Judge Charles Barnard attended the funeral Saturday of one of the alltime Wichita Falls football greats Ronnie Littleton and told Examiner today, Tuesday, January 5, 2016 that the Coyote quarterback made the integration transition a lot smoother than it might have been in 1968. Barnard played in the same backfield as Littleton as he lined up at left halfback. Gary Lancaster lined up at right halfback in the wishbone formation which Coach Donnell Crosslin went to that year.
Barnard, who was appointed to the bench of the 89th District Court by Governor Greg Abbott in 2015, said several other players who came to Wichita Falls High School from Booker T. Washington made the transition smoother including Lawrence Williams, James Reed, Anthony Grant, Reggie Alexander and many others too numerous to mention.
The judge further said, “All the black players banded with the white players to come together as a team at a unified high school.” Barnard and Littleton were co-captains of the exceptional 1971 squad which battled all the way to the state finals where they lost a controversial nail-biter to San Antonio Lee. Many observers say videotapes of the game showed that Lancaster was successful in making a first down which would’ve allowed the Pack to run out the clock out and win the game. Unfortunately, the referees ruled Lancaster was short on that third down attempt. A fourth down attempt by Littleton was also ruled short by the referees. Videotapes show that Littleton was also successful.
As part of the integration plan, both Eastside Junior High School and Booker T. Washington were closed down forcing all those students to be transferred to other schools. Barnard said after playing a few games together the black and white players were definitely united. He further said, “Of course it didn’t hurt that we won a lot of games.”
The 1971 version of the Red and Black reeled off 13 consecutive victories en route to the controversial state championship game in which the officiating played such a huge role in the final outcome. Barnard recalled that Littleton played both ways for the Coyotes, meaning he played defensive back as well as quarterback.
“Ronnie had a really strong arm. Not only was he an extremely elusive runner, but he was also a great passer. I remember one play our freshman year on the Pups in which Littleton was playing quarterback for Booker T and Gary Lancaster and I were playing defensive backs. We were forty yards behind the line of scrimmage. Gary and I agreed there was no way Ronnie could throw the ball that far so we stayed there. Sure enough Ronnie threw the ball way over our heads to Herbie Brisbane who caught it and scored a touchdown,” Barnard recalled today.
The judge said he remembered Littleton received more than thirty scholarship offers from Oklahoma, Nebraska and other powerhouses around the nation.
Littleton’s fame is so great that Texas Monthly writer Skip Hollandsworth has written two articles about the acclaimed Coyote athlete. Hollandsworth had the unique perspective of being in the seventh grade in the autumn of 1969 in Wichita Falls when Littleton was on the varsity Coyote team. Hollandsworth recalled that he’d ride his bicycle after school over to the Pack’s practice field. It was the first year of integration in Wichita Falls.
Hollandsworth recalled that Littleton and the other four black players on the team helped lead WFHS to a state championship in 1969. During that remarkable season, Littleton became a hero to Hollandsworth and many of his friends based on his flamboyant play.
Former Wichita Falls sports editor Ted Buss wrote in a front page article for the Times Record News on December 30, 2015, “In 1971, he (Ronnie Littleton), was considered the finest all-purpose athlete in Texas High School Football by the Texas Sportswriters Association.” Buss noted that former Booker T. Washington Coach Ervin Garnett lauded Littleton as being equally talented as a running back, defensive back and receiver. Buss covered all of Littleton’s games during his extraordinary career at WFHS.
The powerhouse 1969 state championship team included three All-Americans in the same backfield including Joey Aboussie, Lawrence Williams and Littleton. In the 1971 state championship game, Littleton rushed for an amazing 181 yards. The feat was even more astounding considering the fact he played on offense and defense which meant he had to be tired.
Littleton’s funeral services were held last Saturday at New Jerusalem Church in Wichita Falls pastored by the Reverend Angus Thompson. He was 61 years of age when he passed away in December of 2015. He remains one of the most legendary athletes in Texas football history.
Judge Barnard further said, “The more we played with Ronnie Littleton and the other players who came over from Booker T. Washington and Eastside, the more we appreciated their talent and desire to be teammates. Winning almost every game helps.”
The judge also said the Coyotes won state in 1969 with a 13-1-1 record. They lost only to Wichita Falls Hirschi and in the playoffs were tied by perennial power Abilene Cooper. The Pack advanced because they owned the tiebreaker advantage with more penetrations. In 1970, the judge said they may have had their most talented team and they went 10-0 during the regular season. They were uspet by Odessa Permian in bi-district for their lone loss. In 1971 the Red and Black went 14-1 with only the loss to the Tommy Kramer San Antonio team in the finals keeping them from the state championship.
The judge said he saw a lot of players at Littleton’s funeral who played with him and against him. Several Rider players in attendance included Herbie Brisbane and Freeman Johns. Judge Barnard further said Littleton never had a “harsh word and was the ultimate team player. He was happy-go-lucky and an outstanding leader. He would rather the team win than he score a bunch of touchdowns.”
Judge Barnard further said Littleton was such a great athlete that after the 1971 state championship football game, he scored 28 points the next day in Midland for the basketball team. Littleton was not only a great player, but also a great, unselfish person. He will never be forgotten.