By Angela Taldone ’15
On Jan. 29, as a part of the College’s annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration, Darryl Hill spoke to students, community members, and faculty and staff in Cole Hall.
Hill, the chairman and CEO of Kids Play U.S.A. Inc., broke the color barrier in college athletics when he became the first African American scholarship athlete to play football at the University of Maryland.
Hill’s lecture addressed two important parts of his life— football and business. Although the two experiences were different in nature, he said that both stories were about “turning adversity into opportunity.” He initially attended Xavier University, then the Naval Academy, before attending the University of Maryland. Hill reflected that during his time at the Naval Academy, there were “12 African Americans out of 4,000 students,” and he was the first African American to play football for the Navy.
Prior to 1963, the year Hill was recruited to play at the University of Maryland, African Americans could not play sports in the Deep South. Although the University of Maryland isn’t geographically in the Deep South, its athletic conference, the Atlantic Coast Conference, was a segregated conference.
Hill said that the fans were the hardest on him. When he was first recruited, many viewed him as a “black man desecrating the temple.” He had minimal problems with teammates and opposing football players.
In addition, Hill respectfully acknowledged Bridgewater College’s very own Carlyle Whitelow ’59, who was in attendance, as Whitelow was the first African American college athlete to play at a school that was not a predominantly black college.
Transitioning to business, Hill emphasized, “Don’t take anything for granted. Don’t think things can’t happen just because they haven’t happened yet.” His organizations and their efforts have made a difference for minorities entering the business world. From an optical company to an energy management company, as well as a forestry operations company, Hill took advantage of what was around him.
Hill attributed his success to a simple mindset that he encouraged the crowd to adopt. “Don’t think it’s not possible,” he said. Drawing from his own experiences to inspire the audience to also be successful in business, Hill concluded, “There’s opportunity everywhere.”