Black alumni have rich history on and off campus

Luke Taylor, Associate News Editor

A Tuskegee airman, a Olympic athlete, and a news anchor; these are just a few of Eastern’s notable Black alumni.

Black History Month is meant to recognize the influence of the Black community around the world.

Eastern is not exempt from that influence.

Captain Charles Blakesly Hall

Hall, who left Eastern in 1941, was involved in track and football during his time in college before he enlisted in the military.

He trained in the Tuskegee Flight Training program, where he made his mark as a talented fighter pilot in the 99th Fighter Squadron.

Hall became famous because he was the first African American to shoot down an enemy aircraft in World War II.

This was the first victory for the Tuskegee Airmen.

He was also the first African American to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Jan Spavey Gilchrist

Gilchrist, who graduated in 1973, is an author and artist who is most known for her work on children’s books.

She works with different media such as watercolor and pastels and create stories that often center around the experience of Black Americans.

The Great Migration: Journey to the North, Nathaniel Talking, and My America are some of her most famous children’s books, but many of her works have been recognized with a variety of awards.

Some of her fine art is featured in various museums across the U.S.

John Craft

Craft placed fifth in the men’s triple jump in the 1972 Summer Olympics after graduating from Eastern in 1969.

The 1972 Munich Olympics were attacked by a group of eight Palestinian terrorists around 300 yards away from where Craft was staying.

Despite deaths that occurred during the attack, the International Olympic Committee chose to continue with the games a few days later in an act of defiance against the terrorists, so Craft was still able to compete.

He later returned to Charleston and even worked in Eastern’s athletics department for a few years.

Larry Smith

Smith, who left Eastern in 1991, worked at CNN as a sports anchor.

He covered over 30 major championship events, including the Final Four, NBA Finals, the Super Bowl, and the 2006 Winter Olympics.

He also hosted a yearly Larry Smith Golf Classic which awarded scholarships to high school students who were headed to college.

Smith also worked as the main news co-anchor at LEX 18, a TV station in Lexington, KY.

Kevin Duckworth

Duckworth, who graduated in 1986, played center for several different NBA teams: the Trail Blazers, the Bullets, the Bucks, the Clippers, and the Spurs.

He was also a long-time record holder in Eastern’s athletics for his 867 rebounds.

During his retirement, Duckworth worked together with Kermit Washington to open a sports café called Le’slam.


Luke Taylor can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected]