AMAZING! The First Black Man To Receive A Scholarship at UT from Killeen, Texas
For Black History Month, I decided to highlight something I thought was a pretty cool piece of history right here in Killeen, Texas.
While scrolling on Instagram the other day, I saw that DJ HELLA YELLA posted that his dad, Leon O'Neal II, was the first African American to receive a scholarship from the University of Texas back in 1968.
So I got in touch with Hella Yella, who connected me with his dad, who was gracious enough to give me a few minutes of his time.
I was excited to hear old stories from "back in the day"
Jim Crow Laws
While talking to Mr. O' Neal, he spoke on Jim Crow Laws in the 60s (something not taught in schools in Texas), and how it was slightly different for him in the Killeen area.
He explained that being in a military family, the experience of racial discrimination was different for him because there were black soldiers stationed at Fort Hood.
Being the first African American to receive a scholarship at the University of Texas came with much opposition. Back in 2015, O'Neal told Monique Brand of The Killeen Daily Herald that just 10 years before he was admitted to the University, black people weren't even permitted on campus.
“I got there when the dorms were just being integrated", he said. "Out of 200 people living in the dorms, there were only a handful of us blacks living on campus. Whites in dorms didn’t befriend us. We only had each other.”
Tragedy Strikes, Fatherhood Ramps Up
According to the Instagram video, O'Neal's football days were over when his wife, who had just given birth to his son, died five days later. That left him to raise his then 3-year-old daughter and his newborn son.
Listen to My Interview with Leon O'Neal II
Thanks again to Mr. O'Neal for giving me a few minutes of his time. Here's our quick conversation:
Here is Leon with former NFL Linebacker and University Of Texas Alum Brian Orakpo, who played for both the Tennesee Titans and The Washington Commanders.
Here he is with former NFL running back Ricky Williams, who played for the Miami Dolphins, New Orleans Saints, and the Baltimore Ravens, along with his son, DJ Hella Yella (Leon O'Neal III).
Mr. O'Neal and Ricky Williams
Father Leon O'Neal and son DJ Hella Yella