September 1, 2017 11:49:21 AM
There are many things Frank Dowsing was and one thing he is not.
Among the things that Dowsing was:
■ One of the first two black players on the Mississippi State football team (1969).
■ a three-time selection for the Academic All-SEC team (1970-1972)
■ A two-time first team All-SEC defensive back (1971-1972)
■ All-American defensive back ('72)
■ Academic All-American ('72)
■ First black student to be chosen as Mr. MSU ('72)
■ An inductee into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame (2010)
■ A gay man who died of AIDS in 1994
The one thing Dowsing is not? He is not in the Mississippi State University Sports Hall of Fame. Incredibly, he has never even been nominated.
That omission is the basis of an excellent profile by sportswriter Andrew Maraniss posted this week on ESPN's sports/pop culture website "The Undefeated."
In the story, Dowsing is hailed by former high school and MSU teammates as "The Jackie Robinson of Mississippi."
It's a lofty title, to be sure. But those familiar with Dowsing's life see legitimate parallels. He was one of the first five black students to integrate Tupelo High school and, as noted, one of the first two black players on the MSU football team.
In high school, he was the first black athlete to play in the state basketball tournament, leading Tupelo to a state and grand slam titles in 1968. He was a standout in track, setting the state record in the 100-yard dash (9.5 seconds). He was chosen first-team All Big Eight Conference in basketball, track and football, where he was the first black player to earn that distinction.
He was just as accomplished in the classroom, graduating sixth in a class of 217 at Tupelo High and earning academic honors at MSU before being accepted to medical school upon graduation after turning down an opportunity to play in the NFL.
Like Robinson, Dowsing endured the abuse that came with being a key figure in integration. His kindness and humility turned would-be detractors into admirers.
Dowsing's credentials easily qualifying him as a worthy member of the MSU Sports Hall of Fame.
That he is not, Maraniss suggests, may be tied to his sexual orientation.
While Dowsing embraced his pioneer status in integration, he remained a closeted gay at a time when being gay in Mississippi was something you had better keep to yourself. Dowsing left medical school after three years, probably because of his sexuality. He moved to California after dropping out, contracted AIDS and died in July 1994.
If Dowsing's sexuality is not the reason he has not been honored by MSU, you have to wonder what possible reason there could be. By every standard, he's worthy of that honor.
Today, the university proudly proclaims its status as a diverse university where students of all races, nationalities and sexualities are welcomed.
That Dowsing is not enshrined in the MSU Sports Hall of Fame defies that claim.
In November, five new inductees will join that hall of fame.
Yet again, Dowsing will not be among that group.
He remains Mississippi State's forgotten man.
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]
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