Commentary | Ed Dick changed history and helped bring Ray Bellamy and University of Miami together

adell@bradenton.comJanuary 16, 2013 

BRADENTON

When the University of Miami decided to break the college football color barrier in the Deep South it needed its own Branch Rickey.

As the Brooklyn Dodgers GM, Rickey signed Jackie Robinson in a move that changed the look of Major League Baseball diamonds forever.

Dr. Henry King Stanford was president of Miami in the 1960s when he chose to follow the example of baseball and sought the right person to crank the engine.

He learned of a guy named Ed Dick, who was fighting for equality and putting himself in danger without hesitation.

Dr. Sanford had his man.

Dick was a Caucasian who had a reputation for conducting voter registration drives in Manatee County to help minorities. This was the 1960s, and the task was daunting, if not treacherous, but he was the kind of person who did not bow down to fear.

Dick also was an avid Miami football fan and told university officials years earlier they were missing the boat if they didn't start recruiting blacks.

Dr. Stanford, who died on New Year's Day 2009, felt the time was right, and Ed Dick was given the mission to help Miami find the right player.

He knew exactly where to go to find that special player and wasn't timid about making his intentions known.

He came to the practice field at all black Lincoln High in the days when segregation ruled these parts and met the school's head football coach Eddie Shannon.

The player they chose had to have the talent and demeanor of a Jackie Robinson. He was going to have to take some verbal abuse without retaliation and accept threats to his life. There wasn't going to be any turning back.

Ray Bellamy was the player selected and together Bellamy, Dick and Shannon played a significant role in changing the course of American history.

"When I first met Ed Dick I was in high school and to have a man speak as positive about blacks and giving opportunities to blacks kind of caught me off guard," Bellamy recalled. "The second thing I thought was, 'Is this man for real?' I grew up a skeptic, but he proved himself. He fought the battle of racism, did it with deeds and angered a whole bunch of white folks."

These three giants will get a chance to reminisce about those turbulent times Friday night when they attend a Martin Luther King Jr. banquet at the Palmetto Youth Center.

Shannon is in his nine

ties, Dick in his eighties and Bellamy his sixties, but what they created in many ways is just starting to blossom with the hiring of African-American head college coaches, including that of Palmetto native Willie Taggart to run the USF program.

Shannon and Bellamy have triumphed in the open for everyone to see. Dick has never gotten any public acclaim, but is just as worthy.

Shannon has said Dick made him, and Bellamy will always feel indebted to the man who has lived in Bayshore Gardens for almost half a century. Dick's father, Ed Dick Jr., was friends with Jesse Owens and learned a lot about racial injustice from him.

"People of color had been intimidated not to vote here (Manatee County), and me and a group of people were out on the streets going door to door registering them to vote," Dick said.

Dick has a litany of stories to tell. He was on the verge of signing Booker High basketball great and future college/NBA standout Howard Porter for Miami when he saw racism get in the way.

"Porter said he would sign with Miami if one of his high school buddies would get a chance to play quarterback there. When he was told that a black couldn't play quarterback at Miami, Howard changed his mind and signed with Villanova," Dick said.

Much has changed since 1966 when Bellamy signed that letter of intent to play for Miami. But Dick wants things to move quicker.

"Progress has been made, but there is still a lot of room to go. I would like to see it go faster (hiring of more black head college coaches)," he says.

Bellamy says there is a lot to compare about Dick and Dr. Stanford and he learned a lot from both, particularly in the field of human relationships.

"Ed had the same fiber that Dr. Stanford had. He was insightful and made things happen. Ed is a man who will deliver the mail every day," Bellamy said. "He is a special person and changed the demeanor of our community by standing up for equality, and his wife stood by him and did a lot of great things. He adopted more than 20 children from all different races."

Though all their years living in Manatee County, Ed Dick and his wife, Joanne, had more than 300 homeless people living with them and adopted eight children. At one time, there were nine Vietnamese refugees living in their home along with eight other people.

"One night at the dinner table, there were eight different languages being spoken," Ed Dick recalled.

The most important message sent by the 83-year-old was telling Ray Bellamy Miami wanted him. It changed the course of history.

Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-7080, ext. 2112. Follow him on Twitter at @ADellSports.

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