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Honoring Barrier Breakers: Questions My Son Will Never Have to Ask

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Photo: Kristin York, CameronMillsRadio.com

I never take my son, Judah, to work-related things. Although he is an amazingly well-behaved child, he is two and half years old and there is only so much order you can expect out of a toddler- even a really good one. However, Thursday night’s statue unveiling was one of those things I knew I had to take Judah to. Yes, it was seven hours in a car round-trip, and no, he did not have an idea what was going on; but one day, he will look at these photos and know that he was there. He will someday understand the weight of that night and be really glad that his mom took him.

My son, Judah York standing with the statues of Page, Northington, Hackett, and Hogg on Thursday's statue unveiling ceremony.

My son, Judah York, standing with the statue of Page, Northington, Hackett, and Hogg at Thursday’s unveiling ceremony.

I was 28 years old before my ears ever heard the names of Nate Northington, Greg Page, Wilbur Hackett, and Houston Hogg. The way I see it, that’s about 28 years too late. You probably have heard their stories by now, but if not, read this great article by Freddie Maggard. Sure, if they did not make a stand, someone else, perhaps even somewhere else, would have done it… but that didn’t have to happen. It was these brave men who integrated SEC athletics and it was at the University of Kentucky. What a sense of tear-inducing pride this should instill in every Kentucky Football fan.

The fact that their stories are just now being recognized should never overshadow the stories themselves, but the delay in their honoring should be a constant reminder to give honor not only to whom it is due, but when it is due. That was a palpable hurt of, their teammate, Paul Karem. In all the times Paul would be mine and Michele’s guest on Big Blue Views, you could hear the pain in his voice as he would tell us the amazing stories of these four men, yet no one really knew of them. He desperately wanted them to be honored for their monumental undertaking, so he spearheaded the effort of making their names known; not only to the Big Blue Nation but to the Southeastern Conference and beyond. Paul’s mission is seen in part with the statues erect. His vision will be complete in fruition when the film “Black in Blue” debuts next fall. I’m most grateful that these stories will never, ever be untold again. They will never be lost in the annals of history nor minimized by the success (or lack thereof) of Kentucky’s football program. The Valiant Foursome are now immortalized, as they should be. Their stories will forever be known. Their legacies will never die.

As a mother, I am most grateful that my son will grow up knowing the names of Nate Northington, Greg Page, Wilbur Hackett, and Houston Hogg. Judah will never wonder who broke the color barrier in the SEC, nor will he ever have to ask where it happened at. He will know he was there the night these heroes were recognized, accepted, and immortalized at Commonwealth Stadium. The pictures of him there that night will hang on the walls of his University of Kentucky themed bedroom, and he will never remember exactly when he first heard their stories, for he will just have known them as far back as his recollection will take him.

Judah looking up at the statue of Greg Page.

Judah will forever have a story to remind him of what persistence, resilience, and bravery will do. He will forever have a point of encouragement when he dares to make a stand. Most notably, my son will have these men to look up to, just as he did that night.

Props to my brother, Kevin, for coming with Judah and I and being a babysitter at times. You’re the bomb dot com!

If you couldn’t make it to the statue unveiling, our pals over at CN2 Sports shows all you missed in this video.

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