The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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January 20, 2014

Life-changing events for Casey profiled in book

Stotesbury native tells of struggles in ‘Breaking In: The Author of a New Era’

Wayne Casey wasn’t trying to make a statement, and he wasn’t attempting to put his name in the history books.

At the close of the summer of 1956, the Stotesbury native, preparing to begin his freshman year of high school, wanted nothing more than to play football — and to do so at the school closest to his home, Mark Twain High School.

So when Casey — who had just returned to town after spending the summer with his brother in Fort Wayne, Ind. — and his friend, Ronald, just marched through the gates of the school just before the start of a new school year and asked a student manager for a uniform to try out for the team, the response he received came as quite a shock.

“You wouldn’t have believed the expression on his face when he turned around and saw who he was talking to,” said Casey.

The manager was talking to two 14-year-old black students, and when the coach, Augustine Hovanski, demanded the manager give them the equipment they had requested, Casey began a long, difficult journey of breaking the color barrier in Raleigh County.

That life-changing event is profiled in Casey’s new book, “Breaking In: The Author of a New Era,” which is available at Amazon.com and other major book sellers.

“I’ve been thinking about it ever since I was in high school, because it was a unique and strange experience,” said Casey of his decision to publish his story. “People had been after me for years, ‘When are you going to write a book?’ It’s history, and I thought it was a story that needs to be told.

“I enjoyed it, and it was theraputic for me. I’m very emotional about it. I often break out in tears even now, and that’s been a long, long time ago.”

Casey’s high school career was anything but easy. Had he simply attended Byrd Prillerman High School like his brothers and sisters, he would have been a star on campus as a gifted athlete. But Casey simply couldn’t understand why he should pass Mark Twain, which was 100 yards from his house, to ride the 7 or 8 miles to Byrd Prillerman, when the Supreme Court had ruled segregation illegal. So he stepped onto a path he never imagined would be so rough.

Casey remembers the glares and gasps from his classmates when he was announced as a starter at a pep rally before the first game. He can’t forget pulling up to Stoco High School for his first game, looking out the window of the bus at a crowd of people who called him everything but a friend.

The book covers the games, the day-to-day life at school, a relationship with a white female named Billie that caused even more problems and the abuse Casey, now 72 years old, took from teammates as well as opponents.

Casey’s athletic ability wasn’t contained to the football field, either. He also played for the Mark Twain Authors, and had similar experiences on the hardwood. He remembers walking out onto an empty gym floor for warmups for a road game, only to see a black cat run across the floor. Fans in the stands responded by telling Casey to run and catch his brother.

Those experiences became almost the norm for Casey.

“When I played, there was nobody that looked like me in the stadium,” he said. “There weren’t any on my team, there weren’t any on the other team and there weren’t any in the stands.”

But Casey didn’t quit — mostly because his mother wouldn’t let him. There were tears, there was plenty of fear and a lot of confusion. But Casey made it through, and the situation, he believes, made him a better man and opened doors to make the path easier for other black athletes to come.

Casey now lives in the Atlanta area and he continues to work to increase opportunities for people of color.

— Find out more about the book and Casey’s life by visiting www.waynecasey.com.

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