Andy Heidelberg

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by Brian Smith, 13NEWS

WVEC.com

Posted on January 14, 2009 at 9:15 AM

Updated Friday, Oct 30 at 11:33 AM

Andy Heidelberg says he's still a little leary of the changes he's seen in Hampton Roads. 

You would too if 50 years ago you were among the first blacks to intergrate previously all-white schools.  Heidelberg was one of the original "Norfolk 17" who helped desegregate the city's schools back in 1959. 

He went a step further.  Heidelberg, a tailback, was cut his junior year after trying out for the football team.  He made the team his senior year and became the first black in the south to break the color line. 

"I saw Ken Whitley", he says.  "He shook my hand and told me welcome to the Norview Pilots football team.  It was the greatest feeling of my life."

It helped the now 64 year old get through the first 2 1/2 years at Norview in which he described the experience as "The worst years of my life."  Racial taunts and isolation took its toll, but putting on that Pilots jersey eased the pain. 

"I just wanted to put on those beautiful blue and white uniforms and imagine how that black skin would look", he says.  Once he made the team in 1961, he was apart of a school that was among the best on the east coast. 

Whitley, who's currently the Pilots head wrestling coach, was a fellow teammate and captain of the team in 1961.  "He was a player.  An active ingredient on our football team." 

They went 9-1 that season and Heidelberg made an immediate impact.  He also had an affect on his teammates that included Whitley. 

"Being with him that one year probably changed my life.  I've dedicated my life to making sure kids that I coached had a fair and square opportunity to win and lose in athletics." 

Heidelberg agrees.  "You have to be careful how you treat children and what you say to them.  For all of the 17 of us, it was traumatic.  It caused something in you to change." 

In the end the ultimate change was a positive one on all of us today.

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