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Lindsay inspired others

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By Brad Bowman

John Lindsay didn’t want to go to Lincoln Institute during the early years of integration.

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Lindsay’s decision gave family members and former classmates from the Merriweather and King Street schools the confidence to attend the previously all white school-Eminence High School.

“I didn’t want to go to Lincoln Heights and be away from my family,” Lindsay said. “I was a little apprehensive they had had problems at a school down in Sturgis and called the National Guard, but I knew a lot of the people at the school in Eminence. I had played sports with them during the summer there. It wasn’t any problem for me.”

Lindsay was the first black athlete at Eminence High School, where he played baseball and football. He was selected to be on the North Central Kentucky Conference All-Star football team his senior year.

“People from King Street would come and watch me practice and play,” Lindsay said. “We won a conference game in baseball, but we didn’t go quite as far in football.”

Lindsay didn’t want to play football at first.

“I had a friend that played on the team and he kept trying to talk me into it,” Lindsay said. “I missed the first few practices before I started playing. One day after practice I was walking home and I had a gun drawn on me.”

An upper classman drew a gun and tried to dissuade him from playing on the football team.

“My father told me to go back and keep playing,” Lindsay said. “I was nervous, but once I started playing with the team the real problem turned out to be when we played away.”

People broke into locker rooms, stole money and called him names on the field. Lindsay said it didn’t affect him.

“I was okay. You ignored and tried to play as hard as you could,” he said. “I can’t say that people always accepted it. I experienced it until I graduated.”

Lindsay hopes his experience made a difference for his younger brothers who followed in sports after him. For Lindsay, integration meant a difference in other ways.

“Merriweather didn’t have things like a modern heating or water system,” Lindsay said. “So they built King Street. When I went to Eminence, I had new schoolbooks. When I was in school at King Street, I had a book from a man that had gone to Eminence with his name in the back. It was old enough that he had to be in college by then. The teachers got across the parts of education that you needed.”

Lindsay played defensive back and halfback. He was the only black male to go to Eminence High School at first.

“I was in a class of all females from King Street when we went to Eminence,” Lindsay said. “People still kid me about that now. I think me going to school there first might have made it easier for other people. I don’t know.”

Lindsay was the first black male to graduate from Eminence High School and was later drafted in the Vietnam War. He joined the army and was stationed in California.

“I was in the army’s infantry division till 1965 at Ft. Ord, Calif.,” Lindsay said. “I left Henry County after I got out of the army.  They had started sending people to Vietnam heavily then, and my wife and I moved to Louisville where we both worked.”

Lindsay said he fondly remembers school to be much different than today.

“At King Street and Merriweather you had to stay after school if you didn’t learn what they were teaching,” Lindsay said. “The teachers cared and spent time with you. Eminence teachers gave a lot of attention to their students too. Here in Louisville I know they don’t get the attention I did.”