WBTV Speak Out Editorial: Pioneers in Racial Equality

WBTV Speak Out Editorial: Pioneers of Racial Equality

"Speak Out" is an expression of opinion from the Editorial Board of WBTV, and is presented by General Manager, Nick Simonette.

Our state recently lost two civil rights pioneers. But you may not have thought of them in those terms.

Native Charlottean Charlie Sifford grew up caddying on local "whites only" golf courses.

But he dreamed big.

Mr. Sifford rose to prominence playing in African-American tournaments, but he longed to compete with the best.

So in 1961, he challenged the PGA's "Caucasians only" clause and won.

He endured many racial taunts and even some death threats.

But he persevered with dignity and restraint.

Mr. Sifford had a long professional career and was voted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.

And last November, Charlie Sifford was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

In this area, "Carolina Basketball" and Hall of Fame Head Coach Dean Smith are virtually synonymous.

Coach Smith's records and his on-court innovations are well known.

But it was Coach Smith who changed the face of Atlantic Coast Conference basketball when he recruited African-American standout Charlie Scott in 1967.

Sure, Coach Smith wanted a great player for his team.

But he also wanted to see that Charlie Scott and the players who followed him were treated equally, fairly, and respectfully.

Because it was the right thing to do.

Professional Golfer Charlie Sifford and legendary Basketball Coach Dean Smith – two pioneers of racial equality representing the Tar Heel State.