My name is Jacob Paulsen and in the last two weeks, I was able to witness something that changed my life.
My wife and I were both born and raised in Southern Wyoming and as such we have connections to The University of Wyoming. My father received his master’s degree from UW and both my father in law and mother in law have received multiple degrees from UW.
Now living in Colorado, I work as a volunteer to coordinate with local and regional media outlets when news stories involving The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are covered.
Several weeks ago I received a phone call informing me that there may be some media interest in an upcoming food donation that the church was involved with in partnership with The Black 14 Philanthropy organization.
I had to dust off my Wyoming roots and do a little research to refresh my memory.
Before it was a non-profit organization to support schools, university, black student athletes and underserved communities the Black 14 were just 14 University of Wyoming football players.
In 1969, these 14 football players approached their football coach Lloyd Eaton and asked permission to wear black armbands during the upcoming home game against BYU.
As this time, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which owns and operates BYU, had a policy that excluded black people from the priesthood of the church and many athletes on other teams had worn black armbands to silently protest against that policy.
The church, through revelation to the prophet, changed it’s policy less than a decade later but in 1969 these 14 players were caught by surprise when they went into Eaton’s office to request permission to wear the armbands.
Coach Eaton immediately dismissed them from the team. The loss of these players was a devastating blow to the team. At the time of the incident the Cowboys were undefeated and ranked 16th in the AP Poll. It was all downhill from there and many feel that 50 years later the team has yet to fully recover.
In 1971, when my father and mother in law attended UW they have memories of walking through picket lines to get to the church owned institute where they took religious classes near the campus. The wound was fresh and in many ways for some The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints became to target of the frustration and scorn of UW football.
The Church didn’t kick the players off their team. Coach Eaton did based on the school’s “no protesting” policy.
In the mid 1980s my father attended UW to complete his masters degree. He finished his undergrad at BYU and while living in Southern Wyoming spent several summers in Laramie to finish his masters degree.
He tells me he may be one of very few people in this country who can say (or dares to mention it out loud), that he has a degree from both BYU and UW. Nearly 15 years after the incident the wounds hadn’t healed for many at the University of Wyoming.
Fast forward a few decades. In the fall of 2019, appx 50 years after the incident, The University of Wyoming invited back the Black 14 to speak to students, attend a special dinner, receive an official apology letter, and receive jerseys and letterman jackets.
At a football game attended by the eight players that returned the student body that consists of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints wore Black 14 T-shirts during the game.
In 2020, members of the Black 14 saw the need for food to be donated to help those who are suffering during this pandemic as we enter the holiday season.
Working with Gifford Nielson, President of the Church’s North America Central Area, the Black 14 made an arrangement that many may consider a miracle.
The church agreed to donate and deliver 360,000 pounds of food across the US to cities and local charities selected by surviving members of The Black 14.
John Griffin, a member of the Black 14 who resides in Denver selected Catholic Charities of Denver to be one of those recipients. So on November 17th at 9:00 AM a Deseret Industries semi-truck pulled into the Salvation Army Warehouse in Aurora.
Catholic Charities who lacked a large enough storage facility called on The Salvation Army to receive and store the food donation long enough for it to be distributed to various food banks and organizations across the metro including the Denver Rescue Mission, Salvation Army, and various Food banks and ministries.
From here I don’t need to tell the rest of the story. The local media has done so for me. Below I include some of the video news coverage and a link to The Denver Post.
I end my part of this story by telling you that time can not only heal wounds but also turn hearts toward each other. As I look back at my own family’s history as proud members of a Church that provides vast relief to people affected by tragedy; and the many UW degrees proudly displayed in homes on both sides of my family; it all has come full circle for me as the charity of Christ conquers all.
9News Denver Nov 26th, 2020
KWGN 2 News Nov 17th, 2020