John Walker

John Walker

“If we open a quarrel between past and present, we shall find that we have lost the future.” – Winston Churchill

I was 9 years old when I attended my first college football game. The date was Nov. 19, 1966. My dad drove me from Green River, Wyoming, to Provo so that we could watch the Wyoming Cowboys take on the BYU Cougars. My web search informs me that 38,333 fans attended this game. Dad was a UW graduate and he was thoroughly devoted to the brown and gold. However, my sister was attending BYU at that time so we had to be polite to the blue and white.

I still possess some vivid memories from this game. For example, I recall that our mascot (i.e. pony) was less than thrilled to be sharing the stadium with BYU’s mascot (Cosmo the cougar). Apparently small horses feel threatened by mountain lions. I also recall BYU’s pep squad enthusiastically holding up a large sign that read: “What do champions eat for breakfast?” The squad then held up a sign that provided the answer: “Poke Chops!”

We were seated with a few other Cowboy fans near the east end zone. BYU had a very good football team primarily because of its nationally acclaimed quarterback Virgil Carter. Wyoming also had some outstanding players who would later play professional football. Such players included Jerry DePoyster (Oakland Raiders), Vic Washington (San Francisco 49ers) and Jim Kiick (Miami Dolphins).

Wyoming dominated the game, from beginning to end, and ultimately won by a score of 47 to 14. Another ardent UW fan was born on that day.

The 1969 Wyoming/BYU football game would be remembered for something far different than the score. I suspect that most, if not all, reading this are familiar with the Black 14. For those unfamiliar, they were 14 Black football players who were kicked off the football team by Wyoming Coach Lloyd Eaton for wanting to wear black armbands during an upcoming game with BYU to protest racial epithets they said were delivered in a previous year’s game.

A couple weeks ago, I read a wonderful and inspiring news article entitled, “Black 14 launch 180-ton food initiative with UW, Mormon Church.” This article describes a project wherein the University of Wyoming, the Black 14 and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are now united in what John Griffin, a member of the Black 14, describes as “something pretty special.”

The Black 14 initiative hopes to provide 180 tons of food for children who are being cared for by various charitable organizations throughout the United States. The pallets of food, which will be transported to those in need by large tractor/trailers, will bear a logo which reads: “University of Wyoming Black 14; Mind, Body and Soul Initiative; Donation in partnership with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

I am a man of fervent faith and hope, but I must acknowledge that I never thought that I would live to see the day when the University of Wyoming, the Black 14 and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would enthusiastically join forces! Mel Hamilton, another member of the Black 14, correctly believes that this initiative proves that rifts truly can be repaired.

As a fascinating sidenote, Hamilton’s son, named Malik, has been a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since 1999. Malik received the church’s priesthood in 1999 and was ordained a High Priest in 2004. When Mr. Hamilton reflected upon his son receiving the priesthood, he declared, “How beautiful is that?”

The time has come for us to stop obsessing over a past that we cannot change. Instead, let us strive to build the kind of future which we know it can and should be! A future where all of God’s children, regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, religion, culture or socio-economic status are treated with love, dignity, opportunity and respect.

The time also has come for many of our political leaders to stop spewing venom at each other. Instead, I humbly ask that all of our elected officials diligently endeavor to serve their constituents by finding and firmly standing upon common ground.

Even though we have not yet reached the time wherein the mountain lion and pony shall peacefully lie down together, we can and must do a much better job of focusing upon our individual and collective future. We owe it to our children and grandchildren.

John M. Walker is an attorney and lifelong Wyomingite who lives in Cheyenne. His email address is: