High School Sports

The top 10 most influential African American sports figures in DFW history

Retired coach Robert Hughes to be inducted to Basketball Hall of Fame

Over 47 seasons, Robert Hughes became the all-time winningest coach in U.S. high school basketball history with a record 1,333-247. The weekend of Sept. 7, Fort Worth resident Hughes will join the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame class of
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Over 47 seasons, Robert Hughes became the all-time winningest coach in U.S. high school basketball history with a record 1,333-247. The weekend of Sept. 7, Fort Worth resident Hughes will join the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame class of

Robert “Bob” Hughes is No. 1.

There is no debate.

Case closed.

The all-time winningest coach in high school basketball history and a Naismith Hall of Famer tops the list of the 10 most accomplished and influential African American sports figures in the history of Dallas-Fort Worth.

The number of lives Hughes touched and changed can’t be measured. He remains a revered figure, as evidenced by his presence at the first Robert Hughes Hall of Fame basketball classic in November. Players, who were barely walking when he retired in 2005, stood in line to shake the hand of the 90-year old coach.

There are no Cowboys, Mavericks or Rangers on this list because it’s about homegrown heroes.

But the star power, as well the national and international impact, takes a back seat to no one.

1. Robert “Bob” Hughes (basketball)

Hughes won 1,333 games, more than any other high school coach ever, and five state titles in 47 seasons between Fort Worth Dunbar and I.M. Terrell. But his lasting impact is on the lives he touched and changed. He was elected into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2017.

2. James Cash (basketball)

As a basketball player at TCU, Cash broke the color barrier as the first African American to participate in sports in the Southwest Conference. Made history as chairman of the Harvard MBA Program and part-owner of the Boston Celtics. One of the lives Hughes impacted at I.M. Terrell.

3. Abner Haynes (football)

The Dallas Lincoln product, along with teammate Leon King, became the first African Americans to play college football in Texas at the University of North Texas in 1956. He broke the color barrier to major college football in Texas. Went on to star in AFL with the Dallas Texans/Kansas City Chiefs.

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Dallas Texans running back Abner Haynes takes a pass from Hunter Enis during the exhibition game against Denver at Farrington Field in 1961. Star-Telegram Collection UT Arlington Special Collections

4. Ernie Banks (baseball)

“Mr. Cub” got his start at Booker T. Washington High School in Dallas. He played basketball part-time for the Harlem Globetrotters before joining the Kansas Monarchs of the Negro Leagues and then become a 14-time all-star and Hall of Famer with the Chicago Cubs.

Obit Ernie Banks
Chicago Cubs’ Hall of Fame infielder, “Mr. Cub” Ernie Banks shields his eyes from a spotlight during the Cubs’ annual winter baseball convention in Chicago in this Jan. 17, 2014 file photo. Ernie Banks, the two-time MVP who never lost his boundless enthusiasm for baseball despite years of playing on losing Chicago Cubs teams, died Friday night. He was 83. The Cubs announced Banks’ death, but did not provide a cause. Charles Rex Arbogast AP

5. Michael Johnson (track)

Maybe the greatest track Olympian ever from Texas. The Dallas Skyline product has four Olympic gold medals and eight World Championship gold medals. He held the world and Olympic records in the 200 and 400 as well as the world record in the indoor 400.

Olympics_Fredericks_IOC_19555.jpeg
FILE - This is a Thursday Aug. 1, 1996 file photo of Frankie Fredericks of Namibia, right, wearing his silver medal with Michael Johnson of the United States, wearing his gold medal, during the presentation ceremony for the men’s 200 meters at the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta. Former Olympic sprinter Frankie Fredericks has turned himself over to the IOC ethics commission following a French newspaper report linking him to a payment from a man who has been banned for life from track and field for corruption. Le Monde reported Friday March 3, 2017, that a payment of $299,300 to an offshore company linked to Fredericks came in 2009 on the day that Rio de Janeiro was awarded hosting rights for the 2016 Olympics. (AP Photo/Eric Draper/File ) Eric Draper AP

6. Tim Brown (football)

A star in high school at Dallas Woodrow Wilson, Brown became an All-American at Notre Dame and won the 1987 Heisman Trophy. He played 17 years in the NFL and finished second all-time in receiving yards, and third in catches and touchdowns. Inducted in Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2015.

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Tim Brown mentioned 69 people and every QB who threw him a pass in his 31-minute, 27-second speech. Tom E. Puskar AP

7. Lee Elder (golf)

Before Tiger Woods became the first African American to win the Masters in 1997, Lee Elder was the first to ever play the tournament in 1977. He did it amid death threats. Born in Dallas, Elder dreamed of being a golfer as a kid because his older brother worked at a golf course. He made history and paved the way for Woods.

8. Tamika Catchings (basketball)

Maybe the most accomplished former Texas high school basketball player ever. State and national player of the year at Duncanville and a state champion. Was college player of the year at Tennessee. and an NCAA champion. One of only five people with four Olympic basketball gold medals. Retired as one of best in WNBA history. Rookie of the year, WNBA MVP, WNBA Finals MVP, WNBA Champion.

Fever Farewell Basketball.jpeg
Tamika Catchings is one of only five people with four Olympic basketball gold medals. Retired as one of best in WNBA history. Rookie of the year, WNBA MVP, WNBA Finals MVP, WNBA Champion. Damian Dovarganes AP

9. Charley Taylor (football)

Graduated from Grand Prairie’s now-closed Dalworth High School and became an All-American running back at Arizona State. Was NFL rookie of the year at running back for the Washington Redskins in 1964, switched to receiver in 1966 and finished his career as the league’s all-time leader in receptions. Voted to Hall of Fame in 1984.

10. Ozzie Simmons (football)

Ozzie Simmons starred in high school at an all-black school in Fort Worth in 1930s but became an All-American running back in college football at Iowa because of racism in Texas. Nicknamed the “Ebony Eel” because of his slithery moves, he still endured punches, piling on and roughhousing because of his race that was even called out by future president Ronald Reagan, then a radio sportscaster in Des Moines.

Other notable names: Freddie James, Larry Johnson, Jessie Armstead, Christie Gaines, Michael Carter, Michelle Carter, Spud Webb, Willie Criss, Reginald Samples, Harvey Martin, Everson Walls, Boston Grant, Roy Martin, Doc Patton, Chris Bosh, Raymond Clayborn, Ellis Burks, Turner Gill, Donald Curry, Bill Blair

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Clarence E. Hill Jr. has covered the Dallas Cowboys as a beat writer/columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram since 1997. That includes just two playoff wins, six coaches and countless controversies from the demise of the dynasty teams of the 1990s through the rollercoaster years of the Tony Romo era until Jason Garrett’s process Cowboys.

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