By Paul Gable
The recent arrest of Conway High School football coach Chuck Jordan for alleged assault and battery in the third degree on a student may have as much to do about 1989 issues as current ones.
According to sources familiar with the incident, Jordan was in his office when an altercation between the student involved and a substitute teacher erupted in a school hallway. Jordan reportedly responded to a request from someone who went to his office and said words to the effect ‘somebody needs to help.’
A section of the police report on the incident states Jordan “unlawfully and without just cause placed his hand on (student’s) neck and shoulder area.”
A key piece of evidence in the case is film from a security camera in Conway High School. According to sources who viewed the video, the student is moving toward Jordan who has his hands up and appears to be waving at someone on the side. A person moves in from the side and behind the student, attempting to pin the student’s arms to his side and drag him out a door. While this is being done, Jordan and the student are very close and Jordan’s hands appear to come in contact with the student in the student’s shoulder and neck area for a brief period.
Initial reports in local media quoted a family member of the student that Jordan choked the student and slammed him. Neither allegation is visible on the security video, according to sources who have viewed it.
The incident occurred on May 26, 2017. Jordan was arrested on June 8, 2017 by Conway police. The student was arrested for causing a disturbance in a school. The school district immediately placed Jordan on administrative leave.
According to sources familiar with the incident, the student and substitute teacher are both African American while Jordan is white. Race shouldn’t have anything to do with the issue but it may be a factor in the back story.
A Conway native, Jordan returned to his alma mater in 1983 as head football coach and athletic director. In spring 1989, Jordan made a decision to replace an African American player, who had been the team’s starting quarterback in 1988, with a relatively untested white quarterback. Jordan wanted to move the player to a different position.
That change led to an August 22, 1989 decision by 31 of the 37 African American players on the Conway roster to boycott the 1989 season. The boycott was announced by Rev. H. H. Singleton who was then pastor of the Cherry Hill Baptist Church and president of the Conway branch of the NAACP.
Singleton claimed Jordan’s decision not to allow the African American player to compete for the quarterback position bordered on “racial bigotry.” Jordan claimed the right, as head coach, to make personnel decisions for his team.
Rep. James Clyburn, the U.S. Representative for the South Carolina 6th Congressional District, was the state’s Human Affairs Commissioner in 1989. At that time, Clyburn called the issue “as far from racism as anything I’ve been involved in.” However, William Gibson, national spokesman for the NAACP in 1989, called the issue racism “in that a white kid would not be treated in the manner (of the African American player).”
Jordan’s decision and the ensuing boycott heightened racial tensions in Conway at the time. Some of those feelings may be lurking in the background of today’s issue, not in the basic facts of the case, but in the various attitudes around town about it.
According to sources familiar with the issue, Jordan may have coached his last game at Conway.
Interestingly, an incident on May 28, 2017 at the publicly owned Bucksport Marina, two days after the school incident, has not drawn any media attention. However, according to the police report of the incident, it was apparently spurred by race.
According to that report, a person who has been identified as the manager of operations at the marina and, possibly, a sub-leasee of the marina and associated campground property, was arrested for 2nd degree Assault. The person was allegedly highly intoxicated when he allegedly ran a golf cart off a road between the marina and campground.
According to the police report, based on “the overwhelming number of witnesses and statements,” after running the golf cart off the road, the person exited his vehicle and yelled, “I told you f—— n—— to get out of my camp ground.”
According to an official of the public agency that owns the marina and campground property, it is awaiting disposition of the case before making any decisions.