The Pioneer Press - Lincoln High School

The Local Pioneer 

When I was growing up in Evansville, Indiana my grandpa, Bill Taylor, loved to talk about his playing days at Central High School.  There were probably several half truths within those stories but one that always stood out to me was the one about Lincoln, Evansville's all black high school, winning a national championship.  He would follow that up with superlatives about how good those Lincoln teams were.  

Originally created in 1928 as a high school, Lincoln was the only school for black students in the Evansville area.  Before desegregation black kids from the surrounding areas such as Mt. Vernon, Rockport and Newburgh were bused into the city to attend school at Lincoln.  By 1940, head coach Thomas Cheeks led the Lions to a 22-1 record, often traveling by bus to play teams in other states because Lincoln wasn't allowed to play white teams until 1943.

The 1940 team won the Southern Interscholastic Basketball Tournament title in Tuskegee, Alabama and continued success on the hardwood with three sectional titles in the late '50s and early '60s.  The school would officially close its doors as a high school in June of 1962 but their legacy would live on.

Fast forward 60 years. 

When we came up with the plan for our Pioneer Collection for February we wanted to celebrate the schools and teams that faced challenges on their way to the top and paved the way for others to follow the example they set.  Originally, we were going to do it chronologically starting with the University of San Francisco in '55 and '56, Texas Western in '66, Georgetown in '84, UNLV in '90 and Michigan's Fab Five in '93.  The goal was to tell each of these stories in a unique way and celebrate their achievements through product launches. 

As the plan came together and the launches started to roll out, our CEO Aaron Loomer, wanted to do something that would give back.  He wanted to tie the idea of the Pioneer Collection to a cause.  At some point during that conversation I mentioned Lincoln and the story of their national championship in 1940.  It was during that call that the decision was made to chose Lincoln as the first recipient of our Local Pioneer donation of $10,000.

Aaron's only question was, "How quickly can we get something setup?"  My typical response to that question if it has anything to do with my hometown of Evansville is, "Let me make a call and I'll let you know in a couple of hours."

My one and only call was to Andy Owen, Director of Athletics for the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation.  Andy is a good friend of mine and I knew he was the one that could connect the dots for us.  A week later I was sitting in Mrs. Tijuanna Tolliver's office listening to her lay out the format of the Black History Celebration Assembly for the following week.  

Before 19nine, I was a middle school teacher for 17 years.  Listening to Mrs. Tolliver talk in her office that day and getting to tour the school shortly afterwards, I knew we had made the right school choice.  I believe in what she is building there and loved seeing her staff in action with the students.  The assembly confirmed it even more.  The amount of talent, enthusiasm and love on display during that assembly was so refreshing to see.

Of all the things 19nine has been involved with and accomplished over the last several years the Local Pioneer program is what I'm most proud of.  And I'm so happy we were able to give to such a deserving school, with an amazing history and great vision for the future.

-Josh Barnett