9780 Paul Bryant Drive painting unveiled at Bryant Museum
By WVUA 23 Sports Reporter Matthew Travis
A painting titled, “9780 Paul Bryant Drive,” by Steve Skipper was unveiled on Friday at the Bryant Museum. This painting honors Wilbur Jackson and John Mitchell on the 50th anniversary of their historical mark beginning the integration of African-Americans in the Alabama football program.
Head Coach Paul W. “Bear” Bryant brought both Mitchell, who wore No. 97, and Jackson, who wore No. 80, to Tuscaloosa as the first African-American athletes to compete for the University of Alabama. The painting also includes some of the great African-American players that followed Mitchell and Jackson.
Jackson was unable to attend the event, but John Mitchell and Steve Skipper spoke about the special piece of artwork.
“I mean when they sent the school plane to pick me up this morning, I probably had tears in my eyes coming here,” Mitchell said. “To step off that plane and step on this campus, I haven’t been on this campus in a long time, and I had met Greg Byrne about six months ago. He’s just been amazing, and all the people he’s worked with to make this weekend very special, I just can’t say how happy I am. I just wish coach was living and my parents was living to see this day.”
“Players that play here now, I think that they need to understand the price that was paid for them to wear that crimson and white jersey,” Skipper said. “The integration of the football team was a great success, and these two men own the right for people to tell them thank you.”