By MARY RAINWATER
In thinking over the history of Palestine High School football, one cannot help but go to 1964 — the year the Wildcats roared from behind to beat Wichita Falls Hirschi in the state semi-finals game, 28-23, sending them on to win the state championship against San Marcos, 24-15.
And one cannot forget team quarterback Bill Bradley who went on to start as QB for three seasons at the University of Texas and who made the Pro Bowl four times as a defensive back for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Bradley and members of that history-making state championship team, as well as NFL great Jerry LeVias and New York Times best-selling author Jim Dent, will come together Saturday in Palestine to celebrate with the public the Aug. 20 release of the book, “The Kids Got It Right.”
The book debut party will take place from 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday at the Ben E. Keith Community Room, located at 2019 W. Oak Street in Palestine. Bradley, LeVias and Dent will speak and sign books at the event, which is free and open to the public.
Budweiser will serve complimentary beer and wine and St. Martin’s Press will cover the cost for food. Attendees must be 21-years-old to enter.
“I have been to Palestine twice in the last year to do research for the book,” Dent said Tuesday. “I was able to spend some time with Bradley and the state championship team and we had a good time.
“I am excited about coming to Palestine to celebrate this book.”
“The Kids Got It Right,” written by Dent, is the story of how Bradley and LeVias met at the 1965 Big 33 high school all-star game between Texas and Pennsylvania — a time of racial division in sports, when almost every high school football team in Texas was either all-black or all-white.
“When none of the white players would room with LeVias, Bradley volunteered,” Dent said. “The two became roommates and the best of friends, and they have been friends for 50 years now.”
With the Texas team trailing 10-0 in the second quarter, Bradley entered the game at quarterback and began throwing deep passes to LeVias. One of the most exciting high school games ever was not decided until the fourth quarter.
“I first met Bill Bradley while at a book signing for ‘Courage Beyond the Game,’” Dent said about the book’s origins. “Bill started telling me this story and I decided it was one I definitely wanted to tell.”
LeVias, the first black scholarship athlete in the history of the Southwest Conference in 1966, made All-American his senior season and is remembered as one of the best receivers in the history of the league. He played six seasons of pro football with the Houston Oilers and San Diego Chargers. He made the All-AFL team in 1969.
“I think this is a book that both (races) will be happy about,” Dent said, calling the story one comparable to the “Remember the Titans” film. “It is about how black people and white people got along. It was really difficult to do at that time.”
Calling Bradley “one of the greatest athletes to ever come out of the State of Texas,” Dent reported that the Palestine native was more than a football player, but excelled in baseball and basketball as well.
“He is a wonderful human being. He takes care of people,” Dent said. “Everyone in Palestine loves Bill Bradley, and he is so proud to call Palestine his hometown. He is such a good guy.”
According to Dent, Bradley, 66, currently lives in Spring Branch (located between Austin and San Antonio) and is currently serving as defensive coordinator for the Lamar University (Beaumont) football program.
About the author
Jim Dent is a longtime sports writer based in Texas. A former newspaper sports writer for the Dallas Times Herald, he is the author of 10 books including the bestsellers “The Junction Boys,” “Twelve Mighty Orphans,” “Courage Beyond the Game” and “Resurrection.” His other books include “Monster of the Midway,” “King of the Cowboys,” “The Undefeated,” and co-authored with former Major League umpire Durwood Merrill, “You’re Out, and You’re Ugly, Too.”
Mary Rainwater may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org