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Former Baylor U. Basketball Player Recalls Integration Experience

This story was written by Jillian Henderson, The Lariat

(UWIRE) -- Nooses, racial slurs and intolerance are all things the Baylor community is still dealing with today, 50 years after integration occurred in the 1960s.

Progress is being made with the election of the first black president, Barack Obama, Tuesday, as compared to many years ago when the nation experienced segregation.

Today, Tommy L. Bowman, member of the Baylor University Board of Regents, and former Baylor basketball player, manages a scrap metal recycling company, M. Lipsitz and Co., in Waco, Texas.

Before he joined the team as a freshman in 1966, Bowman had to overcome racial issues, he said.

Bowman, who played as the starting forward on Baylor's varsity basketball team, was the first black athlete to be recruited and given a Baylor scholarship.

"I had a really pleasant experience," Bowman said. "I stayed mostly with the players. I was totally accepted by them."

Bowman, originally from Athens, Texas, chose to come to Baylor because he said he felt comfortable being at a small school. "Coming from a small town I felt like I could make the team there at Baylor."

Race relations on Baylor's basketball team was not really an issue, Bowman said.

"There were never any issues on the team with regard to blacks and whites," he said. " We were quite competitive on the court but it was with the competitive spirit. I'm still pretty close to some of the guys on the team. I had no problems at all with the Baylor players."

Former Baylor basketball teammate and former Waco Sen. David Sibley is a longtime friend of Bowman.

"We played together in 1966 as freshman and we have always remained close," Sibley said. "He's a great guy and was always very thorough."

Bowman said the hardest part about his integration into Baylor wasn't on the court, but instead being in the classroom.

"I had to take speech 101 and I was quite terrified," Bowman said. "I was intimidated by being a minority at Baylor University. I didn't sleep the night before. It didn't take me long to figure out we were all the same. "

Senior lecturer of journalism Maxey Parrish said he remembers coming to basketball games and watching Bowman play.

"He was a great player," Parrish said. "He always played the game very hard and with great skill. He had a great sense of class and dignity about him. You could see how he conducted himself on the court and he was just a real good player."

Bowman's best experience at Baylor was the relationships that he made while he was a student.

"I got a good education, but I still cherish the relationships that I developed at Baylor University," Bowman said.

The nation has progressed from integrating students into schools and onto teams to electing its first black president.

"It's historic," Bowman said. "It probably means more to me and people in my community than anything else. I never expected to see it in my lifetime."

Overall, the experience at Baylor was a good one, and race did not play a negative role, Bowman said.

"If I had it to do all over again, as far as the university, I would make the same choice," he said.

There is nothing in Bowman's life that has happened to him that makes him believe he made a bad decision, he said.

"There are so many good things I could point to in my life," Bowman said. "I met my wife here in Waco. God has blessed me through the associations that I developed through Baylor."

"I am surprised, even today, after hearing the final results, it's still seting in."

"I cannot explain to you how it has impacted my life in a positive way."

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