March 4, 2011
Celebrating Ronnie Hogue
ATHENS, Ga. --- It was December 20, 1971 when Ronnie Hogue set Georgia's single-game scoring record by draining 46 points against Louisiana State University, but he also has another recognition tied to his name--the first African American basketball player to receive an athletic scholarship from the University of Georgia.
After going 20-23 from the court in his record-setting game almost 40 years ago, Hogue returned to Athens recently to see the Bulldogs defeat LSU 73-53 on Senior Night. In celebration of the university's 50th anniversary of desegregation, Hogue was honored at center court during the halftime presentation and received a standing ovation from the fans.
"I have so much admiration for what Ronnie did, and it was great to have him back and to have our fans honor him," said Dave Muia, former men's basketball team manager (1970-74) and current Executive Director of the Georgia Bulldog Club. "I know it meant a lot to him to be able to talk to Coach Fox and our players, and they just embraced him."
Hogue was highly recruited coming out of high school, and the late John Guthrie, then assistant coach under Ken Rosemond, should get most of the credit for recruiting him to Athens.
"When I boarded the plane today, I thought about how apprehensive I was during my first flight down to UGA," said Hogue. "It almost brought a tear to my eye because I remembered all the people, especially John Guthrie, who gave me advice and encouraged me to think positively."
In 1969, Hogue was awarded a four-year athletic scholarship to UGA. With freshmen not eligible for varsity teams in those years, Hogue had to play on the freshman squad the first season, where he averaged 19.1 points per game. The following year, he began playing forward and earned All-SEC Sophomore team honors, as voted by the league's coaches. Hogue grabbed the spotlight in 1972 as he continued to improve and increased his scoring average to 20.5 per game.
Hogue, a Washington D.C. native, recalled the time when he arrived at UGA.
"When I got here people were nice, but my teammates were the ones who helped me the most," he said. "I had the greatest teammates. Especially when I showed them that I could play ball and help the team, everything just came together."
"We saw Ronnie as part of our team just like anybody else," said former teammate Charlie Anderson. "Although there was a difference in skin color, we didn't see black and white, we saw teammates. When you walked on to the court, it was about competition to us, and color didn't matter. That's what was so great about the game of basketball."
However, there were adversities that Hogue had to overcome.
"There were controversies here at UGA, and I participated in marches across campus," said Hogue. "The first year I played, I can remember having spit balls and hot pennies thrown at me during games, but my teammates would huddle around to cover me up. By the second year, after I proved I could play basketball, people were lining up to get my autograph."
"It was a tough league and place to be as a young African American playing basketball in the Southeast," said Muia. "Ronnie broke the barrier in men's basketball at UGA, and that helped other sports become integrated as well."
Hogue also discussed the significance of being at UGA in the early 70s and how that impacted his life.
"There were a lot of other things going on besides just in the athletic department," he said. "The University of Georgia really exposed me to the reality of the Civil Rights Movement. Over the course of my time here, people began to realize that it's time to start changing. I saw the university, the faculty and student body mature through this time, and the blacks became more patient, and they were willing to sit down and talk."
"There were differences in myself and the other students, but we all discovered that we have a lot in common and just wanted to have fun," said Hogue. "Eventually, things started to mellow out."
One of Hogue's former teammates, Chip Vaughan, recalled some memories when they played together.
"Ronnie and I were always roommates on the road, and we took that as an opportunity to learn about each other," said Vaughan. "We played a lot of cards and just had fun. We were all a part of one team, and we did things together. It was eye-opening to see life from Ronnie's perspective, and I learned a lot from him along the way."
While at Georgia, Hogue scored 1,367 points in just three seasons' work, but it's more than basketball that he remembers.
"Georgia was a great academic school, had good facilities, and the people were friendly," said Hogue. "I had friends who were from all different cultures, and there really was a great atmosphere that the university created. While I was here, I not only matured from a kid to a man, but I learned a lot about politics, social values and that there was more to life than basketball."
Hogue currently resides in Maryland and works in Washington, D.C.