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Rockport Retiree to be Honored as Pioneering African American Athlete

by on August 2, 2016
Rockport Plant retiree Houston Hogg will be honored with a statue by the University of Kentucky as one of the first four African American football players at the university. Photo by: Matt Lundsford, Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer.

Editor’s Note: Houston Hogg, a retired employee of Indiana Michigan Power’s Rockport Plant in Rockport, Ind., will be honored as one of the first four African American football players at the University of Kentucky by the university in September. Hogg retired in 2013 as a coal equipment operator senior after working at the plant for 27 years. He and his wife of 44 years, Deborah, have six children and 19 grandchildren, and have been foster parents to more than 200 children over the past 25 years. The story of the former UK running back has also been featured in Owensboro Living and other publications. This story, written by Mark Mathis, was published in the Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer on July 20, 2016, and has been edited.

OWENSBORO, Ky. — Houston Hogg really measured every word he said when describing what it was like to be one of the first African American football players at the University of Kentucky (UK).

“The racial stuff, it was kind of random. I was too big that they couldn’t walk up and call me names,” Hogg said. “The teammates seemed to be (accepting), but you’ve heard ‘they smile in your face.’ There was some like, ‘I don’t want to room with him.’ I guess the worst time for me, my roommate got married and he moved out. I was in the dorm by myself. That was kind of rough. It was kind of isolated.”

Hogg, who was 6-foot-1, 235 pounds in his prime, was looking way back into time as he told those stories at his house in the Seven Hills area. After Hogg went to UK for four years in the late 1960s, he has lived, worked and raised a family in Owensboro.

Hogg came here from his hometown of Hazard before his senior year in high school, and he played one year of football at Daviess County High School. His parents found jobs in Owensboro, which caused the family to move here.

It was obviously tough for the 68-year-old to take that journey back through the decades. Leaving some stadiums, Hogg felt like he’d made it through some kind of survival drill, and in a lot of ways he had.

“(During one game), I got my bell rung, a coach was trying to put me back in, but I wouldn’t go,” Hogg said. “I don’t remember telling him I wouldn’t go in.”

A major moment Hogg does remember is a road trip to LSU.

“I’d say the worst experience was Baton Rouge,” Hogg said. “We played LSU, they beat us, the coaches gave us (food money) to go eat on. The place we went, they told us they had a place around back where they’d serve us, get it out the back window.

“A waitress told us as nice as she could, we can’t serve you two up here, you’ve got to go around back.”

There was nearly an altercation at the restaurant, and Hogg along with Wilbur Hackett made a dash back to the team hotel.

“When we got there, state police were everywhere,” Hogg said. “What got me was… that was a long time ago. All those dogs and stuff they had when we got back to the hotel. We got a letter a couple of weeks later from the governor of Louisiana, apologizing for the way they treated us.”

Hogg, Hackett, Nate Northington and the late Greg Page (not the Louisville-born boxer) were the four UK players who integrated SEC football in the late 60s.

UK will be honoring those four players with a statue that will be located in front of the new UK football practice facility that is nearly complete.

It will be unveiled at a special event on Thursday, Sept. 22. The Wildcats will host South Carolina in their first SEC home game two days later and celebrate Northington becoming the first African American to play in an SEC game on Sept. 30, 1967.

A poster honoring Northington, Page, Hackett and Hogg has been available to the public since July 16 — it features four players from this year’s team in poses modeled after the statue currently being sculpted. The poster is meant to pay tribute to the four trailblazers who paved the way for what Kentucky football is today.

The 2016 season marks 50 years since Northington and Page enrolled at UK in 1966. Page died after suffering an injury in a practice during his and Northington’s sophomore years. Northington left UK and went to Western Kentucky University.

Hogg finished his career at UK, left Lexington with a lot of tough emotions, and came back to Owensboro because his mother, Margaret Hogg, was still living here and couldn’t drive. “I came back because of her,” Houston said.

He and his wife Deborah have six children and 19 grandchildren. The influence of Hogg’s family has been deep in various athletic venues through the years, mostly at Owensboro High School, but also at Owensboro Catholic.

Hogg didn’t talk to his kids about his UK football career until they were older.

“A lot of people ask me ‘why didn’t you tell them your story when they were growing up?’ but I had a reason not to tell them,” Houston said. “I wanted them to get along with people, not to be mad at anybody for what I went through.

“I kept it from them for a long time. When they got older, we were talking, I would make a joke out of something that actually happened, and they questioned me, is that true? Yeah, that’s true.

“You’ve got to live with it, and forgive in your heart. You just can’t say I forgive you, you’ve got to really do it. If you don’t it’s going to eat you alive.”

Hogg is grateful that UK will make permanent the contributions of him and his former teammates.

“I’m honored they would do something like that,” Hogg said. “We’re talking about one of the greatest institutions around here, and they’re going to honor me with a statue. I’m proud that they are.”

From → Retiree Profiles

  1. Thank you Nate for helping to prepare a country for full equality. Congratulations! I would love to have one of the posters so if anyone in Kentucky has an extra one please let me know.

    Thank you

    Velda Otey
    Retired 2010

  2. Very cool – God bless you my brother!

  3. A great story and a very deserving tribute to you and your three trailblazing teammates.

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