Gone but not forgotten

On the heels of St. Charles parish’s largest annual track relay, one Ama man remembers Hahnville High’s Don Raymond

By Heather R. Breaux

February 27, 2008 at 11:45 am  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

Don Raymond, above, was one of the first black students to attend Hahnville High School.
Photo provided by Glenn Singleton
Don Raymond, above, was one of the first black students to attend Hahnville High School.
In March of 1969, an emotional shockwave was felt throughout the Hahnville area when the parish’s most celebrated black athlete, Don Raymond, lost his life in a tragic car accident on River Road.

Raymond, who was only 16 when he died, was not only just one of the first black students to attend Hahnville High School, but he was the first black athlete to ever participate in sports at the school.

Many have regarded Raymond’s legacy as a legend lost, but with a documentary about Raymond’s life near completion, Ama’s Glenn Singleton is determined to ensure that the first student to integrate HHS is never forgotten.

In honor of Black History Month and the upcoming Don Raymond Relays, I found it appropriate to shine a light on the young man who changed the face of Hahnville High School forever and the filmmaker who tells his story.

THE BEGINNING

Raymond was born on June 21, 1952 to Alfred and Vera Raymond of Hahnville.

He was the fifth of ten children, excelled in sports and never let the prejudice of the 1960s sway his ambition to be a successful athlete.

Noted as being an independent and self-motivated teenager, Raymond enrolled at HHS under the Freedom of Choice rule, which allowed voluntary, not forced, integration.

Raymond’s desire to take a walk on the other side of the segregation line has since been credited by many as the turning point of integration in St. Charles Parish.

Although it was a path he was prepared to follow, the road that would lead him to the other side was not always one easily traveled.

A LONG, HARD ROAD

It was a time of hatred, anger and separation. But it was also a time for change and deep inside Raymond knew how influential his enrollment at HHS would be.

In the March 1992 issue of The Hahnvillian, Raymond’s mother recalled how nervous she would get when her son would have to travel to compete in away games:

“There were times when Don was refused service at restaurants, but because of the support of teammates and coaches, everyone boarded the buses and stopped somewhere else.

“Don would often return from games with with large cleat marks in his back and skin missing everywhere, but he wouldn’t say a word.

“Don told me that he knew what he was doing and that he’d make it, and I trusted that.”

At one point in time, the school even had to arrange police protection for the football team.

But none of this would prepare Raymond or his family for the tragedy that was to come.

THE ACCIDENT

On March 30, 1969, Raymond and his girlfriend Deborah Francis were traveling home along River Road in Hahnville when they collided with another vehicle, which was driven by Danny Wagester - Raymond’s fellow teammate and friend.

Raymond was the only fatality and was pronounced dead on the scene. He was 16 years old, a junior in high school and a member of the football, baseball, basketball and track teams.

The night before the fatal accident, he had participated in four events at a district track meet. In each event he placed first.

One of Raymond’s former coaches, Bob Gros, has been quoted as saying, “Don Raymond was a complete winner with great talent and unlimited ability.”

And the same can be said for his strong devotion to his friends and family.

THE FRIENDSHIPS

Singleton’s brother, Larry, and Raymond were about as close as a pair of childhood buddies come.

They both enjoyed playing sports, but weren’t able to play on the same team or even compete against one another because Larry was a student at Carver High School, which was mapped in a separate district.

“My brother was best friends with Don (Raymond). They grew up playing sports with each other and were inseparable,” said Singleton.

“They always dreamed of one day having the opportunity to compete against one another.”

Singleton says that in the weeks leading up to Raymond’s death, the school districts were revised and a track meet between Carver and Hahnville was on the spring schedule.

But fate was in the hands of a higher power.

The accident that would change so many lives took place on the Friday before the big relay, and Raymond would never live to see their dream come to fruition.

Little did anyone know that 29 years later Larry’s younger brother would put his heart and soul into preserving Raymond’s legacy.

THE DOCUMENTARY

A little over a decade ago, Singleton began writing a biography on the life and times of Raymond, but it wasn’t until he met a lady named Angela Mula did he ever imagine that a documentary would become the prelude to his project.

“I first met Glenn Singleton at the filming of Racing for Time when it was filmed in New Orleans,” said Mula.

“He was telling me about a the Don Raymond story he had been working on for the past twelve years.”

“I thought it was a great story to tell. The more he was talking about the story, the more I thought it was a good idea to do a documentary first, to get the story out there.”

Singleton and Mula immediately began collaborations and started production with the help of a company named Slag Entertainment and Lawrence Coleman, assistant to the project.

“My film honors Don Raymond by focusing on the short life that he lived and the things he went through to accomplish what he did.”

Singleton says that an integral part of the documentary-making process was personally interviewing people who played a major role in Raymond's life such as his sports coaches and close friends and family.

But what could be more amazing than capturing a missing chapter of history on film? The notion that Larry and Raymond's dream of competing may be closer to becoming a reality than ever before - through the talent of their nieces.

THE LEGACY

Singleton's daughter, Precious, who is also Larry's niece, has made quite a name for herself in the high school track arena and so has Raymond's niece, Brittany.

"When these two girls compete in the upcoming Don Raymond Relays, they will be fulfilling the dream of their uncles," said Singleton.

"Whether standing side by side or across the field, they will be running for a reason, for the legacy and friendship their uncles shared."

“When I hear the word, legend, I think of a person that endured much in their lifetime, and it took many years to achieve their goals,” said Singleton.

“But in this case, Don Raymond endured greatness at a very young age, and his life was shortened at a young age.

“In my opinion, legends are people who dream, and dreamers always do what needs to be done to achieve their goals. Don Raymond was a true legend. May God bless him.”

Hahnville High School will host the 2008 Don Raymond track relays on March 7 at the HHS stadium. For more info, call the school at 985-758-7537.

Raymond, above, was the also the first black football player to make the LHSAA All-State team in 1968.
Glenn Singleton, left, of Ama spear-headed Don Raymond film.
Pictured is the Volkswagon Raymond was driving the night he died.
DON RAYMOND RELAYS. The first ever Don Raymond Relay track meet was held in 1982 at Hahnville High School.
 



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