April 08, 2020
Sports Column

Dale Reid proved mettle in Arkansas Former Bangor football star overcame adversity at historically black college

When my father announced at supper one night in the late fall of 1963 that he was taking his family from our Brewer residence to a new house in Bangor, I was devastated.

After all, I loved our little Washington Street home. The real trauma of the short jaunt across the Penobscot River, however, was the change in athletic scenery.

I had grown up watching guys like Mike Hatch, Bobby Russell and Ricky Emery dominate sports in Brewer High’s heyday to the point of adulation.

And then we moved.

I was a heartbroken Brewer Witch kid stuck in the middle of Bangor Ram territory.

Football became the great elixir for me, and players like Jimmy Nelson, Robbie Newman and Dale Reid became my new heroes.

In 1964, a year after our move, Bangor High produced a co-state championship football team. Under the direction of venerable coach Gerry Hodge, the Rams shut out five teams, holding opponents to fewer than seven points per game.

Wow, I’m thinking. This is pretty good stuff.

The season for Dale Reid, an all-state linebacker for coach Hodge’s maroon and white contingent, was memorable for a lot of reasons, not the least of which was his tenacity on the field.

Young Reid’s story was unique, however, for another reason. Like many of his graduating cronies, Dale wanted to pursue a higher education.

Jim Nelson, the high school All-American halfback, took his skills to the University of Cincinnati. What a player he was. Then there was Robbie Newman, a three-sport star who took his considerable talents to Bowdoin College in Brunswick, while Reid was content to work at the Bangor YMCA with an eye on Aroostook State Teachers College (now University of Maine at Presque Isle) the next year.

That didn’t last long.

On the advice of YMCA physical education director John Coombs, Dale sent admission material to Arkansas AM&N College in Pine Bluff, Ark.

Mr. Coombs had met a Dr. Johnson, dean of admissions at the school, and he felt it might be a good fit for a bright, young Mainer with a lot of get-up-and-go.

Dale also figured this place was a perfect fit for him and his considerable athletic talents.

He knew that the predominant mix of athletes was very talented. He also knew that there would be a large population of black players vying for spots on the squad. That didn’t seem to be an issue.

What Dale Reid didn’t know was this: He was the only white kid on campus. Remember, this was the 1960s, an extremely volatile racial period in our country.

What transpired was a four-year story of grit and determination that included death threats, ridicule and tests of courage and strength until he proved himself.

Spend a little time with this guy, and you’ll quickly come to realize that telling Dale Reid he can’t do something is akin to guaranteeing him that he will.

Reid not only survived his college football, he excelled at it. Lifetime friendships were forged with other Golden Lions players such as athletic stars L.C. Greenwood, a part of the famous Pittsburgh Steelers “Steel Curtain” defense who helped them win four Super Bowl titles, and Willie (Big Dee) Parker, a two-time All-Pro for the Houston Oilers.

Yes, Reid was an integral part of not only Bangor’s championship season in 1964, but he also became a part of a Southwest Athletic Conference team that eventually offered him a full scholarship to play.

That, my friends, speaks volumes about the character of not only the man Dale Reid, but the local legend he has become.

BDN columnist Ron Brown, a retired high school basketball coach, can be reached at bdnsports@bangordailynews.net

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