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Houston's Kelvin Sampson Discusses Father, Racist Experiences Growing Up in NC

Paul KasabianFeatured Columnist IIApril 3, 2021

Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

Houston men's basketball head coach Kelvin Sampson spoke with reporters Friday about his father, John "Ned" Sampson, as well as his experiences with prejudice and racism growing up in 1960s North Carolina.

Sampson's father primarily worked as a basketball coach and athletic director, and he had a 34-year career with Pembroke High School that ended in 1983.

But he's also known for his role in running the Ku Klux Klan out of Maxton, North Carolina in 1958. During what is known as "Battle of Hayes Pond," he was one of several hundred members of the Lumbee Tribe who prevented a KKK rally from occurring in the area.

"I'm very proud of Lumbee Nation. I'm very proud of my father," Sampson told reporters, per Scott Gleeson of the USA Today. "[Ned Sampson]'s a pretty good person to be a role model of growing up."

He also added:

“Even to this day if you go back to Pembroke, North Carolina, he was a rock and a foundation piece for that community. We’re a non-federally recognized native American tribe that’s felt prejudice and racism our entire lives. When I was raised in Pembroke, that was a big source of pride—that we stayed with each other. We kind of care of each other. The KKK was huge in that area. That’s a vivid, clear image with me." 

Sampson spoke with Nick Martin of Deadspin in March 2018 about his recollection regarding the Battle of Hayes Pond, which happened when the Houston coach was just three years old.

“The thing I remember about Hayes Pond was my father, Mr. Deldon—these were all his friends—they just jumped in a truck and went down to Hayes Pond. And they were bound and determined to break up that KKK rally. [A KKK member] had put a lightbulb out there in the shed, they were having that rally, pumping their KKK rhetoric. [A member of the Lumbee tribe] shot the light out, shots were being fired. And the first thing [the Klan] did, because they didn’t have guns, was they jumped under a truck. Just jumped under it. ... The next thing you know was the rally was broken up and it was gone, and that was considered a victory. They ran the KKK out of town.”

Sampson's father also endured racism while working part-time in a tobacco factory, and the Houston coach noted that water fountains and bathrooms were segregated. His father also taught at segregated coaching clinics.

"You didn't think anything of it at the time," Sampson said. "It's the way it was in the 1960s. It was very divided. Very racist. But we survived. We achieved."

The elder Sampson did his best to break down down those barriers, and Ronnie Davis, a former athletic director of the Public Schools of Robeson County, spoke about the coach.

“It didn’t matter what nationality or race a kid was,″ Chavis told Earl Vaughan Jr. of the Fayetteville Observer in Feb. 2014 following Sampson's death. “He was a kid that needed to be coached.″

Sampson's son will now be looking to win the first national championship of his illustrious coaching career.

His Houston Cougars will be playing the Baylor Bears in the Final Four on Saturday at 5:14 p.m. ET. The winner plays Gonzaga or UCLA on Monday in the national championship.

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