By LARRY VAUGHT
Thank you Paul Karem.
The former University of Kentucky quarterback played such a huge role in making not only Kentuckians but folks across the country realize the importance of what Nate Northington, Greg Page, Houston Hogg and Wilbur Hackett not only to integrate UK football but also Southeastern Conference football.
It was all brought back to life in “Black in Blue,” a 90-minute documentary on KET on what this foursome did starting in 1966. Karem was also the force behind getting a statue of the “four heroes” erected outside the UK stadium for fans to see every time they come to watch UK football.
Karem didn’t play with Page or Northington but he still consider them teammates and he understood the door they helped open that Hackett and Houston continued to hold open when they stayed at UK after Page’s death and then Northington’s transfer.
I am still ashame to admit that during my four years at UK from 1970-74 I didn’t understand what had just happened and what was still going on with the African-American football players that lived in the same dorm I did. Growing up in Danville, I had an African-American Little League baseball coach in 1961. His sons were my teammates. I really don’t ever remember not having African-American friends and classmates.
Karem, though, never forgot the inspiring story of these “heroes” and he never gave up when doors seem to keep closing as he tried to get a statue to honor them and find other ways to recognize what they did. It still befuddles me when ESPN or the SEC Network has not decided to share this story more. I hope schools in Kentucky might consider showing the documentary because it is an important part of Kentucky history, not just UK football history.
Karem is the unsung hero in making sure these four integration pioneers got their deserved recognition and never giving up no matter how many times he heard his dream of honoring these former Wildcats was not going to happen. But it did happen and all of us just say thanks to him for what he did to share the story of these four remarkable men.