosters of historically black universities, Quincy College might have been the first college basketball team ever to play white and black players together consistently.
Thompson, Bester, Bumbry and other members of the 1954-55 team are expected to be on hand Feb. 18 at Quincy University when the team is inducted into the Hall of Fame. Crenshaw and Forrester are among those deceased.
The achievements of the 1954-55 Quincy College men’s basketball team and Forrester are unprecedented to say the least. Their achievements of clinching a berth to the NAIA national tournament, winning the first round and having a 17-9 overall record are remarkable, but that wasn’t what made this team so historic.
To those who have heard the story and saw the film “Glory Road,” the famous 1966 Texas Western team–now known as University of Texas at El Paso–was faced with tremendous adversity on and off the court. A decade prior to Texas Western, the Quincy College team battled similar challenging situations. This was also Forrester’s first year coaching at Quincy.
Forrester not only impacted Quincy College and the community but also his former players.
“Coach (Forrester) was a guy way ahead of his time, in terms of integrating team skills and respecting talent,” Thompson said.
Thompson was a guard on the team and he averaged 17 points per game that year.
Forrester’s accomplishments as coach of a roster with white and black men in the 1950s in America reflects on the quality of character he possessed. Segregation, discrimination and racism plagued the nation, but he proved that character has nothing to do with the color of someone’s skin.
Because the team played black players, it was heavily scrutinized. The team had to endure racist comments and prejudice from crowds, opposing players and even officiating crews. This not only happened on the road but also in the Quincy area.
The QU Athletic Committee will honor this team as well as the former women’s soccer coach, Bill Postiglione. This year’s class will be inducted into the Hall of Fame at an 11 a.m. brunch on Saturday, Feb. 18, in the Hall of Fame Room. Tickets are available for $20 per person.