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A presentation prepared by Lisle G Brown, Curator of Special Collections Nat DeBruin, University Archivist Marshall University, Huntington, West Virginia.

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Presentation on theme: "A presentation prepared by Lisle G Brown, Curator of Special Collections Nat DeBruin, University Archivist Marshall University, Huntington, West Virginia."— Presentation transcript:

1 A presentation prepared by Lisle G Brown, Curator of Special Collections Nat DeBruin, University Archivist Marshall University, Huntington, West Virginia for The Annual Meeting of the Society of American Archivists August 13-16, 2009 Austin, Texas


3 MARSHALL FOOTBALL, 1898 to 1970 Marshall University was founded in 1837. The University’s first football game was played in 1898. The team was so disheartened by its loss that it didn’t play again until 1901. Since that date the school has had a continuous football program, except during World War II. In 1919 it adopted the name “The Thundering Herd.” Coach “Cam” Henderson, the “Legend” of Marshall football led the team to six straight winning seasons before the program ceased during World War II. In 1947 Marshall played in its first bowl game, the Tangerine Bowl, but lost. During the 1950s and 1960s Marshall had a non-winning streak that threatened to become one of the longest in NCAA history. In the 1960s, recruiting violations led to the school being expelled from the Mid-American Conference and placed under NCAA sanctions. Coach Rick Tolley was hired in 1969 to overcome these problems. Marshall’s 1912 football team

4 THE 1970 FOOTBALL TEAM The official team photo of the 1970 “Thundering Herd” 45 of these players and coaches died in the plane crash

5 THE 1970 FOOTBALL SEASON Marshall was not affiliated with an athletic conference in 1970. The team had a 10-game season, facing such teams as Miami University, Western Michigan University, Bowling Green State University, Kent State University, and Xavier University. It played 8 games before facing East Carolina University, with a 3-won and 5-lost record. It had to win the next two game if it was not going to have a losing season. After the plane accident, the season’s final game against Ohio University was cancelled.

6 THE EAST CAROLINA GAME In the team’s only flight that season, Marshall flew down to Greenville on Friday, November 13, for the game on the 14th. Marshall had beaten East Carolina the year before in a 38 to 7 drubbing and most fans felt Marshall would beat East Carolina handily again. Instead, it turned about to be a close game with East Carolina leading 17 to 14 in the closing moments of the final quarter. The game ended with a controversial play, in which Marshall’s quarterback was charged with intentionally grounding the ball. A disappointed Coach Tolley said, “East Carolina wanted it more than we did.” The Thundering Herd took the forty-minute bus ride to the Kingston Airport and boarded their chartered DC-9 at 6:38 p.m. for the short flight back to Huntington’s Tri-State Airport.

7 THE FATAL PLANE CRASH After an uneventful flight, the plane approached the Tri-State Airport at 7:20 p.m. in a foggy, drizzling rain. It clipped some trees and slammed into a hillside about a mile short of the runway and burst into flames. All 75 persons (37 players, 8 coaches, 25 supporters, and 5 crew members) on board were killed. It remains the worst disaster in the history of collegiate athletics in the United States. The NTSB found: “that the probable cause was the descent below Minimum Descent Altitude during a non precision approach under adverse weather conditions, without visual contact with the runway environment. The Board has been unable to determine the reason for his descent, although the two most likely explanations are: a) improper use of cockpit instrument data; or b) an altimetry system error.” (Aircraft Accident Report, NTSB-AAR-72-11, p. 36).

8 SIDELIGHTS OF THE CRASH Two coaches Herbert “Deke” Brackett and William “Red” Dawson drove to the game, because they were on a recruiting trip. Brackett asked Coach Gail Parker, who had flown with the team, if he would trade places with a “tired old man.” Parker agreed; Brackett was among those who died and Parker survived along with Dawson, who heard about the crash as they drove through Greensboro, North Carolina, that night. Since there was no room for all the cheerleaders on the plane, none of them accompanied the team, because at the beginning of the season they decided that unless all of them could go on away games, none of them would go. Sadly, cheerleaders Cindy and Debbie Chambers’ parents decided to fly on the fatal plane and were killed. The equipment manager, John Hagen, chose to drive, because he was nervous about flying on Friday the thirteenth. Player Ed Carter, who was supposed to leave home in time to join the team, survived when he heeded a warning from his mother who told him not to go because she had dreamed the plane would crash. Player Bob Harris’ parents drove to the game and asked their son to drive back with them. He declined, wanting to stay with his teammates, and was killed. The father of player Art Harris, Jr., was on the plane; father and son perished together.

9 A COMMUNITY IN SHOCK The city of Huntington and Marshall University were cast into an indescribable sense of shock, loss, and mourning. The University shut down, cancelling classes; most businesses closed, as numerous funerals were held throughout the city in the days following the disaster. The effects of the plane crash are still felt by the citizens of Huntington and the University community many years after the crash. “America Weeps,” Charlotte (N.C.) Observer, Nov. 15, 1970. (Original drawing in MU University Archives.)

10 MEMORIALIZING THOSE WHO DIED The Memorial Student Center Fountain was dedicated to the memory of the plane crash victims on November 12, 1972, by President John G. Barker. Each year on the anniversary of that fateful day – November 14 – a memorial service is held, which includes the traditional laying of the wreath. Then the water is turned off until the next spring. More than 13 feet high and weighing 6,500 pounds, the fountain was created by sculptor Harry Bertoia. It was his hope that the fountain would “commemorate the living - rather than death - on the waters of life, rising, receding, surging so as to express upward growth, immortality and eternality.” The bronze plaque bears this simple, eloquent inscription: “They shall live on in the hearts of their families and friends forever, and this memorial records their loss to the university and to the community.”

11 MEMORIALIZING THOSE WHO DIED All of the victims were identified, except six players. Their remains were buried at the Spring Hill Cemetery and a special monument was erected, giving the names of all those who died. An inscription on the monument reads: “In lasting remembrance of the members of the Marshall University football team, the coaches, staff, and devoted fans who died in the plane crash, November 14, 1970.” Six small, blank stone markers were placed in the ground around the monument for each of the six unidentified players with a seventh marker listing their names.


13 Marshall University’s archives is housed in the Special Collections Department, in the James E. Morrow Library. The department was established two years after the plane crash - in 1972. Special Collections has four sections: West Virginia Collection; Manuscripts; University Archives; and Rare Books. It also houses two specialized Libraries: The Rosanna Blake Library of Confederacy Studies; and The Charles Hoffman Library of the History of Medicine. After the department was founded, efforts were made to collect materials on campus about the plane crash. Over time, materials have been transferred or donated to the University Archives and its manuscript holdings – newspapers, clippings, university presidential papers, published materials, photographs, film, etc. The following slides show examples of some of these materials….

14 Boxes of Presidential Files from the 1970-71 in the Marshall University Archives contain information on the crash and its aftermath

15 The official 1970 football press book for “The Thundering Herd” All of the players, but Felix Jordan, on the above pages perished in the crash

16 Some of the copies of the official football game programs for the 1970 season of “The Thundering Herd”

17 Some of the numerous copies of local newspapers in the archives about the plane crash, giving details and photographs of the deceased.

18 Boxes of a year’s worth of newspaper clipping service files, about the plane crash, depicting the national response to the plane crash

19 Cover of the official scrapbook kept by the University President’s office about plane crash and subsequence events

20 Four boxes of files of the memorial fund established for the survivors of those who died in the crash.

21 WSAZ-TV news film of the plane crash and its aftermath, part of the WSAZ-TV Newsfilm Archives, 1952-2000. The 1970-1971 film has been digitized and archived in digital format.

22 A portion of Marshall sports film of the 1970 “The Thundering Herd.”

23 The entire 1970 season has also been digitized from game film shot by the family of one of the players, quarterback Ted Shoebridge. The images above are from the case containing 8 DVDs for each game.


25 “ASHES TO GLORY” — THE REAL STORY Two documentary filmmakers, Deborah Novak and Ron Witek, chose the plane crash as the subject for a film in 1999. Novak, a Huntington native, carried the idea for the film for fifteen years before embarking on the project in 1999. Theirs was the first feature length film (about 2 hours long) about the plane crash and the struggle to continue the football program and its ultimate success. They received the wholehearted support of Marshall University and the citizens of Huntington, who helped them realize telling the story for a wide audience.

26 “ASHES TO GLORY” — THE REAL STORY Witek and Novak used many of the materials in Special Collections as a part of the story, especially the moving images from the 1970 film in the WSAZ-TV Newsfilm Archives, as well as yearbooks, newspaper clippings and photographs. Because of the assistance of the staff of Special Collections, Novak and Witek gave them personal recognition in the credits of the documentary, as well as crediting the University Archives and Special Collections. Screen capture of the credits from Ashes to Glory

27 “ASHES TO GLORY” — THE REAL STORY The documentary premiered in November 2000 in Huntington, West Virginia, and was later broadcast over the Public Broadcasting System network. It won an Emmy for “Best Sports Documentary” in 2001, as well as an Angel and Platinum awards for excellence. A DVD version of the documentary with extras appeared in 2003.


29 ATTEMPTS TO FILM THE STORY In the years following the tragedy a number of persons approached Marshall University about filming the story. Marshall officials demurred, because either the time was wrong, or the officials were not comfortable about the proposed story line, especially the depiction of the city and University. They were waiting for a film maker who would treat respectfully those who died, as well as sympathetically showing the loss to the citizens of Huntington and the University community. Jamie Linden became fascinated with the story and wrote a script with Cory Helms. He found sympathetic supporters in Mary Viola and Basil Iwanyk at Warner Bros., who convinced the studio to film their script. In 2005 contact was made with Keith Spears, VP for Communication and Marketing at Marshall University. Based on a personal visit that fall by Viola and Iwanyk the University agreed to support the project.

30 THE DECISION TO FILM “WE ARE MARSHALL” Title page of the script of “WE ARE MARSHALL” by Jamie Linden and Cory Helms that was reviewed by persons at Marshall University and others that lead to the approval of the script. However, the actual movie differed in a number of respects from this preliminary draft, which was written in September 2005.

31 CONTACTING SPECIAL COLLECTIONS Jamie Linden had visited Marshall in 2004 before he wrote his script - this was his first contact with the department, which he used for research. After the decision to support the project, members of the production company began contacting Special Collections staff - Lisle Brown, Curator; Cora Teel, University Archivist (since retired); and Kathleen Bledsoe, WV Collection Librarian - beginning in the winter of 2005-2006. These contacts were made primarily by email and phone, in which the staff were asked to provide visual background materials depicting the time period of 1970-71, as well as materials that could be used or developed into movie props. These included the following types of materials….

32 USE OF SPECIAL COLLECTIONS MATERIALS Copies of the Chief Justice, the University’s yearbook, which were used for recreating the look and feel Marshall University’s campus and students in early1970s for the movie.

33 USE OF SPECIAL COLLECTIONS MATERIALS A copy of one of many original newspapers provided to studio Prop created from the original with photos of actors inserted on the left with actual players’ photos on inserted on the right. Movie prop created from an actual item

34 USE OF SPECIAL COLLECTIONS MATERIALS A copy of one of the photos of the marching band provided to the studio Band costume created from the original photo. Thirty costumes were made, enough to outfit an entire band. Movie costume created from a photo

35 USE OF SPECIAL COLLECTIONS MATERIALS A copy of one of the photos of the MU cheerleaders provided to the studio Cheerleader costume created from the original photo. Enough costumes were made to outfit the entire cheerleading squad. Movie costume created from a photo

36 HISTORIC DOCUMENTS A copy of the telegraph received from President Richard Nixon, expressing condolences. Not used in the movie. A copy of the letter giving NCAA approval to use freshmen on the varsity football squad. Used as a prop in the movie.

37 SPECIAL COLLECTIONS AS A MOVIE SET Not only did Special Collections provide documents for the movie; one of its rooms was made into the Board Room set for filming in March 2006. Behind the scenes construction of a fake wall for the Board Room set.

38 SOME OF THE LIBERTIES TAKEN IN THE FILM Gail Parker switched places with Hebert Brackett, not Red Dawson in the movie; Red Dawson was never on the plane, but he did learn about the crash while driving back to Huntington, although he was not alone. Dawson’s picture never appeared in the list of those killed in the newspapers. None of the cheerleaders were at the East Carolina game; they all remained in Huntington. The movie used several composite characters to tell the story, including businessman Paul Griffin; the quarterback Chris Griffin and his fiancée, Annie Cantrell, as well as few minor characters. The cheer, “We are…Marshall,” was not used in the 1970s, but was first used over twenty years later in the late 1990s. There was no such board which decided the fate of Marshall’s football program fate. In fact, there was really little discussion about terminating the program at the time, mostly from some of the faculty. There was probably no dramatic trip by Pres. Dedmon to the NCAA headquarters to secure permission to use Freshman players; all the correspondence was by phone or mail. Acting President Donald Dedmon was not fired. When John Barker took over as president in March 1971, he returned to his position as Executive Vice President, but he did take an extended administrative leave. He left Marshall in 1972 and became the president of Radford University, where he retired in 1994 and died four years later.

39 CONCESSIONS IN LIEU OF FEES FOR PROMOTION In lieu of user fees for the use of WSAZ-TV news film, which amounted to thousands of dollars, the production company, Wonderland Sound & Vision, and Warner Bros. agreed to the almost unheard concession of allowing the University to have free time on their DVDs: 60 seconds on the We Are Marshall DVD, and over 5 minutes on the accompanying Return of the Thundering Herd DVD, which was produced as a special Wal-Mart offer before the film’s DVD was released in December 2007. The Marshall administration felt that the national exposure of the University on the two DVDs far out weighed the monetary value for the film’s use.

40 COSTUMES AND PROPS OF THE MOVIE Through arrangements with Warner Bros., the Curator flew to Los Angeles to facilitate the transfer of hundreds of props and costumes to the University as a donation by the studio. Essentially nearly everything used in the movie that could not be reused was sent in a number of shipments from California to West Virginia. After the University Archives selected the most significant portion of the donation for preservation, the rest has been used for a variety of purposes to assist the University Foundation in its development efforts. A small portion of the costumes donated to Marshall by Warner Bros.

41 USE OF COSTUMES AND PROPS OF THE MOVIE A display case with a variety of props from the movie. On top is a reproduction of the head of Marco, the school’s mascot (a buffalo), a megaphone, and some pompoms used by the cheerleaders. In the display case are additional props: programs, concept boards, beer cans, caps, seat cushions, menu— all were used in making the movie. On the bottom shelf are copies of DVDs that focus on the crash and its aftermath, including the movie, and the documentary, “Ashes to Glory,” which also drew on materials in Special Collections. This represents just a small portion of the material donated by Warner Bros. to the University.

42 This memorial site focuses on those who died in the plane crash and contains items not found on any other Internet site. It utilized materials from the University Archives and visual materials donated by families of the victims. Special Collections also devoted one of its Virtual Museum exhibits to the tragedy.

43 DISPLAY OF PROPS AT THE MOVIE GALA Portion of the display of movie costumes and props prepared by Special Collections staff for the gala, held in Huntington civic center, after the movie premier on December 12, 2006. Matthew Fox cut-out and dress costume on the left; player blackboard used in the movie in the center; and Matthew McConaughey cut-out and coaching costume on the right.

44 DISPLAY OF PROPS AT THE MOVIE GALA Special Collection staff behind a table of movie props, concept boards and other items at the gala that followed the We Are Marshall premier. Kathleen Bledsoe on the left, Lisle Brown in the center and Nat DeBruin on the right.

45 Capt. Frank Abbot James Michael Adams Mark Raeburn Andrews Charles Arnold Rachel Lynette Arnold Mike Francis Blake Dennis Michael Blevins Willie Bluford, Jr. Donald Booth Herbert B. (Deke) Brackett Larry Brown Tomas Wayne Brown Albert C. Carelli Jr. Dr. Joseph Chambers Margaret Chambers Roger Keith Childers Stuart Spence Cottrell Richard Lee Dardinger David Grant DeBord Danny Deese Gary Wilson George Kevin Francis Gilmore David Dearing Griffith, Jr. Dr. Ray Hagley Shirley Ann Hagley Arthur W. Harris Arthur L. Harris Robert Anthony Harris Emmett O. Heath Elaine Lois Heath Bob Wayne Hill Joe Lee Hood James Thomas Howard, Jr. James Jarrell Cynthia Scott Leslie Jarrell Kenneth Jones Charles E. Kaput Marcelo H. Lajterman Richard Adam Lech Frank Loria Eugene J. Morehouse James M. Moss II Barry Winston Nash Jeffrey P. Nathan Patrick Jay Norrell Dr. Brian R. O'Connor James Robert Patterson Charlene Poat Michael Prestera Dr. Glenn Preston Phyllis Jean Charles Preston Dr. Herbert D. Proctor Courtney Phillips Proctor Murrill Ralsten Helen Ralsten Scottie Lee Reese John Anton Repasy, Jr. Larry Sanders Charles Alan Saylor James Joseph Schroer Arthur Kirk Shannon Lionel Ted Shoebridge Allen Gene Skeens Jerry Smith Jerry Dodson Stainback Donald Tackett, Jr. Rickey D. Tolley Robert James Vanhorn Roger Arnie Vanover Patricia Vaught Parker Ward Norman Weichmann Freddie Clay Wilson John Patton Young Thomas Jonathan Zborill IN MEMORIUM “THE THUNDERING HERD”

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