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Saturday, August 28, 2010

Legends Never Die

I write this post first of all to mourn the passing and commemorate the life of Dr. William P. Foster, founder and director emeritus of Florida A&M University's Marching 100. I never met the man, never marched in the 100, never even attended FAMU (though I briefly considered it), but I do know the world has lost a great man and one of the innovators of the activity we know and love as marching band, particularly as it relates to HBCUs. Given my relative lack of connection to FAMU or the 100, I was actually a bit surprised at how affected by the news I was. I honestly think a part of it has to do with the fact that there aren't many legends left, and sadly, our time with them is short.

The most recent installment of the college football podcast focused on another legend: Bobby Bowden, former football coach at Florida State. Bowden is known to have said that there's only one more major event following retirement, and while he doesn't harp on it, it's clear that his own mortality is something about which he has thought. It is worth noting that Dr. Foster, a decade Bowden's senior, retired back in 1998, 12 years before his passing.

I got to wondering whether Dr. Foster and Coach Bowden knew one another. FAMU and Florida State, both in Tallahassee, are separated by less than two miles, and yet are worlds apart. Still the two men are virtual contemporaries in closely related areas, and both obtained their legendary status on football fields in Tallahassee. However, when their respective careers began as the head men in Tally--Foster in 1946 and Bowden in 1976 (though he had been there over a decade earlier as a wide receivers coach) it is hard to imagine that a black band director from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical College for Negroes (as it was known when Foster began) and a white football coach from FSU would have connected in the deep South of the Florida panhandle. On the other hand, it's almost difficult to imagine that these two legends would not have somehow found one another. Oh, the stories they could have shared...
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