ATLANTA - Carver High School in Atlanta is celebrating the 50-year anniversary of a historic basketball championship. In The 1966-1967 school year was the first time the Georgia High School Association allowed all-black high schools, like Carver at the time, to compete against all-white high schools and integrated high schools. In 1967, Carver won the Class AA boys state basketball championship.
"With us winning, we put joy and happiness in a lot of people in the black community that was just looking for hope, something to hold onto," said Roy Stanley, a senior and team captain on the 1967 championship team. "Once we became champions, no one could take that away. We put a lot of joy and happiness not just for our school, but the whole city."
Before that season, all-black high schools in Georgia competed in a separate organization with separate tournaments, called the Georgia Interscholastic Association. The GHSA refers to 1966-1967 as their first "fully integrated" year.
The Carver squad was led by a charismatic, energetic coach named Calvin Jones. He was a former point guard at Tuskeegee University and brought a fast-paced style to Carver. Calvin Jones, now 91 years old, also helped his players any way he could, whether it was with advice or a hot meal. He also was always there through the momentous season when, on occasion, opposing teams were disrespectful to the all-black Carver group.
"We went through a lot, but he never let it make him hurtful or angry, or spiteful," said Dr. Sara Jones, Calvin's wife. "I just thank G-d we were able to do that."
The team was good for several years, including success in city tournaments, despite Carver not having a gym at their school. 1967's campaign ended with a state championship, won at Georgia Tech's gym.
One lasting image from that championship run came after the final game -- the team took a photo with then-Governor Lester Maddox on the state capitol steps. Though some see Governor Maddox differently now, at that time Maddox was known for having segregationist views.
"[That meeting] sort of opened the door," said Dr. Sara Fox. "They said, 'if Lester Maddox could do that, anybody could!'"
According to Stanley, not all players were on board with meeting Maddox.
"Some of these guys didn't want to come to school because they didn't want to go down [to the capitol]," said Stanley. "Coach Jones got in his car and went to each house and said, get ready because you're going to be there."
Though there were integrated schools in Georgia already by this point, some look back at that Carver team as helping the city move forward.
"[Coach Jones] was able to bring to the athletic community in Atlanta [together], did quite a bit for race relations," said Wallace A. Bibbs, a former assistant principal at Carver who went on to be principal at other schools. "That was in those early years, they were afraid, didn't know what it'd be like. Especially in those contact sports, football and basketball. I just thought it made things smoother."
Calvin Jones would go on to become the first black assistant coach at the University of Georgia, working for the basketball and football teams.
Carver was not alone winning as an all-black high school winning a state championship in 1967 -- Beach High School out of Savannah won the 1967 Class AAA state title in boys basketball.