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Major Roy James Blakeley (December 10, 1928 - July 22, 1965) - USAF (KIA)

When I was young my dad would say
Come on son let's go out and play

No matter how hard I try
No matter how many tears I cry
No matter how many years go by
I still can't say goodbye

- "I Still Can't Say Goodbye," Performer: Chet Atkins

MP3 audio file/lyrics http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/songs/still_cant_say_goodbye.htm

For a larger image click on the photograph.

He arrived on a hot, blustery mid-October day in 1919 aboard a Missouri- Kansas-Texas (M-K-T) train. The ride from the East Texas city of Crockett, by way of Houston and Waco, had taken four days. When he climbed off the dusty train in the small West Texas town of Rotan, he had only 50 cents in his overalls, no place to live, but with the promise of a job, perhaps even a future. It was a chance to get a foothold, find new roots. Most of the young men of the nation, the white men, were defending their country in the first world war.

When William Henry Govan alighted from that dirty train ride, he was a 22- year old Negro man about to enter into an almost white world. West Texas still could be classified "redneck country" at the time and a black man, particularly one with two years of college education, would not make anyone's most-likely-to-succeed list.

Few Negroes helped defend our country in World War I. They were not far removed from the years of slavery and while they were considered free, they still were the cheap labor force for America. But it was a chance, Govan thought.

H., as he is known to everyone, not only succeeded but became a legend in his own time. Oh, you won't find his name among Texas' numerous millionaires, in the Texas Sports Hall of Fame or on our state's political rolls. His success has come in the field of human relations.

On Nov. 27 Govan celebrated his 84th birthday. He completed his 58th year as the water boy for the Rotan High School Yellowhammer football team in 1981. The amazing statistic is that in those 58 years he has missed only six games.

He has served as water boy officially, but has done stints as a coach, father confessor, psychologist, trainer and, foremost, been a friend to the hundreds of boys who went through the Rotan football program. What's even more amazing is that he can remember darn near everyone of them.

Each youngster who has gone through high school football has outstanding memories recorded. Former Yel1owhammers will tell you one of the most unforgettable memories is that of the white-haired Govan shaking each player's hand before each and every game, wishing him good luck.

Govan has done nothing spectacular in his 58-year tenure, at least that many would know about. Most of his deeds have gone unnoticed, sometimes even by the coaches. But the players remember.

He has talked all-state quarterbacks into giving up the idea of quitting a team about to reach the pinnacle of success, put some backbone into others who may have lacked enough to give all of himself for the team, provided moral support when needed, a shoulder to cry on for the coaches and players and never has been heard to criticize a player or a coach. He has an inner strength which comes from his faith in God and it radiates to those around him.

While he retains a mind which is sharp, he has a tendency to repeat some stories. However, he'll tell no stories with names which might embarrass some former player.

He tells of the time he rushed to the side of an injured player on the field and asked the youngster what his injury was. "I'm knocked out," the kid says. H. repeats his question and gets the same answer, "I'm knocked out."

"Son, you get up and get back into the huddle. I ain' t going back to the sideline and tell the coach you told me you are knocked out. He'd think we both are crazy."

About the closest he ever came to losing his cool with a youngster was one year when Rotan was to play Stamford, one team the Yellowhammers never could seem to beat. The player said he'd forgotten to bring his uniform. "I told him if he didn't want to play he should have told the coach, not to come to the game the lame excuse that he'd forgotten his uniform."

You won't hear the word black in his vocabulary. A Negro is a Negro to him. He still calls all white men Mr. although most all would prefer to be called by their first name and to call him Mr. Govan out of respect.

In today's world of advancement for the Negro, as slow as it may be, H. Govan might be considered an "Uncle Tom" by the more progressive Negroes. It would arouse the fighting instincts in those who know him to hear him spoken about with disrespect.

When World War I broke out Govan returned to his Crockett home. He had been at Prairie View A&M for two years, playing football as a halfback. He had to go to work to make money to return to college. He never made it back.

Times were hard and laborers difficult to find. The war had taken most of the young labor force. L.E. Newton, a member of the board of the Rotan Oil Mill, had a sister in Crockett and asked her to find some laborers for him. The idea. of being able to make as much as $6-7 a day appealed to Govan. He and 11 others boarded the train for Rotan.

"I got here on Oct. 27, 1919," Govan remembers clearly. I stayed two weeks and got lonely. I wrote Tersesie (his wife of 62 years) and asked her to marry me. She wrote back and said she would so I went and got her. After we got back I never left Fisher County for the next seven years," he said.

He was a man with boundless energy for work. He worked at the Oil Mill, as a shoe shine boy at the barber shop, cleaned the bank, a drug store and the Ford Company. And found time to help the Rotan football team.

How did he get involved with the football team? "There was a man named Willie Morgan shining shoes at the barber shop. I liked the way he talked so I used to stop and talk with him. When Willie got hurt in a fight Mr. P.V. Hale (the barber) asked if I would take his place. I agreed if Mr. Newton would agree at the Oil Mill. He said he would if Mr. Hale would allow me to come to work for him when someone was sick.

"It was 1923 when I became connected with the football team. Mr. Hale knew I played some and he told me I could go out and watch the boys work out. Mr. J. C. Tittle was the coach. He had come from Hamlin. He had played ball at the University of Texas. It was him who named Rotan the Yellowhammers and picked the colors orange and white as the team colors after Texas.

"Mr. Tittle asked if I would be the water boy and could I find a white pair of pants. You see, the only place in them days you could take a bath was at the barber shop. I guess it was pretty smart of Coach Tittle. All the players came there to bathe. I'd loan this one a nickle, that one a dime or a quarter. And I never had one of them beat me out of a cent," Govan proclaimed proudly.

"We beat Anson that first game, 6-0. I've seen 'em all come and go since then."

The game has changed drastically in the 58 years he's been involved.

The biggest change is the way the coaches have had to change the way they coach. I've seen some good ones and some bad ones. I guess I'd say the toughest and best coach was D.V. Marcum. (Son, Tim Marcum, is now an assistant coach at Rice) But a man can't coach, the way he did nowadays. The players wouldn't put up with it.

"He had a great team in 1948-49 but couldn't beat Monahans. Monahans won the state championship that year and beat us the only two times we lost. That man (Marcum) just wouldn't kick the ball on fourth down. He believed you should run the ball down everyone's throat and if you got beat, the better man won. They had only two coaches in them days. Now they got four or five."

It didn't take long for him to come up with the best team. "I'd have to say the best team was the 1962 team which won the only state championship we ever won. Tommy Watkins (now the head coach at Uvalde) was the coach of that team and he was a good æun.

"Conner Robinson (Abilene) was the first quarterback we ever had. I think he was the best because he was. a triple threat to run, pass or kick. Angle Smith and Howard Swann were the best fullback and halfback combination you could find back in the '30s. Joe McCombs and Ross Burns were great hitters. Burns wasn't big, but when he hit you it hurt."

Watkins, the coach of the state championship team, remembers Govan well. "I had a great relationship with H. He was a great help to me. All the kids loved him and he loved all the kids. The kids knew he had strong feelings for them because all their dads had played under H., too. I had a real good six-year run in Rotan and H. was a vital part of it," Watkins said.

Texas, like the rest of the country, still was segregated until the late '60s, yet Govan says there was only one instance in his life when prejudiced raised its ugly head.

"It was 1947 or '48. The team went into a cafÚ in Roby (nine miles south of Rotan). When we walked in the owner said 'that nigger can't eat in here." Coach Marcum said, æif this nigger don't eat in here, neither do we.' We all left and went on to Rotan.

"Years later I was looking over some property with a banker and this man owned the land next to it. We met and he said he knew me. I reminded him that he had thrown me out of his cafÚ one time and he said no, it couldn't have been me he'd thrown out. I told him to forget it because I had."

Perhaps the most volatile incident was in 1953 when Rotan visited Throckmorton. Govan had to have a police escort into the city. "I really didn't know what was happening. The policeman was very nice. I rode in his car and he asked me about the team, about my family, how long I had been with the team and was very nice to me. I was told when I got home that Throckmorton was not a town for a Negro to go into. I got a little scared then.

"I do remember we had to get down on our hands and knees after the game and hunt for those teeth (a partial plate) Jimmy Counts had knocked out." Throckmorton had four players ejected that night and Rotan three.

"When integration came to Rotan it went very smoothly. We never had no problems at all," Govan said proudly.

He had reason to be proud. He had smoothed a path for all the blacks and white's alike in all those years he had been in service. He never said a word about segregation or integration. Rather it was his action in being himself which taught players the difference in right and wrong and what a multi-headed monster prejudice could be.

H. Govan is a man of God. He has been the deacon of the Mount Zion Baptist Church for 57 years. His philosophy is to follow the Bible's teachings, but quickly points out that he's no saint.

"There wasn't none of that marijuana or dope when I was a kid. I'm human, though. I might have tried those things when I was a kid if they'd been around. People around here don't think I ever done nothing wrong.

"I look at life this way. Do the right thing and the Good Lord will take care of you. I try to put God first. I figure whatever you've got, God is just letting you keep. It's like waking up and knowing you're late for work. Most people fret and run around trying to hurry to get to work, worrying about what the boss will say. I just ask HIM to help when I do get to work.

"These old kids tickle me. They ask me what they're doing wrong. I just tell them the first thing they have to do is get the jump on the other guy, hit him before he hits you."

That's not a bad philosophy or a bad piece of coaching. Any coach will tell you the first rudiment of success is to get the jump on the guy across the line from you.

H. Govan has led a simple life with a simple philosophy and success has been his.

"You can't imagine how many of these old kids come back through here and call me or come see me. They say they just wanted to say Hi to me."

Yet Govan says he doesn't realize what an impact he's had on the lives of so many youngsters.

One thing is certain. When William Henry Govan does depart for greener pastures, he won't have to get a ticket to get into God's game. He'll be standing right beside The Coach's side, doing what he's always done.

- "Mr. H," Jerry Waggoner, Executive Sports Editor, The Bryan-College Station Eagle, Family Weekly Magazine, September 26, 1982 edition.