The varsity letter on a letterman’s jacket is a small thing, really, unless that letter happens to be yours.
Buddy White played his last football game for Maryville College with the close of the 1956 season. After graduation, the former Scot All-American moved to Texas, where he married and raised three daughters before he passed away.
White’s widow, Johnnie, along with his three daughters, Sara, Marty and Allison, were most certainly the things he held dearest. All four made the trip to Maryville last weekend to see White’s named inducted onto the Maryville College Wall of Fame.
There was something else White also held dear. During induction ceremonies at homecoming last week, Johnnie Waters-White relayed the story of something her late husband never let stray far from his sight.
“If you’ve ever wonder what impact this school and (Maryville) coach (Lombe) Honaker had on Buddy’s life,” she said, “that letter stayed at the center of his clothes closet all his life.”
White’s story was much in keeping with former Maryville cross country runner Freeman Wyche, a special guest at the ceremonies. Wyche was one of six black students who enrolled at the school in the fall of 1954 to end 53 years of segregation. He’d lettered for the Scots that season.
Leaving Maryville after a year, he’d reenlisted in the Air Force, where his letter had been lost during several moves.
Prior to the induction of this year’s Wall of Fame class, Maryville athletics director Kandis Schram summoned Wyche to the podium, there presenting him with a glass-enclosed, orange-and-garnet Maryville “M” to replace the one he’d lost.
Deeply moved, Wyche, 78, stood motionless for what seemed minutes.
“Excuse me,” he said as he removed his glasses and wiped his eyes.
When he spoke, his words were conciliatory and brief, remembering the highs of life at Maryville, refusing to let ugly things associated with integration in the 1950s cloud over a wonderful day.
“I didn’t want to do that,” he said. “No. 1, I didn’t want to take too much time. Sometimes when you allude to something, people’s imagination can go deeper than anything you can say.”
All told, MC’s Wall of Fame, located in the school’s Cooper Athletic Center, welcomed five new members to its ranks. Former Scot Don Story helped Maryville’s football team to a string of winning years in the late 1960s. Jason Harbison had one of the finest seasons ever for a Scot on the baseball diamond, hitting .389 with a .500 on-base one year in the late 1980s.
Ryan Riggins set a school record for shutouts in his freshman season with the Maryville soccer team in 1989. Jamie Parrott Rogers twice led the NCAA in scoring as a member of the Maryville’s women’s basketball team, earning Kodak All-American honors. Parrott’s career records for points (2,326) and rebounds (972) remain all-time Maryville bests.
White carried fond memories with him when left Maryville all those years ago. There had been some trying days initially, Johnnie White said.
“I remember he had great difficulty pleasing his coach,” she said. “He adored coach Honaker — in the beginning.”
Judging from the affection White held for his varsity letter the remainder of his life, that adoration never really waned.