Seaberry, Lucy 9/11/99 1/1
By Charles Eilton
This is an interview for the Mississippi Oral History Program. The interview is being recorded with Ms. Lucy Seaberry at her residence on September 11, 1999. The interviewer is Charles Eilton.
CE: Coach Seaberry thank you for taking some time now and talking with us. Can you tell me first of all when and where were you born?
LS: I was born in Cleveland, Ms, in Bolivar County on October 17, 1945.
CE: Can you tell me a little about your parents? Maybe what they did?
LS: We lived in Cleveland, MS on Lee St, 74 Lee St.. My mother was a housewife, and we chopped cotton. My daddy had left me to work in the state of Tennessee.
CE: You said your mother chopped cotton since she lived in Cleveland, but she would go out and work early?
LS: We would go out early in the morning about five in the morning and chop and pick cotton for our living.
CE: How many brothers and sister did you have?
LS: There are eight of us in all, six girls and two boys.
CE: Did you do that when your were growing up?
LS: Yes that was our only way of living, chopping and picking cotton. My mom would make us only go to school half a day, and she would have to leave school and catch Mr. Ned Fiornelli truck out on the highway 8. There she would chop and pick cotton for our living.
CE: What was that like?
LS: Oh, getting up early in the morning and eating syrup and biscuits and catching the truck going to the field. It had a lot of people out there so that was the way we lived. We had friends out there so we had some fun when we chopped and picked cotton. That is the only thing we knew when we came back home. We regularly attended church, school, and back home.
CE: You said your mom made sure you went to school?
LS: Oh yes that was her goal to see all of us finish college. She could neither read nor write. She made sure we went to school.
CE: Do you know what her level of education was? Did she get the chance to go to school?
LS: Third grade level
CE: When you were coming up would that be true for most other kids?
LS: Predominate, yes. No, mom would always send us to school. A lot of my friends did not go to school. They would chop and pick cotton the whole season. They would come in during the fall. My mom made that sure we went to school half a day, and we picked cotton half of the day.
CE: What else do you remember about growing up in Cleveland during that time? Or what was Cleveland like?
LS: Well, we had two black schools. One was across the track, and we were on this side. We were pretty much taught to stay on our side of the tracks.
CE: Is it pretty much black on one side, and white on the other?
LS: Yes, black on the eastside, and white on the north side.
CE: What would you do for fun when you were young?
LS: Playing basketball with the boys. We would go to the movies on Sunday. Mom would let us all go to the movie and back to church. Church was out at dinnertime.
CE: So very on you had an interest in sports?
LS: Oh yes playing my brothers.
CE: How did your brothers feel about that?
LS: They just put me on their team. I was a tomboy. They called me a tomboy.
CE: So they did not mind you playing?
LS: Oh, no I did not have any choice except riding a bicycle. We had bicycles.
CE: You said that growing up there was white on this side and black on the other side. Of course that was time of segregation?
CE: When did you first come aware that this was separate thing?
LS: When we chopped and picked cotton we had to go through the westside of town to get to the field. We would always pass Delta State and the white schools, and I would always say I was going to Delta State. They use to laugh at me when we would get off the truck because I would say I was going to Delta State. We had to go through that neighborhood to chop cotton.
CE: You said you didn’t care about the rules you were?
LS: My mom always said I was the odd child. So I would always did what you would think.
CE: Like what? What other kinds of things would you do?
LS: I was kind of in a freedom movement. I always got in riots in Delta State. I always got involved when I was a little girl. I would go to church conventions. I always was on the move experiencing and seeing things in life.
CE: When you were coming up, you were about nine when the Brown decision came down? Did you remember anything about that?
LS: Yes, I remember having to go to school and learn it in school.
CE: What did you think about that?
LS: At that age you really didn’t know about that. It was all terminology. The teachers knew about it, but we didn’t know.
CE: That was probably tough for them because they were not supposed to be teaching you that?
LS: Right though the black schools would try to bring us up to date because we did not have televisions in our homes.
CE: You didn’t have televisions?
LS: No we didn’t have televisions. We were not able to buy a television.
CE: Did you have electricity?
LS: Yes we had electricity, but we did not have a television or telephone.
CE: You went to Eastside High School?
LS: Yes sir
CE: You would have been there in the fifties right?
LS: Yeah, because I finished in 1964.
CE: So that is right in the middle when all the civil rights were going on?
CE: So you said you got involved in that? So what kinds of things did you get involved with?
LS: Well we went to different rallies with Lee Bank Heron, and I went to New Whittington Connecticut. I met a new white girlfriend, and I visited her. She came down here. You know a lot of whites come from the north to help us with the freedom struggle. I met a lot of friends, and I went to a lot of different states. I picked tobacco in Connecticut. My junior year in high school with my school closed. I was peculiar. Mom could not keep up with me. I met her family. I was in Connecticut this summer her daddy retired. We struggled for freedom. I took in a little of it back home.
CE: What was that like having people come in from the outside?
LS: They were inspiring. They gave me some encouragement. That this can be done. People would see you go downtown with a white on one side. They lived in the black neighborhood when they came.
CE: Did they have a freedom school around here?
LS: No, Mr. Amzie Moore had a little house that he let them use. They would meet at his house on Church St.
CE: Do you know Mr. Amzie Moore?
LS: Oh yes, we had many meals at his house.
CE: What was he like?
LS: He had so much wisdom and knowledge. He was very gifted like Martin Luther King. He was great. He did great work in Cleveland.
CE: Of course you were too young to vote? You however worked at the registration right?
LS: Right, I was too young to vote. I worked for the people who were registering to vote.
CE: You were trying to get older ones to go out and vote?
LS: Right, I was trying to teach them how to read. We had literacy class at Emlzy Moore’s house. I taught a lot of tenth and eleventh graders how to read and write.
CE: Did you pass the literacy test?
CE: Were you also trying to do things like challenge places where there was segregation like restaurants?
LS: No, I did not do anything like that. Only place I did that was at Delta State.
CE: When did you go to Delta State? Did you go right out of high school?
LS: No, I went to Cohoma when I finished high school in ’64. I went to Coahoma, and in the process I was trying to get my application filled. I needed a white doctor to fill out my application to go to Delta State. So I had Dr. Mylar, Dr. Till to fill it out.
CE: What do you mean you had to get a doctor to fill it out?
LS: You know you have to have a history or take a physical to enter school. It was mandatory. They would not give me one. So I had to go to an all black town, Mound Bayou where Dr. McCastle gave me one. That is how I got my application at Delta State. I was the first black there.
CE: How did all the white people feel about all the civil rights going on?
LS: We had a quite town. They were always hush-hush. They did not like it, but they would keep their kids on that side of town. They did not come out in the public with it. Just give the black people enough to be satisfied.
CE: Tell me about going to Delta State about being the first black person on campus?
LS: I lost a lot of friends at Delta State because I told the truth about a lot of things. I was on the radio about five years ago, and I was telling about an incident that happened between Margaret Williams and me. That created an amocity in a community on certain whites. They felt that I shouldn’t, you know they always tried to keep things under cover.
CE: Who was Margaret Williams?
LS: She was an outstanding white coach all at high rank. When I attended Delta State I was the first black. I use to walk the sidewalk, and everyone would get off and give me the whole sidewalk. I ate in the cafeteria at a table by myself until I met a girl named Walker. I don’t remember her first name. Her mom taught school at the white school. I let her play sports, and I use to walk to school about four or five in the morning. We did not have any transportation. When I started playing intramural games she would come and pick me up. I was the only black one, and I improved. I would go to the meetings with AAAA at Delta State, All Women Program. Coach Margaret Wade was over it. At the meetings we had little games like finding someone who had the same eye color, same color hair. We just had a lot of fun. In one of my history classes, Dr. Jacob, he is dead now. He was talking about red bird, purple bird, and so on. So I put my hand up, and I ask him what about the black bird. He said, “Class is dismissed Miss get out of here.” I had a lot of fun and humor. I was the type nothing would bother me. This is the type of person I am. This is how I succeeded so well in life. I don’t let anything bother me. I just take it off as a joke, and I laugh it off. I had it rough, but they were still good to me. Everything I wanted they would give to me.
CE: People accepted you as time went on?
LS: They had no choice. They wanted federal money at Delta State.
CE: I mean did they accept you on?
LS: Some did, some didn’t
CE: And you played basketball?
LS: Yes I played intramuals. First intramuels there was not a basketball those years. That is what Ms. Margaret and me had a fight about. She told me not to bring all them niggers to see me play. Well my mom and dad and all of us are blacks. I went to president on her. He said she did not mean what she said. I could stand tall. I had Christ in my life. I never was afraid of anything.
CE: Today, are there a lot of black students at Delta State?
LS: Yes, there is quite a few. I was reading the paper last night it said 66% female and 44% male. There is about 45% blacks. A lot of kids still have it rough. There are still teachers that are prejudice.
CE: Where did you study?
LS: We had a library. The old library is where before they remodeled it. Most of the time I did my work at home. I went to the public library sometimes because I would pass it when I was going to school.
CE: You were working on being a teacher yourself?
CE: When did you realize you wanted to be a teacher?
LS: I always wanted to help somebody. When I was playing high school basketball, other girls inspired me. I always shoot like them, and I always wanted to coach.
CE: Is there any particular person, teacher, or coach that inspired you coming up?
LS: Coach Allen, she came from Clarksdale. I liked her techniques, and I always wanted to be a coach.
CE: When you got out you went back to East Side?
LS: Yes, God bless I went back to my home school.
CE: This was in what year?
LS: ’68, I finished at Delta State in ’68. They hired me as there coach. I have been there ever since.
CE: One thing of course in ’68 that is when school integrated?
CE: How did that work in Cleveland?
LS: Hush-hush, they divided it. We were the only high school in the state of Mississippi that has two high schools. One for white and one for black.
CE: Still today?
LS: Still today. I don’t know how Trent Lott does it in Mississippi.
CE: How did that happen in the sixties?
LS: I don’t know. We have gone to court, and they still bus our kids from the white school to the black school.
CE: So East Side is predominately black?
LS: Predominate black, I don’t think we have not one white student.
CE: I guess some of the black teachers had to go over to the white school?
LS: They do.
CE: Did school integration help improve the school?
LS: No, it really hurt the blacks. White people have a different lifestyle than black people. Your type of kids will study, and your kids have been exposed to things because your parents carry you a lot of places. Our parents were not able to do the things that the other side of the track has done. It really helped our kids because it exposed them to reading. We never really did that when I was young. That is one of our crutches. We are really weak in math, reading, and sciences. You make the same check we make, but a lot of things like we put emphasis on clothing where you would put emphasis on traveling. It makes it different. It really hurt us because our children start getting lost in shuffle. The slower kids begin to drop out and begin to have more pregnancy.
CE: That has become worse?
LS: Yes now I have won the State Champion. However with the two schools in Cleveland it is hard. They might have a guard I need, and I might have a center they need. If we had one school how great would you be?
LS: Now looking at that, the parents are looking being with our children. They only want white with white. This is the real world out here. On jobs lawsuits coming around you just can’t separate blacks and whites anymore. In your job you might need someone that is that is another type of race. We are all people. God made all of us. He made some white, some black, some purple, or whatever other color.
CE: Since there is two schools do East Side, since it is an all black school, get its fair share of the resources?
LS: You should not have even ask that.
LS: You should know good and well we don’t get what we are entitled to.
CE: That is still like the old separate but equal?
LS: Yeah, but that is not what’s happening. You don’t get what you deserve. It is a hush-hush thing. You would be outcast if you tell the truth. They don’t want to hear the truth.
CE: Now I was amazed when I looked at your files and your coaching records and saw your win percentage. You had 722 wins. That is an incredible number. What is your secret?
LS: Discipline, you can not even function on your own. Some things a coach can tell you and some things you have to pick up on your own. All over the state of Mississippi can tell you that every one of my girls are disciplined. If you can not listen and follow instructions you can not play for me. You got to do it the right way. I am not going tell you everything that is wrong. I do a lot of reading. I went to the Final Four this year. I looked out as they came out on the floor this year doing the same thing my girls were doing. Wow I am on top of it.
CE: With that kind of success do you ever thought about moving up to a higher level?
LS: Yeah, when my daughter gets out of school, and my husband has cancer. I am sticking around to see what the Lord has for me. Right now I just help people that comes through.
CE: So you could have gone elsewhere being that successful?
LS: Oh yes, I had a job offer this summer, but I was not ready for it. You can not jump every time you here something. You got it let it come to you.
CE: Anything else about your coaching philosophy that makes you so successful?
LS: I teach the basic level it never changes. Personality changes, rules changes, but the basics never change. Shooting the ball correctly, dribbling it correctly, jab, drop step are things that never changes. With the trend going now you add to the basics. A lot of the young coaches come in with these new techniques, and they forget about the basics. You build on the base. That is my philosophy. Like I told a girl of mine that no one can beat you. If you work hard off your butt whether you are purple, blue, or white. If you work hard enough you will be successful. The trainers when a kid gets sick come to the games. Well I once told one to sit beside me and watch this game. He could not believe, he would testify right now. He is a white guy. The white officials were not calling the game right. When the white man sat beside me the officials started calling the game right. He is the living witness that this makes a difference. Colored makes the difference of the girls and boys that work hard as anybody else does.
CE: That is hard to believe that is still going on today.
LS: Even when I lost I did not know it. I won it this year, but down in Jackson this never changed, I had one of the best players. These were kids no matter what colored they are. My name is well known from top to bottom because I believe in doing right. All you have to do is just do right. I don’t care where you go just do right. Lord blesses me thirty games a year. My ambition is that if you play for me I am going to get you a scholarship.
CE: Where have your kids gone?
LS: I got one at Tennessee State. I got a lot of them in college now. They are everywhere. I got a couple at Moorhead, and one at Valley. One finished at New Hampshire.
CE: Let me ask you this. What about this lately women’s sport has really taken off? How has that changed over the years?
LS: That is an outlet for our kids. Now when they finish college they are not through. They have another level. They have something to reach for. We can compete as well as the men. A lot of the people enjoy seeing us play.
CE: That is obvious.
LS: So this is a new avenue that is great for our young people. Not only do they have to stop at a college level. Now they can keep going up.
CE: Do you think it is going to keep improving?
LS: Oh yes, it is going to go up.
CE: Is it still difficult for women as athletes?
LS: My philosophy is totally different. I don’t believe men should coach women. I really don’t. A lot of things are personal. A lot of them do not understand our framework. A lot doesn’t understand our mental capacity. It will get to a point where men can not tell us anything. It will be real hard. I look at Houston playing; he has a lot garbage on that team. I think the last game he had to get off his butt and coach. I think the commentator said that he is not letting the three outstanding athletes have it. Chancellor has been in my days. I am well known. They know me.
CE: So you have won two state championships?
LS: No I have been there every year, and I have won one. They don’t come that often.
CE: Tell me about winning the state championship? Was that a special team? Was that good luck? What made that year successful?
LS: Well there were a lot of injuries. I had a lot of girls that could handle the ball. I had a good inside game. I was down that particular night it just, a white newsman came down, and I said just let us get a point ahead. That white man said Seaberry has got more nerves than a “brass ass monkey.” I held that ball for six minutes and eleven seconds. I got up by one point. I held the ball, and I scored the floor. Nobody made state history. Two minutes in the ballgame the coach from Senatobia, he told his girls to keep coming out on me. I began to penetrate, dropping in each side. We went up by nine, and we never looked back. You just have to let the kids play. There is strategy to coaching. You do not do it own your own. It is a gift from God.
CE: This is my personal opinion, coaching is real important in basketball than in football?
LS: Team efforts is what that is.
CE: In close games, coaching pretty much pays off?
LS: Oh yeah, that is where you can tell whether you can coach.
CE: Yeah, I have seen some really bad coaches lose a lot of close games.
LS: I have seen some coaches that have good athletes and can not win.
CE: What about any of your games stand out in your mind?
LS: When we won the state. I won the state.
CE: Do you have any memorable teams?
LS: All of them are memorable. My 6’6″ girl stood out this year.
CE: Your 6’6″?
LS: Yeah she was my 6’6″ girl. That girl carried me all the way. I won the north. She is the biggest girl I have ever coached. She is at State this year. She was 6’6″. She was awesome. She had worked hard materially. She thought the game would come to her because she was so tall.