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About your story on D.C. skiers (“A Downhill Climb,” 3/29): I am sorry to learn about African-American students’ “difficulty in being around white people all the time,” although I guess I can understand it. But as we all know, there are scads of students, and athletes, on Division I campuses all the time.
But I wish some of these kids could have known my pal Johnny Roseboro. John and his younger brother Jim were the only black students in my 800-person high school. If they hadn’t had white friends, they wouldn’t have had any. John was shy and didn’t make friends easily, and they were mostly fellow jocks. I was very pleased when John joined my boys club. John enrolled at traditionally black Central State University but left soon to join the Los Angeles Dodgers organization. He eventually became an All-Star catcher with the Dodgers, catching the best pitchers of the 1959 World Series champs.
John said, “If I had one friend, Jim had a hundred…” Jim was a school leader, made first team All-Ohio football, and went on to star with Woody Hayes’ national championship team at Ohio State. Later, he became a member of the Columbus City Council and owned a construction company in Columbus.
The Roseboro family did have African-American friends in a smaller nearby town, and Jim did join an African-American fraternity at Ohio State.
In his memoirs, John Roseboro stated that our hometown, Ashland, was the fairest town he’d ever seen, and that he never experienced any discrimination. As a positive mark, he mentions the effort the townspeople made to send their parents to the Rose Bowl when the Buckeyes, with Jim, played there. That means about all the persons involved were white, all for the cause of the one black family. I’m sure there were bigots around, as there are anywhere, but we tried to keep them down as best we could. John made a video for our Class of ’51 reunion but is in ill health. Jim is deceased.