A former high school football star who was instrumental in breaking down racial barriers has died of multiple organ failure.
Julius Campbell Jr., 65, starred as a defensive linesman for the football team of T.C Williams High School, which was racially integrated in 1971 by combining the student bodies of three schools in Alexandria, Virginia.
Amid the racial tensions of a desegregated school and its surrounding community, the team went 13-0 and won the Virginia AAA state championship.
The story of the football season amid the city’s racial tensions inspired the film ‘Remember the Titans.’
In the cinematic depiction, Campbell, played by Wood Harris, befriends white linebacker Gerry Bertier and the pair’s bond becomes part of the team’s success.
‘Julius was very, very instrumental on that team at simply getting kids to just talk to one another, kids who never talked to kids from another race their entire lives,” said Herman Boone, who coached the Titans from 1971 to 1979, told The Washington Post. Boone was played by actor Denzel Washington in the 2000 movie.
‘By doing so, they learned many things about each other that were not passed down to them and for that, the world owes Julius a debt of gratitude.
Cathy Campbell, who confirmed his death, said of her husband: ‘He was a very kind, compassionate human being. If you met him, you loved him.’
Julius Campbell Jr., was born in December , 1953 and was the second of five children and the first son of Hazel and Julius Campbell Sr.
When he arrived at T.C. Williams, the school accepted freshmen, sophomores and juniors.
However ahead the year of the football state championship in 1971, Alexandria converted the school into the only building for upperclassmen and sent lowerclassmen to Francis Hammond and George Washington Junior High schools.
The move sparked racial tensions in the city, especially among students leaving Hammond, whose student body was 99 percent white.
Hammond Coach Bill Yoast was expected to land the job as the new coach of T.C. Williams, but officials chose Herman Boone instead.
Yoast agreed to coach on Boone’s staff, which eased the divide and paved the way for white players leaving Hammond to join a roster that included African American players.
Teammate Collin Arrington said of students from the three high schools said: ‘You have to understand, we had never been together for three years.
‘This was going to be our junior year, and then all of a sudden, they decided they were going to bring three schools together and they’d all been enemies for years.’
Arrington added: ‘The best thing we ever did was going to Gettysburg. We had football camp for two weeks and we trained, and we got out temper tantrums out and our animosity out and we came back as a football team.’
Boone took the team away for two weeks to Gettysburg, where the group bonded during summer training camp.
Campbell and Bertier, were seen as pivotal in bringing the team together and emerged as leaders.
Boone revealed: ‘Julius took it upon himself to lead the team and rebuild race relations.
‘He talked to members of the team even up at Gettysburg about how we could come together.
‘It was Julius who came up with the saying that our team is a team of one group of people with ‘one vision.’ And in order to win we must have ‘one heartbeat.’
In his later years, Campbell took up speaking regionally about the team’s journey to overcome racial barriers and about bullying in school, but he was forced to stop due to health problems.
He is survived by Cathy Campbell, his wife of 29 years, as well as his daughter, three stepdaughters, two stepsons and five grandchildren.
SOURCE: Daily Mail, Leah McDonald