Fifty-six years after he was banned from going on a basketball trip with his school because of his skin color, Eugene Carter is getting an apology.
Carter’s former team captain, Tom Owens, sent him a letter in early July expressing his guilt over the 1961 incident. Carter and three other black players were left behind as the team traveled from Newport Kentucky High School to Atlanta because the opposing coach felt that they wouldn’t be welcome.
“Our apology does not excuse what happened and we ask forgiveness for our behavior due to the extreme ignorance and poor judgment,” Owens’ letter read, per WRTV. “It is important, however, that you know that we realize what a horrible experience this must have been for you guys and your families and we regret very much that it happened.”
Owens also stated that the decision was wrong and he wished he had had “the courage and intestinal fortitude” to stand up for his black teammates and refuse to go.
Carter, who now lives in Kokomo, Indiana, told Fox 59 that the racism he faced growing up was a part of everyday life, so he almost forgot about the incident that weighed heavy on Owens’ heart all of these years.
“I was kind of shocked when I read it because I hadn’t seen or heard from Tom since 1961 and [he] wrote me a letter apologizing to me for something I almost forgot about,” he said.
Owens told Fox 59 that he talked about his black peers being excluded from the basketball trip during a class reunion last year. He and his other teammates agreed to reach out to offer their apology.
“This is something I have thought about all my life. And, well, actually it took a couple years after I got out of high school and started maturing a little bit and became an adult,” Owens said. “I have been thinking about the right thing to say and all and finally about a month ago I finally got the letter written and sent it off to him and was so pleasantly surprised when he immediately called me back to say how much he appreciated it.”
Carter told Fox 59 that he plans to keep in touch with Owens and eventually visit him and his family in North Carolina.
“It took a lot of heart for him to do that after all these years, but he said it has been bothering him since it happened,” Carter told WRTV. “Get along. We are all one. There is no difference between everybody. There is no sense of hatred or bigotry. We need to get by that. Treat everybody the way you want to be treated.”