Dunbar Middle School Honors Basketball Player From School's Segregated Past
Lynchburg, VA - 66 year old Wheeler Hughes was honored in his High School where he averaged 25 points per game back in 1966.
At a special ceremony Monday night, his jersey was retired, and he was acknowledged as the best basketball player to walk through the doors of Dunbar High School.
Today, it's known as Dunbar Middle School. But in 1966 it was an all-black high school.
But Monday, at a Dunbar basketball game, the school honored a man who beat the odds and proved coming from the bottom can land you right at the top.
Talk about a rebound, Dunbar Middle School, has come a long way.
It's now a premiere institution for STEM education; a far cry from the segregated school it once was, years ago.
"Growing up was kind of normal although we knew there was another world out there" said Wheeler Hughes.
Hughes graduated from Dunbar High School in 1966. He came back Monday to be honored as the school's best basketball player ever. His jersey, number 12, was also retired.
In his senior year Hughes averaged nearly 30 points per game. He led his team in scoring, assists, and rebounds. He would lead them to the 1966 National High School Championship game in Montgomery, Alabama. And after graduation a scholarship landed him on the squad of Kansas State University.
"There were 40 blacks on campus in Manhattan, Kansas, with 30 of us being athletes; football and basketball and track. When I see the diversity that's here now, it just simply makes me proud" he said.
"I think that Dunbar Middle School is representative of almost like a melting pot, because we are a school for innovation now" said Kacey Crabbe, Dunbar's Principal.
Crabbe explains the school's journey from struggle to success, has been made all the more special by Hughes' story.
"He was able to have a vision that many people never ever had and never could have at that point in time. So he really led the way that anything is possible" she said.
And nearly 50 years later his legacy lives on.
"He's a great basketball player. It was an honor for him to be here, and it was just great to have him talk to us" said Elijah Davis, a current Dunbar basketball player.
"Regardless of what your current or a current situation is today, you can always change it. Take the ride, hang with the flow, it'll be alright" said Hughes.
Hughes did not go on to play in the NBA. He said in the '70s, he was not a good fit for the league. Hughes was an academic standout at Dunbar and Kansas State as well.