Field Report: C’town Ambassadors Toast Wil Haygood’s “Tigerland” Kick-off in Columbus by Jeff Weber


CTown folks-M.jpg> = L-R: Linda Reed, Airlee Johnson, Kathleen Weber, Patricia Pfeiffer, Lizzie Martin, Jeff Weber, Tom Martin, Vic Pfeiffer, Patrick Nugent, and Kathryn Boge

Ten Chestertown residents are still basking in the warmth of celebration and pride from their recent three day trip to Columbus Ohio, where they participated in the national book roll-out of ‘Tigerland’, authored by former Washington College 2017-2018 Patrick Henry Writing Fellow, Wil Haygood.
With open arms, Columbus, Ohio, welcomed back its native son, Haygood, and provided the host location for the introduction of his new book, ‘Tigerland: 1968-1969: A City Divided, a Nation Torn Apart, and a Magical Season of Healing’. The book, released September 19, 2018, is set in Columbus’ then segregated East High School, which Haygood attended, and presents the remarkable accomplishments of the school’s all black basketball and baseball teams, both of which won State Championships during the 1968-1969 academic year.
Larry James, a prominent Columbus attorney, and to whom one of Haygood’s earlier works is dedicated (‘Showdown: Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court Nomination That Changed America’) sponsored a reception in Haygood’s honor the first night. Among the speakers were the past and current Mayors of Columbus, Ohio State University’s Athletic Director, and Chestertown’s own, Patrick Nugent, Deputy Director of Washington College’s Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience. All the accolades coming Haygood’s way that night, were quickly deflected by him, and refocused on the former East High School players, coaches and even the Assistant Principal at the time, many of whom were present.
Patrick Nugent, spoke of Haygood’s time at Washington College, and the lasting impact he had on the College, its students and the Town of Chestertown. In preparing his remarks, Nugent had asked the students of Haygood’s Washington College non-fiction course, ‘Personal Memoir’, to share their thoughts and memories, and was able to recreate the heartfelt appreciation voiced by those students.
Columbus’ Lincoln Theatre was the focal point for the book’s National Launch on September 19th: interesting to note that Wil Haygood’s is the first name engraved in the Theatre’s ‘Walk of Fame’ monument. To an audience in excess of 300, several notable persons, including; the current Mayor of Columbus, Andrew Ginther, the President of Ohio State University, Michael Drake, and Judge Algenon Marbley, U.S.,District Court, Southern District of Ohio, spoke to Haygood’s achievements and recreation of the Tigerland story. The President of Miami University (Ohio), Gregory Crawford, shared a brief film of Haygood’s talk to the Class of 2022, for which Haygood received Miami University’s President’s Medal. Haygood, a Miami University 1976 alum, is currently their Visiting Distinguished Professor in the Department of Media, Journalism and Film.
While in residency last year at Washington College, Haygood was able to complete most of the ‘Tigerland’ book. Equally important, are the many friendships he created here in Chestertown. As Wil noted to one, he was greatly appreciative of the warmth and interest shown by the Chestertown community during his stay. Indeed, it was the extent of those personal connections formed in Chestertown that resulted in ten residents traveling to Columbus.
As an already accomplished author, prior to ‘Tigerland’, Haygood authored seven non-fiction books, among them ‘The Butler: A Witness to History’ (2013), which lead to the movie by the same name. This new book, ‘Tigerland’, recalls the compelling history of extraordinarily difficult times, yet provides a ‘feel good’ sports story (think of the films ‘Hoosiers’ or ‘Rudy’). Equally important is the story’s setting; the racially charged social climate of the late 60’s in America’s heartland and Columbus’ East High School. Haygood recreates the life-stories of the period’s characters, all worthy, he says, of earning covers on ‘Wheaties’ boxes’. His hope is that ‘Tigerland’ will bring ‘literary justice’ to them all.
Wil Haygood has started his tour to promote the book, and in familiar Haygood style, he’ll place all the emphasis on the players, coaches and other persons from the book’s 1968-1969 time frame. All who know Wil, know how genuine and sincere he is, and how he puts life and soul into recreating the sto ries and characters of his books, yet leaving plenty of room for contemporary friendships. For our part, the ten of us certainly felt proud to be a small part of the Columbus, Ohio events, and look forward to ‘the Tigerland Express’ visiting Chestertown later this year.
Wil Haygood is currently scheduled to speak at Washington College’s Hynson Lounge on November 15, 2018 at 5:30 PM. Also, next year, on March 21, 2019, Haygood is scheduled to speak at Kent County High School, which has adopted ‘Tigerland’ in the system’s ‘One School/One Book’ program. The program provides students, grade 8-12, with a copy of the book, and instructors with teaching opportunities, prior to attending Haygood’s talk.
Jeff Weber is the current treasurer of Main Street Chestertown and also serves on the boards of the Garfield Center and the National Music Festival. He is a periodic contributor to the Chestertown Spy.  

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