Louisville businessman Paul Karem is nothing if not seriously passionate about Kentucky Wildcat football.
He toiled on Stoll Field for the Big Blue during the Charlie Bradshaw era in the 60s. Though, when asked if was a member of the Thin Thirty, he laughs, and says, “It would have been the Thin Twenty Nine.”
His current obsession is to set the record straight. His focus these days is on informing the world it was the University of Kentucky that integrated the Southeastern Conference in its showcase sport of football.
The name Perry Wallace is most often mentioned as the Jackie Robinson of SEC sports. He took to the hardwood for the Vanderbilt Commodores in 1967.
But the record will show that in the most visible of SEC sports — football — the racial barrier fell earlier that school year. September 30, 1967 to be exact.
During a visit by the then dominant Ole Miss Rebels, when they traveled to Lexington, upending the Cats, 26-13.
African American Nat Northington took the field for Kentucky that afternoon. His stint was cut short due to a shoulder injury.
That appearance made him the first black player on an athletic scholarship to compete in a contest between two SEC schools.1
Karem is now working on a documentary, with filmmaker Paul Wagner, with the intent to shine a light on UK’s contribution to integration in sports in the south. The working title is “Black in Blue.” They hope to have it completed in eight months to a year.
The movie will also attempt to clear the air about another controversy of the time. Northington was joined in that class by another player of color, Greg Page. Unfortunately, Page suffered a fatal neck injury during pre-season practice.
Karem gets livid when discussing the buzz that existed about an alleged murder plot against Page. Debunking that controversy will be a part of the film.
The season following Northington’s debut, he was joined on the squad by Houston Hogg and Wilbur Hackett. Hackett, a graduate of Manual H.S., was the first African-American to be named a captain of his team in any SEC sport, and later became an SEC football game official.
Paul Karem is going to talk about his film project on August 26 at a Quarterback Club lunch at Big Springs Country Club.
— Seedy K