Dallas men discuss friendship forged before Civil Rights Act

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by TERESA WOODARD

WFAA

Posted on April 10, 2014 at 11:31 PM

DALLAS -- They had every junior high class together, a fact they can still remember almost 50 years later.

"We just became friends -- played football, played sports," Jeff Patton said.

"We were kids," John Paul McCrumbly added. "We didn't know anything."

While much of America was still trying to sort out the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Patton and McCrumbly didn't need to.

Patton was white. McCrumbly was black. But color didn't matter to them.

They were teenage boys who went to school together, played sports together, and genuinely liked to hang out together.

"Didn't seem like anything to us," Patton said.

They were among some of the first desegregated students in Dallas ISD. But they say they recall no fights and no anger and no trouble inside the halls of J.L. Long or Woodrow Wilson, the high school they attended together after Long.

"[It was] probably the only integrated school in the world that didn't have trouble!" Patton said with a smile.  "We had a good time. It was just like 'Happy Days.' Our high school was just like an episode of 'Happy Days.'"

The two of them were inseparable, and still are. To this day, they don't make a big deal about their friendship. They credit their parents with why they became and stayed friends.

"The only way a 13-year-old is going to hate anybody is if his mother and father told him that," Patton said. "What your parents teach you is what you're going to be as a child. We were taught discrimination was the wrong thing -- exactly the wrong thing."

E-mail twoodard@wfaa.com

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