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James Owens, a running back at Fairfield High School who in 1969 became the first black player to sign a football scholarship at Auburn University, passed away on Saturday, March 26th. I didn’t know James well. I had spent some time with him in the summer of 2013 when we put together an event at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in downtown Birmingham, bringing together Auburn and Alabama coaches and players from the late sixties and early seventies to discuss the integration of the two schools’ football programs.

James Owens talks to the media on Tuesday. Gene Chizik presser with James Owens on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012 in Auburn, Ala. Todd Van Emst

CLICK HERE for a link to an article about the event. But from the short time we were together it was obvious James was a man of God, a leader, a trailblazer, and someone who, although only in his late teens and early twenties during his years at Auburn, understood the significance of the role he had stepped into. James Owens, along with other African- American football players from that time at Auburn and at Alabama, played a great role in helping to change our state. Our thoughts and prayers go out to James’ wife, Gloria, and the Owens family and friends.

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      But those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              If you have any questions or comments, you can reach me on my cell (561-662-3251) or my office (205-874-0368) or you can email me at rdavis@wallacejordan.com or you can reach Jonathan Shugart on his cell (334-559-6906) or his office (205-874-0396) or you can email him at jshugart@wallacejordan.com.