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Basketball players too left segregated Arkansas to play college basketball in places where they were more welcome, but their departure wasn't noticed as much. Today we have ESPN and March Madness, but in the 1950s in Arkansas, basketball most places was just something for the athletes to do after football season ended. Slow white players plodded down the court to shoot two-handed set shots.
Though most white people didn't know it, the game was moving at a faster pace at North Little Rock's Jones High, and other all-black high schools. Eddie Miles played at Jones in the late 1950s. A tremendous shooter, by all accounts, he led Jones to four consecutive state championships among the all-black schools, then went on to become an All-American at Seattle University and a first-round pick (by the Detroit Pistons) in the 1963 NBA draft. He played nine years in the NBA, retiring about the time that basketball started to get big in Arkansas, with Eddie Sutton making Razorback basketball as respectable as Razorback football, and Sidney Moncrief becoming the greatest black sports hero in Arkansas history.
According to an article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, when Miles graduated from Jones High in 1959, "Fifty universities offered him scholarships, with Arkansas encouraging Miles to go there and break the existing color line." Whether that's true or not, it would be another 10 years before Arkansas got its first black basketball player. That was Almer Lee, who'd been a high school star on an integrated team at Fort Smith.
(Nineteen sixty-nine was an eventful year for black athletes at Arkansas. Both Lee, who would become the first black varsity basketball player, and Jon Richardson of Little Rock, who in 1970 would become the first black varsity football player, arrived on campus. At about the same time, the athletic department was squelching the playing of "Dixie" by the band at Razorback games. It wasn't an old tradition. Like most Southern universities, Arkansas didn't start playing "Dixie" until the U.S. Supreme Court's 1954 decision against segregated schools.)
Miles went to Seattle, in part because he idolized the great Elgin Baylor, a Seattle alumnus who helped recruit him.
Even though not a football player, Miles won enough notice to be inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame. Lee, who was seen attending a recent sports-related event in Little Rock, is not a member. The sportswriter Jim Harris wrote that the Hall of Fame membership "has a chance to right that wrong before next year's inductees are announced."
At last report, Miles was living in the Seattle area.
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