Fate returns 50-year-old Wolverine jersey to owner | News | The Press and Standard
by The Press and Standard | December 2, 2016 5:00 am
Last Updated: December 2, 2016 at 2:52 pm
Class of 1966 Colleton High Wolverine Football players honored.
By CINDY CROSBY
On Nov. 21, former Colleton High School football player Abraham North found out where his Wolverine football jersey had been for the past 50 years.
The revelation was part of the Colleton High Class of 1966 celebration honoring its former football players in a ceremony held at the Ray T. Johnson Center. Three players — Abraham North, Herbert Elliott and Francis Simmons — were on hand for the ceremony during which they were recognized for their contributions to the Wolverines football team.
Coach Leroy Womble, who served as an assistant under head coach Ernest P. Wooten in 1966, formally presented Abraham North with his 50-year-old authentic Wolverine football jersey. North, a star tackle, guard and middle linebacker for the Wolverines, was the recipient of the Most Valuable Player Award as a senior at Colleton High.
So where has North’s jersey been for the past 50 years? The heartwarming story surrounding its return to North, after half a century, is surely one of fate.
On May 26, 1966, as the school year wound down and graduation approached, senior Lewis Brown came upon a Wolverine jersey underneath the bleachers in the gym at Colleton High. Brown, himself a Wolverine basketball and baseball player who helped lead his team to a Lower State Championship, took the No. 54 purple and gold Wolverine jersey home that day.
Following the summer of ‘66, Brown went go off to college. After graduating in 1970, he moved to New York, where he spent the next 46 years, eventually retiring from the New York State Department of Labor. Just recently, Brown moved back to the Lowcountry – and that is when fate stepped in.
This past summer, Brown attended a cookout with a few of his former Colleton High classmates in Cottageville. There, he had a chance meeting with Abraham North. The two former Wolverine athletes caught up with each other’s lives while reminiscing over memorabilia.
As North was showing Brown his three Bronze Medals and Combat Infantryman Badge for serving in the 3rd Squadron, 5th Armored Cavalry in Vietnam, an old Wolverine football roster captured Brown’s attention. Moments later, Brown came to realize the No. 54 Wolverine jersey, which he’d had in his possession for nearly 50 years, belonged to the very same man sitting just a few feet away from him and holding three Bronze Medals — Abraham North.
“For 50 years, I hung on to that jersey,” said Brown. “I kept it safely sealed in an airtight protective bag for all those years, never knowing who it belonged to. Truly, it could not be more special to have kept it safe so that it could be returned to Abraham North — a man who so valiantly fought for our country. It had to be fate.”
“I was surprised and shocked,” said North. “When he asked me that day at the cookout if I was No. 54, I had no idea what he was about to say. I was very happy about the jersey. Believe it or not, it still has the grass stains on it — probably because I spent a lot of time on the ground. In my last high school game, both my shoulders were knocked out of place.”
As for the future, North is not sure where his No. 54 Wolverine jersey will find a permanent home. He says it is a possibility it could rest in the Colleton Museum or the Colleton County High School Athletic Hall of Fame. “I kind of like the idea of the Hall of Fame,” said North. “After all, I have a grandson that is a senior this year and five younger grandboys to go through that school. I kind of like the idea of them being able to see and enjoy it. The history behind the jersey and the Colleton High Wolverines give them something to be proud of.”
During the program, Mary Alice Brown Waymer opened with a warm welcome to the Class of 1966, followed by a prayer from Vera Bodison. Genora Jones Kennedy lit a candle in memory of classmates and Doretha Smalls Washington held a moment of silence in honor of deceased players James Grant, Norris Gadson, Fellie Sweat, Ernest **** Johnson and Henry Givens. Football players also recognized, but not attending, were John Gilliam, Jimmy Siders and Richard Walters.
The Colleton High School Class of ’66 meets every second Tuesday of the month for breakfast at Shoney’s. They welcome guests and former classmates to join them in preserving a legacy of a rich tradition of school and community for posterity.