They’ve (we’ve) come a long way in Mississippi . . .

Doug Hutton and Willie Richardson, two of Mississippi’s greatest.
Rick Cleveland
Rick Cleveland

Seventy-two-year-old Doug Hutton, one of the greatest all-around athletes in Mississippi history, stepped to the first tee of beautiful Live Oaks Golf Club Thursday morning.

The hole measures 285 yards from the senior tees and Hutton smashed his drive all the way to the front fringe of the green. Next up, 74-year-old Willie Richardson, another of the Magnolia State’s greatest and most graceful, drove his ball exactly one inch past Hutton’s to win the long drive contest. The two Mississippi Sports Hall of Famers got a huge kick out of how their 275-yard drives wound up about three inches apart.

Cleveland

And I got a kick out of playing a round of golf in The Hull tournament, honoring the memory of the great Kent Hull, with two legends.

Both Hutton and Richardson swing a golf club fluidly, or, as Slammin’ Sammy Snead would say, as it they have been “freshly oiled.” They are athletes, pure and simple.

In their day, both could do anything that involved a ball.

Hutton, one of Mississippi State’s basketball greats, played basketball, baseball and ran track at Clinton High School. Back in 1960, when Hutton was a high school senior, the state basketball tournament semifinals and championship game were held on the same day in the old Jackson City Auditorium. Hutton scored 47 in the afternoon to lead Clinton past Philadelphia. Then, that night, he scored 54 when Clinton beat Florence for the state title. That’s 101 points in a single day’s work, if you’re keeping score.

Richardson (Greenville Coleman Class of 1959), played every starred in every sport and helped Coleman to two state championships, one playing wide receiver and another playing quarterback. In track, his specialty was the half mile run, but he dabbled in the 100-yard dash, once recording a time of 9.6 seconds. At age 15, in the first play of his his first game for Coleman, he hauled in a 80-yard touchdown pass, a glimpse of the skills he would later display as a two-time Pro Bowler for the Baltimore Colts.

They graduated from high school a year apart, Richardson and Hutton did. Might as well have been a century back then.

Says Richardson, “I never heard of Doug Hutton until he was inducted into the Hall of Fame.”

Says Hutton, “First time I ever heard of Willie Richardson was when I watched him play for the Baltimore Colts on TV.”

Today, two Mississippi athletes of such immense ability, would be well aware of one another.

Says Hutton, “Back then it was two separate societies. They didn’t know us and we didn’t know them.”

Hutton never competed against an African American athlete until the famous “Game of Change” game in 1963, when Mississippi State defied state government and played Loyola in the NCAA Tournament.

“Kids today don’t understand how far we’ve come in that regard,” Hutton says. “It really is amazing. I mean, we’re just talking about 50 years ago really.”

Says Richardson, “It’s like the old saying, ‘You can’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been.’”

Richardson and Hutton both know. They’ve lived it. Their golf balls wound up inches part, but it’s truly amazing how they got there.

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