—Heritage Trails Enrichment Program —
Built in 1927, Robins Field was named for former Tupelo Mayor D.W. Robins and served as the Tupelo Schools' football field until 1991. On Friday nights, the all-white Tupelo High School Golden Wave football team played here, while the state champion all-black Blue Devils of Carver High School played at Robins Field on Saturday nights. In much of the South and Mississippi, black schools often had separate, inferior, no football facilities. In Tupelo, even before desegregation, crowds both African-American and white showed up to see the Carver Blue Devils exciting football games and to hear the award-winning "G.W. Carver Band" under the direction of career educators Benjamin Branch, and later Walter Partlow. Tupeloan Mearion Smith reminisced "When the band paraded down the streets, black people and white people again united on common grounds along the streets and sidewalks to watch the 'G.W. Carver Band' strut down the parade route." Following full integration of the Tupelo school system, Tupelo High School academic, football and track star Frank Dowsing played on this field and in so doing generated goodwill and broke racial barriers. Dowsing went on to become one of Mississippi State University's first two African-American athletes, setting records as a defensive back and kick returner
and was voted Mr. MSU.
High School Football During Segregation
Football has always been a special pastime in the South, and perhaps high school football most of all. In a 2006 study conducted by USA Football and the Wharton Sports Business Initiative at the University of Pennsylvania, Mississippi was distinguished as having the best high school football in America. Mississippi high school football was and is more than just a sport; it is a source of immense pride and great rivalries. High school football in the black community during segregation, operating in the all-black Magnolia State High School Activities Association, was no different. With few if no black players on collegiate or National Football League rosters, black high school football teams became symbols of success. The young black stars on the field were heroes across the entire community. These young athletes served as role models for young boys and provided hours of conversation in barbershops and other gatherings as every down was replayed and analyzed. These athletes were under intense scrutiny to do the right thing and represent themselves, their family and their communities to the best of their abilities, both on and off the field.