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In the fall of 1971, a decade after the University of Georgia was first integrated, five talented and determined young men made their way onto campus as freshmen. Together, Richard Appleby, Chuck Kinnebrew, Horace King, Clarence Pope and Larry West were making history as the first African-American scholarship football players in school history.
Signed by coach Vince Dooley, “The First Five” changed the face of Bulldog football and Georgia athletics forever, paving the way for more diversity and more excellence on and off the field.
“We all realized that we opened the door and we were a part of something that was really special,” Appleby recently said.
That was 50 years ago now, and this week Georgia is launching a celebration of The First Five leading up to and at the South Carolina football game on Saturday. Included in the celebration will be a pregame recognition of the five trailblazers on Dooley Field, including the unveiling of a monument in Reed Plaza next to Sanford Stadium to mark the milestone event of the integration of the football program.
In addition, Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism & Mass Communications has produced a documentary, titled “The First Five,” on the arrival of the pioneers and their experiences as Bulldogs. The film and other information on The First Five will soon be available for viewing on the Georgia athletics website, at georgiadogs.com/pioneers, as well as on the Grady College YouTube channel, https://www.youtube.com/user/UGAGradyCollege.
“I am so thrilled to welcome The Five back to campus and honor the 50th anniversary of this milestone for Georgia Athletics and the University of Georgia as a whole,” J. Reid Parker Director of Athletics Josh Brooks said. “Coach Dooley, with his foresight to facilitate this pivotal change, and The Five’s courage, strength and perseverance, changed the course of athletics at UGA in the most positive way imaginable. I am so proud to celebrate their impact this year.”
Appleby, King and Pope were from Athens, part of the first integrated team at Clarke Central High School, while Kinnebrew came from Rome, Ga., and West from Montezuma, near Albany. Once on campus together, they worked together, pushed each other to do well and do right as students, athletes and citizens, and formed lifelong bonds both with each other and with many of their teammates. After playing on the freshman team in 1971, all five eventually made a big impact on the field and were starters as seniors.
“We knew for sure that how we managed that situation would influence what happened after us,” Kinnebrew said when he, King, West and Pope met with a group of football players in February 2020. “We were very cognizant of the position that we were placed in and we felt the responsibility to maintain and manage ourselves accordingly.”
King, a versatile and explosive backfield standout, became the first African-American to score a touchdown for the Bulldogs and went on to a long career with the Detroit Lions. Appleby, a tight end, isn’t best known for any of his 48 career catches but for his end-around touchdown pass to Gene Washington for an 80-yard touchdown in a 10-7 win over Florida in 1975. With that throw, Appleby became the first African-American to throw a TD pass for the Bulldogs. Appleby was second-team All-SEC in 1974.
A defensive lineman, Kinnebrew came to Georgia already tough and strong after winning high school state championships for West Rome High School in the heavyweight wrestling division and in the discus. West, a defensive back, returned an interception 75 yards for a touchdown in 1972, one of five interceptions in his career. Pope, a linebacker, initially joined the team as a walk-on before earning a scholarship. By his junior season, he was a second-team player and he was a starter in 1974.
For more information on The Five and the integration of UGA athletics overall, you can visit a new exhibit on display at the Russell Building Special Collections Libraries called Not Only for Ourselves: The Integration of UGA Athletics. Parts of the exhibit are also available online: https://gado.gs/7j8.