Original 1936 Wiley College Yearbook Features "Great Debaters" - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

12/13/07-Tyler

Original 1936 Wiley College Yearbook Features "Great Debaters"

"When [the auction] went to the thousands that was neat, let's just say that.  We knew we had something," says Kent Nash.

He is talking about the 1936 Wiley College yearbook he bought at an estate sale earlier this year.  When he put the yearbook on eBay to sell, he realized this wasn't your ordinary yearly.

"There were a lot of offers, asking if we would sell it outright.  Then he let us know there were three famous people in there and they were on the debate team," says Kent.

The three men pictured from the 1936 team are Hobart Jarrett and Henry Heights.  On the right is James Farmer, Jr.  This picture taken a year after the team had just experienced unprecedented success from the 1935 debates.

"My wife has written the writer of the story and his secretary has gotten back in contact saying he's very interested and will be getting in contact with her.  And she has sent information to Oprah Winfrey and Denzel Washington."

Also listed in the yearbook but not pictured, is the team's coach Melvin Tolson, the character portrayed by Denzel Washington.

Kent says they knew the book was especially rare when they contacted Wiley College.

"[The librarian] said all we have and all we had for the movie are photocopies. And she said that would be a very rare book because not many were made in the first place," Kent explains.

He says his family has especially enjoyed researching and learning about the history of the debate team and the college itself.  The movie, not yet released in theatres, has a story that is already becoming a real inspiration.

"Oh yeah we will, we're looking forward to it," says Kent when asked if he's going to see the The Great Debaters movie.

Kent says to protect the yearbook, they don't keep it in the house.  It's locked up in a safety deposit box.

Christine Nelson Reportingcnelson@kltv.com

 

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