/A ‘stain on Mississippi’ Just the opposite – Calvin Huey made our state, Navy proud

A ‘stain on Mississippi’ Just the opposite – Calvin Huey made our state, Navy proud

This is a good time to recall the remarkable man who broke all odds and won the Army-Navy football match. This is right. Navy and Army had been playing football for 73+ years before they met in Philadelphia on Nov. 28, 1964. The jersey number 49 was worn by a tall, slim, dark-skinned Mississippian. Navy’s 49th man took to the field. Huey would receive passes from Roger Staubach and thus become the first African American to take part in America’s greatest sports rivalry. Jackie Ely, a Pascagoulan, says that Huey was a childhood friend. He was a quarterback back then, and he had some of the most impressive hands I’ve ever seen. A few years later, I recalled turning on the TV to see him playing for Navy and making history. We were so proud to Calvin Huey.” The journey from Pascagoula where ships are made to Annapolis where the best and brightest learn how to sail them was not an easy one. Huey traveled a very unusual route. Huey was more than just a great athlete at Carver High. His intellect was well-known and he was an outstanding student. He was a master in mathematics and science. His mother, who was a chef, sent him to summer science camp. His uncle, an Alcorn graduate who taught math to him as a child, piqued his interest for the sciences. He was also the Carver Class of 1962 valedictorian and the captain of the basketball and football teams. Huey graduated from high school and went with a friend to Oakland City College (Calif.), a two-year college that they could attend free of charge. Huey was an All-American football player. His academics were also outstanding. Huey was recommended by a Mississippi congressman to be appointed to the Naval Academy. Huey was denied. He was rejected. The rejection letter stated that Huey would not graduate from Navy if he did. This was 1962. In 1962, it took 30,000 soldiers to enroll James Meredith in classes at Ole Miss. Sister Linda Huey, who lives in Jackson County, can’t remember which congressman it was. Linda Huey states that Calvin destroyed the letter and was determined to do so again. Huey applied for a Navy appointment from a California congressman. Jeffery Cohelan (a liberal Democrat from the San Francisco region) went to bat in support of Huey, when his home state wouldn’t. The appointment was not related to athletics. Huey was among 300 freshmen who tried out for Navy football practice in 1964. This number included 14 quarterbacks. Huey, a smart man, did the math. He also considered that Navy already had Staubach as varsity quarterback. He was a wide receiver. He was 6′ 2″ tall and weighed 185 pounds. His large hands and strong hands made him an easy choice. Dave Church, one of the 300 plebes, would be Navy’s punter for the rest his life and remain a friend to Huey’s. Church spoke at Huey’s funeral and said, “The first thing that you noticed about Calvin was his hands.” “He had the biggest, most soft hands I have ever seen. He was able to catch passes that no one else could. He was an athlete who excelled at basketball and was truly gifted. He was a calm leader who always had a smile on his faces. He was simply brilliant academically.” Staubach wrote in his autobiography: “Calvin Huey is the type of person you like. His personality was great, he worked hard in football, and he was intelligent.” You wouldn’t have heard Huey boast about being the first African American to play at Navy football or in the Army-Navy match. Calvin’s 34-year-old wife Deborah Huey claims that he never spoke of being “the first,” but that he “would smile when people talked about it.” Deborah Huey states, “Calvin loved Naval Academy, and he was proud.” He was humble, however. He never boasted. Never.” Huey was a graduate of the Naval Academy and served two tours in Viet Nam as a gun operator, and another in Naval Intelligence. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Maryland in Chemistry, and then returned to the Naval Academy as an assistant football coach and a professor of chemistry. He continued to work at IBM until his kidney problems required him to retire early. Pascagoula established a sports hall-of-fame in 2015. Huey was selected by his fellow inductees as the first class’ acceptance speech. Ely, who was present, said, “One the most heartfelt speeches that I’ve ever heard.” He was proud to hail from Pascagoula. He was proud of all the achievements made in this area. He finished and there was no one left in the room except mine. It may have been more enjoyable for me than he. He was my soulmate and I am so grateful for that. He was a wonderful husband and a beautiful human being. Calvin was a graceful, courageous man who sailed through life with grace and determination. Calvin had the heart of a champion.