OPINION — After much hand-wringing by former students of Texas A&M University over the Black Lives Matter effort to have the statue of Lawrence Sullivan Ross taken down there, myself and about 125 Old Ags converged in the plaza in front of the A&M Academic Building at 4 p.m. Sunday, July 12, to counter-protest the protesters. We wanted to preserve an important image of A&M’s legacy.
The temperature was over 100 degrees F but the Old Ags, as former students are called, came prepared. Tent shades, coolers full of bottled water and Gatorade, and one lady was handing out “Save Sully” face masks. The average age of those gathered to support Sully was north of 60 years old. After the event, a 40-something-year-old Aggie explained that while many of the younger generations support Sully, they do not want to be photographed or videoed there because doing so may end their career at highly woke corporations.
The general tactic of the A&M BLM group is to aggravate an older Aggie to say or do something politically incorrect, then dox the poor soul on social media, spreading their shame on that individual far and wide. It happened at the last BLM rally to take down Sully to an octogenarian named Leroy who had attempted to engage a Black Texas A&M athlete in a genuine discussion about why the statue was an important monument for all Aggies.
The statue is of Lawrence Sullivan Ross, named A&M president in 1890 after a two-term stint as a successful Texas governor, saved the college from disbandment by the Texas Legislature. But he was also a Confederate General for a short stint, until the Confederacy’s demise when Ross was at a ripe old age of 26. Hence, BLM’s need to “cancel” him.
Leroy, attempting to find common ground with the Black athlete, noted that both of them shared in common being an Aggie. So, Leroy innocently asked a simple question the best he knew how, whether the athlete was “an Aggie or a Blaggie?”
“What? What? Hey, What?” came the response from multiple athletes. They found their gold. An Old Ag had used a racial slur. Claiming Leroy used the word, “blackie,” they took to social media. Eventually someone found out who Leroy was and where he lived. Death threats followed in the weeks afterward.
Leading Leroy’s doxing was A&M hurdler Infinite Tucker, a senior from Huntington, New York. Who knows if he’s on scholarship, but probably so. He is a natural leader, which we will find out later.
I found Leroy at the statue Sunday, too. He was maintaining a low profile but still found it important to join in fellowship with fellow Aggies gathered to make their case that the statue needs to stay. The sun had worn him out, along with wearing a mask. He was out of breath and sweat poured off his brow. But he could still talk about his new-found fame and the threats.
Amid the screams of “Black Lives Matter!” and “No Justice, No Peace” from a young lady with a bullhorn in front of about 20 agitators, behind the statue I also found Earl Rudder, Jr., son of General Earl Rudder, the president of A&M in the 1960s.
The senior Rudder, from Eden, was a tower of a man, a hero for leading his men onto the beaches at Normandy in 1944. Only a man of his stature could integrate the Corps of Cadets, allow women to enroll at the university, and maintain A&M’s dignity during the Vietnam War protests. There’s a rumor that President Rudder at the time told protesters to stay off campus or he’d organize the Corps of Cadets to escort them off.
“There will be no Columbia, no Berkeley here,” Rudder is quoted in the New York Times.
There is a Rudder Tower a short walk from the statue of ‘Ol Sully that could become a new focus for the BLM crowd if they learned how Rudder waved off Coach Gene Stallings in 1965 from recruiting a talented Black athlete. The athlete was from Temple who, after a successful college football career at North Texas, went to the Pittsburg Steelers and was known as “Mean” Joe Greene.
Rudder, in tune with the times, told Stallings, “Now is not the time” to integrate A&M Athletics. A few years later, the environment had relented, and Hugh McElroy became the first Black football player at A&M, taking the field in 1969 as a wide receiver.
As the junior Rudder and I sat there sharing stories of Texas A&M and his old hometown of Eden in west Texas, track star Infinite Tucker was on his fourth round barging into Old Ags to find an opening to climb atop the statue’s base that stood about eight feet high. Somewhere during the agitation, Tucker found his mark: A middle-aged lady guarding the statue.
“She touched my dick!” Tucker cried, attempting to start his own instance of a #MeToo movement.
Eventually, the weary old Ags gave Tucker the opening he wanted and he climbed on top of Sully. A BLM protestor handed him a black flag as Tucker forged the new image for the 12th Man Foundation, the organization charged with soliciting donations and memberships to finance A&M athletic scholarships. The defiant A&M athlete stood atop the statue many Old Ags, and donors, often called “Big Money Ags,” had spent their formative years in the Corps polishing with Brasso and memorizing as “campusology” the inscription on the back of its base. Tucker waved the BLM flag leading chants that at many levels denounced all who could be—or are—scholarship donors below him as racists.
I overheard an Old Ag ask of one of the athletes protesting Sully, “Do you know where your scholarship money comes from?” The answer pretty much summed it up. “I earned my scholarship,” the athlete said.
At the beginning of the protest, the anti-Sully crowd was small, outnumbered 125 Old Ags to 25 BLM agitators according to KBTX’s Rusty Surette. They stood 50 yards away from the statue chanting, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Sully’s statue has got to go!” The protestors were relatively benign until the A&M athletes arrived.
The athletes led the BLM crowd to confront the Old Ags at the statue an hour later, showing that the student athletes are the true leaders of the efforts to shame the alumni.
In addition to Tucker’s flicking pennies off the base of Ol’ Sully, reaching around the Old Ags and barging his way to the base, while accusing ladies of touching his junk, there was another exchange recorded.
A&M Freshman redshirt sprinter Jamal Walton from Miami, Florida, declared that the Old Ags guarding the statue were “sucking Sully’s dick.” When challenged by an older gentleman, Walton pressed, “I will beat your butt, bro!”
While Rome burned in front of ‘Ol Sully Sunday, A&M Athletic Director Ross Bjork was on Twitter asking Texans to mask up and social distance so that Aggie Football, soccer and volleyball could commence in the Fall.
For almost all gathered around Sully that day, going to an Aggie football game was very far from their minds. Most said they weren’t purchasing season tickets this year. COVID-19 or not, there will be no Aggie football season this year for many. Nearly all said that if called to donate to the 12th Man Foundation for athletic scholarships or even to support the Association of Former Students, they would pass.
A nice telemarketer from A&M called me from the Association on Monday. Class of 2022, she likely had no clue about the damage done to the Aggie donor base on Sunday.
“Can I count on your support by renewing your membership to the Century Club this year?” she asked.
I declined. Why should I give money for scholarships to students who turn around to call me a racist?
The leadership at A&M sits at the crossroads. If I were Track and Field Head Coach Pat Henry, I’d put a lid on my athletes. If he doesn’t, it will be difficult for Aggie athletics to fund scholarships on the backs of A&M alumni for the near future.
Indeed, A&M’s Athletic Director Bjork has more problems than just Texans not wearing masks.
Joe Hyde, the opinion writer, is a 20-year USAF combat veteran and member of Corps of Cadets outfit BC-3. He is a member of A&M's class of 1986.