Before the UIL: Austin ISD's First African-American Head Coach Looks Back

Nathan Hendricks remembers his time as a football coach at Johnston High School well.

But while he is celebrated for breaking the coaching color barrier in Austin ISD, Hendricks said he really just wanted to do what he loved. 

"It was just an opportunity for me to do what I wanted to do," Hendricks said of his joining the coaching ranks at Johnston, now Eastside Memorial, in 1968. "I would say that every individual has a God-given talent, and the sooner you find out what your God-given talent is and develop it, the better off you will be."

Hendricks shared his story and his challenges just a few yards away from where he used to wear a whistle at Eastside.

Across the room was the Prairie View Interscholastic League Traveling Athletic Exhibition. The PVIL played a leading role in developing African-American students in the arts, literature, athletics and music from the 1920s through 1967.  

"My experience with the PVIL was an opportunity that was previously nonexistent," Hendricks said. "It was just like how they say the scale of justice is supposed to be equal and balanced and color should not be a factor, but black athletes had nowhere to go other than the PVIL."

Originally called the Texas Interscholastic League of Colored Schools, the PVIL served as the governing body for extracurricular activities for Texas' African-American high schools.

The structure and format was similar to the University Interscholastic League. PVIL competition included athletics, typing, music and extemporaneous speaking.

"Basically, what I would like the kids to get out of viewing the PVIL exhibit was the fact that if you do not study your history, then you’re apt to make the same mistake again," Hendricks said. "We should all learn from our history and prosper from it, and realize the price that some people paid to get you on the up-and-up."

The exhibit is housed on the second floor of the Marvin C. Griffin Building, 1009 E. 11th St., and is open to the public during regular business hours Monday–Friday.