Middlesboro has lost a favorite son with the passing of Roy Stapleton this month. Roy gave to his community and country to be sure. From the battlefields of Europe to the ball fields of the Appalachian Mountains Roy brought a sense of what’s right for all of us. He set an example for all of us to follow.
I saw Roy this past October when he immediately updated me on his crosses. I think he was up to 32,000 (how does he keep track?) and told me about his recent visit to Charlotte where the Grahams recognized his dedicated work in providing crosses to folks all over the world. As we sat and talked about yester years he pulled out a remembrance he received from one of his former players who had written him after the passing of Roy’s wife. Jimmy Hurst had sent him a note where he thanked Roy for giving him a baseball glove in the first year that the leaders had formed the Little League Baseball program for the black and white boys of Middlesboro. The year was 1953. Without that gift, Jimmy stated, he would have never played.
That story is but a small reminder of Roy’s contribution to the kids and families of Middlesboro. Those leaders who formed the baseball program made inroads for other communities to recognize equality among people of all colors and religions. Men like Roy and Harry Hoe and Pastor Donald Durham gave the gift of playing baseball to Middlesboro’s youth. And those young boys, who were separated in schools by their color, became roles models for young men and women today. Many adults, both with us and past, have benefited from the gifts of Middlesboro’s leaders. I always wondered how two guys getting back from the deadliest war ever in Europe could come home and make contributions as big as the ones they made in France and Germany. Guys like Roy and Harry saw humanity at its worst and knew there was something better and upon returning home went about doing what was right for the kids and families of Middlesboro. And for that we are forever eternally grateful.
For all you out there who benefited from these leaders please pass along the story of Roy and Harry and Pastor Durham (there were others.) It’s up to our youth to continue their work. What way can you make a difference?