My Gaffney High Band Director, Doug Howard
Mr. Howard came to Gaffney in August 67 and stayed through May 71. He was my band director my four years at Gaffney High and guided us through integration beginning my sophomore year. Most of the white kids quit, Was something like 40 people of color and us ten white people.
My friends of color weren't that enthusiastic about the change as the Granard High Band was award winning, especially in marching competition.
So going from Grambling and S.C. State like Showband to the military 6 to the 5 style of Texas A and M was quite a culture shock, a transition for us all.
But it worked out, we got through it; wasn't a perfect gel but my Junior year we got all ones in sight reading concert performance competition, and my senior year spotlighting the trombone section we played St. Joseph's 76th for some tough judges in the STate Competition on the field near Camden; S.C.
Not gonna say he was Bear Bryant or Woody Hayes in pre performance speech, but his chat before we went on the field for state contest was as close as I ever got to a version of Billy Bob Thornton's speech in the movie Version of Friday Night Lights. Can you Be Perfect was pretty much the point. We've practiced three hours after school and on weekends and three weeks before school started for this moment. Can you be perfect. I know I was all in when it came time to look the judges square in the face and start out on St. Joe's 76; and it wasn't an easy piece. And I think Grady Sizemore blowin his slide trombone right beside me and Donnell Edwards and the other seven trombone players were all in too.
Grady became the father of the consensus Best Baseball player in Major League Baseball 2007, of the same name with the Cleveland Indians. Doug Howard was another piece of the puzzle.
I had a lot of respect for Mr. Howard. He once stood his ground with our High School Principal, legendary football coach Wayne Whiteside. Coach Whiteside was a great freind of my Dad and our family, but Howard stood his ground when there was some smouldering resentments about the Band stayin on the field a little long during halftime and costing a ten yard penalty on the ensuing kickoff. Remember that clearly.
Mr Howard was an interesting character. I had hoped over the years to find him in the Upstate and talk some more about religion and politics. His was an interesting pilgrimage from near Bob Jones Baptist to Latter Day Saint and back to being a choir director at a Baptist Church outside Union, S.C. in his later decades.
In the 9th grade Mr. Howard took all us crackers down to Bradenton Florida one spring for a celebration. Some nights I'm still walking across that mile long bridge. Still have the picture somewhere; was a big trip and quite memorable.
Between my 9th and tenth grade year, my folks sacrificed to get me a new Silver Trombone. He helped them pick it out and arrange the financing. My Mother who played Tuba in her HS band in Alabama was always appreciative about that. My Brother never had Mr. Howard for a Band director, but became an award winning director himself at Blue Ridge HS in Upstate S.C.
I checked today. In My Senior Annual he complimented me for bringing a lot of personality to the band community those four years and doing the "extra" that made his trials on the whole a little more durable.
Quoted Matt 5: 33 "This Boy has done Well"
Lot of stories and the music transcended race but in the remarkable friendships that developed in those days was Howard and Fletcher Smith. Fletcher played the tuba, later went to Wofford and I think was the first Black law school grad at U South Carolina.
He used to meet Howard at 4 am and they would deliver the Spartanburg Herald.
Saw Fletcher fall of 2009 after his provocative career as a S.C. State Senator from Greenville. Told him to tell his best story and I'd trump him. He said back in Jan 2008 during the S.C. primary he was on the road from Greenville to Columbia to have a one on one meeting with Hillary Clinton when Barack Obama called him on his cell phone.
I threw in the towel. Said I got nothin.
Always wanted to tell Mr. Howard that one, he woulda been proud.
God Bless Doug Howard. He did well.