Great Floridians Film Series - Jake Gaither, Part 2

Uploaded by FloridaDeptOfState on 14.12.2010

"We used to call them
Coach and Mom Gaither.
Because they were
our mother and
father here.
They were the ones that
kept us
on the right path.
and I think through the years, you can
talk to any of the other boys that came up under Coach Gaither,
the same thing exists
for all of us."
"One day I had problems, my shoes were wearing out, and
and I came from Kentucky, and I didn't have too much to do with.
So one day, I came by and said, Coach, I need
some money, I have to have my shoes fixed.
And I didn't know how he would
But he said, okay, go and get your shoes fixed, and he gave me some money
to have my shoes fixed
and I appreciated it.
every time I see him, generally, I
buy some shoes,
and um,
I'll take him to the store and buy him some shoes, to try to
show my appreciation for helping me when I couldn't help myself."
"He and Mrs. Gaither never had children.
And I think that's probably one reason
that Coach and Mrs. Gaither kinda took each player that came along
as their son
and they've had very close tie, and a close relationship
with their players.
As a matter of fact 75 of those players came back to celebrate his 50th
anniversary. That's the close relationship and uniqueness that
Coach and Mrs. Gaither had with their players."
Now therefore, be it resolved by the Governor and cabinet of the State of Florida,
that Alonso Jake Gaither is hereby publicly commended as a Great American.
In a lifetime
of dedication to academic and athletic excellence,
Coach Gaither broke through racial barriers and he did it before it was fashionable. I move the resolution.
Seconded. Motions? Is there any discussion? Objections? Without objection, the resolution is adopted."
The honors to Jake Gaither continued.
Testimonials. Receptions.
We had integration in Florida, years before 1954.
We had the
next claims
and black and white,
I had white
players in our claim from as far away as Texas.
That's one thing about this great game of football. There's no color line there."
"He epitomized that old Lion's club
toast, that,
it goes like this,
not above you,
not below you,
but with you.
Jake always wanted to work with you,
and be with you,
and he wasn't thinking in terms of being a subordinate to anybody he wasn't thinking
in terms of being superior to anybody. His whole concept of life,
and it came out in his citizenship as well as in his coaching,
was working together to accomplish a better opportunity for all people."
We white people are entitled to more rights than the black people. Not less."
Being with you
have not always been easy for Jake.
Even football couldn't overcome the racial tensions with the 50s and 60s.
When merely traveling to a game
could present a greater obstacle than the opposing team.
"We traveled by bus, which meant that
we were subject to
highway patrolmen
interfering sometimes.
I remember going through Mississippi one time
they stopped us, and we had to go back to a certain town to get a license go through.
We had trouble getting food to eat, they wouldn't serve us
in most of the eating places.
We had trouble with
restrooms in service stations,
they'd tell us we have no place for you
no restroom where you could go. We had college graduates here from some
of the best schools in the country,
there's an All-American riding with me, and we're not good enough to use your toilet.
It was Hell to be a black man in the Deep South.
We tried to avoid it as much as possible,
the hostility and the opportunity for
things to be
depressing or
The civil rights movement brought about a profound change.
The United States Supreme Court had banned racial segregation in public schools in 1953.
A state law in Florida
still required, or authorized segregation
until the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
"Jake was a black leader
committed to reform,
but he counseled patience and understanding.
This was misunderstood by some blacks
who felt that he was not being aggressive in his black loyalty.
All the while Jake sought change,
but through conciliation, adjustment, and better understanding worked out around tables,
and not by force and destruction in the streets."
"In the 60s when there was bothersome
marching and manifestations,
I told the kids,
this is the decision
that you've got to make for yourselves.
I want you to remember that I want you to get an education.
I don't want you to get in trouble.
at the same time I know that you've got certain instincts and desires
that are
And I feel the same that you do, so I'm going to advise you to do what you think is best."
"For a lot of black people
when they first heard those statements, they were kind of concerned because they thought that Jake should
use his position
to be more
outspoken in terms of
integration and civil rights.
Of course, Jake was doing a lot of things behind the scenes, because he had close contact with a lot of
white Floridians, who respected him."
"In hindsight, the state benefited greatly from Jake's calm, reasonable leadership.
We needed his patience, and yet
we know now,
that it was necessary to have the impatient too.
If minds were to be changed
and people were to be moved.
Jake was always loyal to the basic goals of liberty and justice for all."
"The progress that we've made
has been tremendous. I've seen barriers fall down,
i've seen job opportunities open up, I've seen
indications of more justice within the courts.
I've seen so many other opportunities that uh...
we never had
twenty years ago.
We passed right by the capital and there wasn't a Negro in a job
above that of a boot-black or a janitor,
or in some menial capacity.
Now we have Negroes occupying
important positions in the capital, both in
a managerial capacity, and clerical capacities,
we have tellers in the banks, and clerks in the stores, and I think that is
progress. That's one of the advantages of being able to live to the ripe old age of 81.
I can judge the
the present by the past, and anticipate the future.
And I have every reason to believe it's gonna be brighter and brighter."
On January 29
after a quarter of a century as Rattler coach, compiling the best winning percentage in
college football history,
Jake Gaither officially retired.
"I was tired, just
completely tired.
I wanted to spend a normal weekend during the fall of the year.
Without all the pressure,
and tension,
and I'm enjoying it.
My memories are
very valuable to me,
through the years I like to think of
certain boys and certain situations.
I like to think of my great rivals.
Eddie Robinson, of Grambling, against whom I played for 25 years."
The most famous athlete that Jake Gaither coached was undoubtedly Bobby Hayes.
Before joining the Dallas Cowboys,
he had earned the title world's fastest human,
winning two gold medals at the '64 Olympics in Tokyo.
"Do you remember that time that
I had won a medal and I was back?
And my teammates had a little animosity because there was advertisements all over the country,
and when Florida A&M went out to a city or state to play a game, they said
Bobby Hayes and Florida A&M, instead of the All-American and Florida A&M?"
"Well, the boys got a little jealous, and the boys said that you were HOllywood.
Everybody wanted your autograph. So I called the boys together, and I said
'Well, I'll tell you how you can get just as much publicity as Bob gets'
'How, Coach?'
'I said, outrun him.'"
Years after his Olympic triumphs, the publicity on Bob Hayes presented a much
graver problem.
He was released from prison after serving 11 months on drug-related charges.
"Well, Bob Hayes
missed one boy that,
if he had had no mother and father,
would probably with a adopted him. That's just how much I loved
Bob Hayes. I'm still pulling for him."
"You know, I've had a roller-coaster life, up and down, and Jake Gaither has been here
when I was on the top, and when I was on the bottom."
"Yeah, they've been my coaches through blood, sweat
and tears. They're the finest
group of, well
I like to call them
co-coaches, rather than assistant coaches.
The finest group that any coach could be blessed to have."
Jake especially likes to reminisce in person.
The families of Jake's athletes are his family.
Coach and Ma Gaither, a unique relationship.
One not without its lighter moments. "Yeah, I just wanted to tell you this joke about Jake.
There's this young man, who was a freshman from down in Tampa,
Florida, his name was Monster.
Jake told Monster to go in
and get Fisher. So Monster goes in, and he plays maybe a quarter and a half,
and he says Palatka, and I says, yeah?
He says, what's Fisher's number?
You mean to tell me, you don't know....
get out of here!"
"Coach Gaither was,
and is a hero.
And I think the fact that he's a hero, it transcends
the black community
it goes into all communities in the state of Florida,
all border states where people have had the opportunity to meet and deal with
Coach Jake Gaither."
"Well, he was a role model.
And the one thing that
black Americans have lacked, throughout history
is role models."
"Jake's relationship
with his boys was extraordinary.
And not just in the sense of what it did
with those boys, that was important and very significant.
But, take into account that those boys
grew up to be leaders.
And so the things that they learned from Jake
were utilized in their later lives, whether they were doctors, or lawyers, or
teachers, or what.
And so his influence went on and on, a sort of ripple effect to
distant and unknown shores."
"I want the boy to get the
shuffle out of his feet.
To throw his shoulders back.
To look the world square in the eye.
And feel that God gave him the potential
to do a job of excellence.
If he were a ditch-digger,
I wanted him to be the best in town.
If he were a doctor or lawyer or a professional man,
I wanted him to be the best in his community.
And if he was just plain Citizen John Doe,
I wanted him to be
a good citizen.
In these golden days of Eventide,
my greatest joy comes
out of seeing my boys,
good, solid
American citizens."