“I was surprised the guys would elect me as captain,” Martin recalled in a phone interview from his home in Colorado. “But I was all in.
“I knew the minute that I was elected, the first thing that went through my mind was the coronation. I told coach, we knew, we looked at each other and he just said, ‘What do you think we should do? Do you want to go through with it and leave it like it is?’
“I said, ‘Yeah, we can leave it like it is.’
Within days, Martin was pulled out of class for a meeting with Moore, the superintendent. Three decades earlier, Moore flew more than 100 World War II combat missions in a P-47 Thunderbolt and had returned home a decorated war hero. When he died years ago, he was so popular that the town’s middle school was named in his honor.
Moore wasted little time telling Martin that “the community wasn’t ready for it,” Martin recalled.
“I’m going to stay the captain. I’m not stepping down,” Martin replied. “We’re going to do it the way the coach wants to do it.”
Martin’s election quickly reignited the earlier private confrontation between Zacher and Moore. With things still unsettled, the school board intervened in December, reluctantly agreeing to let the coach handle the homecoming after Zacher threatened to tell the news media.
As the controversy erupted, Martin and Zacher agreed to drop the kiss from the ceremony. Two high school girls passed up the homecoming spot after they were picked as queen, an honor awarded for selling the most tickets to the homecoming. Finally, a sophomore, who was white, agreed.
But for all of the trouble in Nowata, and whispers that perhaps the Black Panthers and the Ku Klux Klan would show up, the actual coronation, with the first black captain in school history, took place Feb. 4, 1972, without any problems.
“Thunderous applause went forth once more after Martin put the crown in place, and the ceremony — simple, yet harmonious — was over,” the Coffeyville, Kan., Journal reported.
Zacher’s problems, however, had just begun. Right away, Zacher realized the larger ramifications of Martin’s election, and he and his young family — wife Lynda Coley and daughter Kendra Nelsen — would experience, though never talk about publicly, unexpected fallout as the homecoming controversy unfolded.
“Ken was very excited” after Martin’s election, said Coley. “He was like, ‘This is it, this is it, we’ve accomplished something.’”
“But I’m not sure we did,” she said, only to pause again. “Yes,” she said, “we did … but it was so hard for so many people.”
Zacher’s daughter recalls other things that happened, things her mother does not care to discuss.