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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Dad's Brother: "Uncle Ted, "Coach"

In my last post I described how my father, Clifford Primus, began his unforgettable odyssey to Camp LeJeune, North Carolina for Marine Boot Camp training. In a nutshell:  "Jim Crow" travel and then forced segregation with Marine Recruits that were busted for "Passing" (See Previous Post).  Dad stated that he got along well with these individuals that were "passing".  Whether Post World War II if these Marines classified themselves in American society as white, mixed, Negro, mulatto*, I do not know.

My father had a younger brother, Uncle Ted, that was was drafted into the Army during World War II. He was exempt from the military due to a high school football leg injury. My Uncle Ted's complete name was Theodore Roosevelt Primus and he ended up attending Florida Agricultural & Mechanical College (Now known as FAMU) in Tallahassee, Florida. Many Primus family members attended this prestigious Historically Black College known for its academic reputation and of course, its famous Marching 100 Band.

Well, being named after a no nonsense US President who was famous for his quote, "Speak Softly But Carry A Big Stick",** was the perfect name for my uncle, as Uncle Ted did big things. He taught science, physical education, and special education in Broward County Florida, impacting many young adults lives. He also was a successful high school football coach. Source: Sun Sentinel Times, Dec. 28, 1988.

Uncle Ro, as my Dad called him, ( to my young ears at age eight it sounded like "Uncle Roll"), made history when his high school team, the Dillard Panthers,  played against a white high school team. It was a major event because varsity football was segregated. Major League Baseball, as many of you know, was segregated until Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947. The famous intervarsity football match with my Uncle's team was in 1967.


American Football, and I must make the distinction because I have international readers, is serious business in the state of Florida. Its warm climate makes practice year round conducive and children prepare for excelling at the sport at a very young age. Football is also a major part of Florida culture;  homecomings and games are exciting events. The battle of the bands at predominately African Americans high schools/ colleges display intricate showmanship in terms of R&B - hiphop music and band formation. For a prime example of this watch the 2002 movie "Drumline", featuring actors Zoe Saldana, Orlando Jones, and starring Nick Cannon. I included an excerpt of the movie to illustrate.

                                                   Final Battle of the Bands Scene, "Drumline"

Six of Uncle Ted's players from his athletic teams went on play professional football with the National Football League. Ted Primus was well known in South Florida and at his funeral in 1988 a host of dignitaries and multitudes of mourners were in attendance. Uncle Ted "adopted" many troubled young students and encouraged them to remain in school. Coach emphasized education over athletics. His legacy remains.

*Mulatto- Term used to describe a bi-racial, multi-racial, mixed individual. Outdated, and considered offensive because it is derived from the Spanish word for mule. However, some claim the origins of the word are Arabic for muwallad, mixed ancestery.  Sources:,, a comprehensive source for multiracial people.

** Former President Theodore Roosevelt attributed this quote to a West African Proverb, Source:

*** Uncle Ted  had a trucking business that transported oranges from Florida to New York, eliminating the middle man. He also was involved in real estate, furthering dispelling the "dumb jock myth".

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