THOMSON, Ga. (WJBF) – Thomson High School is all about it’s history and a big part of it’s history is football.
“I think it’s enormously important, because I’m a history person, I’m a history teacher, and so that tradition is strong. There’s other teams that have the same kind of tradition that we have, but we think ours is special,” said former coach and author, John Barnett.
Recently, the phrase “One Thomson” was created to help bring people of all races and genders together in the community. To better understand what that means, we went back to 1967 when Thomson formed its first integrated football team.
“When we first heard that Mac Bowman was coming over, it was different, certainly, but we were so focused as a community on what we thought was going to be a really good team, I don’t remember it being talked about. Now, I was only 10. It wasn’t something people talked about all the time and ‘what are we going to do when we have this first black player’, this, that, and the other; it was all about what we had coming back because we had lost one game in the year before to the team that one the state championship easily, so we’re kind of chomping at the bit to win the first ever state championship at Thomson High School and that was more the focus,” said Barnett.
“It was one of the best periods of my life. Challenging time because there was so much change going on going to Thomson High. From a community standpoint, we didn’t have a lot of the true upheaval that occurred in a lot of places, but again, it was new and different for me as well as for the students of Thomson High who had not been in a class with me or with any other African American so there was adjustments on both sides. Thomson has a plethora of really good folks and that was present on all sides. So, there was not an entry into Thomson High where there were things thrown or hurled or whatever,” said Dr. Mac Bowman.
Andy Knox was also playing on the team when Bowman arrived.
“I look back on that and to me it was another season. I don’t remember any disruption in particular. Of course, Mac was the forerunner of that integration effort. He came in and he was one of the guys,” said Knox.
Mac Bowman and Andy Knox become good friends and they remain friends to this day.
“He was always embracing and very supportive of me and to this day, he’s one of the guys that I look at and I played with that’s one of my best friends,” said Bowman. Mac and Andy’s friendship represents what “One Thomson is all about” and their relationship goes beyond race.
“You look at those things, the essence, the core of an individual. It goes far beyond the superficialities of color or hair, or if you don’t have hair. It’s life as it really ought to be, should be all the time, but I think in successful relationships, that’s what happens,” said Bowman.
Now, the people of Thomson are hoping everyone comes together again.
“Historically, there is nothing that goes on in Thomson that brings the entire community together the way high school football does,” said Knox.
The two friends hope their story inspires others.
“I tell folks all the time that I live in Augusta, but make no mistake, I am from Thomson. It’s a source of pride for me because of what the city has meant for me and for my family. From the time we moved there in the early 60’s there was just an embracing community. There’s some wonderful people in Thomson, Georgia, and as I said, it’s not a perfect town but it’s a very, very good place to be,” said Bowman.
For a bonus feature, Coach Barnett let us know the meaning behind the phrase “Ghost’s of the Brickyard,” which is the title of his book that covers the history of Thomson Football.