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The audience of more than 2,000 delegates inside Cobo Hall clapped, if only politely, for the coach from an Oklahoma town with a funny-sounding name. Zacher said he wouldn’t take but a few minutes, and then he told his story.

“Last year our squad elected Dale Martin, a young man who happens to be black, as captain,” he explained.

“He received the votes. After this, the superintendent of schools and the principal of the school and some of the school board members thought that I should ask my captain to step aside and allow the queen to choose her escort, the queen being a white girl.

“I said no. By no means would I do this.”

The crowd was not easily moved. They had heard speeches for days, including one from a young Rev. Jesse Jackson. But they listened intently, some even cheering on Zacher.

“They informed me that our community and the power structure in the community would not stand for it, and I said I never consulted with the power structure on who I would play or how I would play or whatever else, and that people are people and we’re going to treat them as such and not think of their colors.”

Zacher went on for a few minutes more, his Detroit audience louder as each bit of his story unfolded. One school official, Zacher said, told him he would never coach in Nowata again. And yet weeks after his firing, even if nobody else back home believed it, Zacher still had hope.

“Until this happened, I felt like it was a great place to work,” he said. “I still would like to, for the benefit of young people in the school — white, brown, red or whatever else.”

His time soon up, the crowd rewarded Zacher with a loud and warm ovation. One man rose to speak on his behalf, but the convention’s parliamentarian, an aging civil rights lawyer from Chicago named Bob Ming, told the man to sit down. Ming told Zacher, approvingly, that the coach had made his own words.

With that, the coach walked offstage, and then he was gone.