Josiah Navarro and Leta Lohrmeyer
CONTRIBUTOR AND DIGITAL EDITOR
Bob Boozer. Bob Gibson. Gale and Roger Seyers – all Nebraska sports legends. But what you may not know is that they grew up just blocks from each other in North Omaha.
Author Dirk Chatelain said “‘24th and Glory’ is a story about triumph and tragedy.”
Chatelain, an award-winning journalist, gave a lecture at Notre Dame Sisters Housing, a senior living community, on Feb. 20. He spoke about the parallels between the city’s most prominent athletes and the North Omaha neighborhood from which they came from.
“It turned into story that on the surface is about sports, but it’s really about a neighborhood,” Chatelain said.
Published in the summer of 2019, “24th and Glory” represents over 10 years of work Chatelain committed to learning about the culture of segregation and racial tensions spanning from the 1940s to the 1960s.
Chatelain said the challenge was understanding everything to the point where he could share it. Marlin Briscoe, Bob Boozer and Bob Gibson are just a few of the interviews Chatelain conducted to gather more information for the story.
“I did interviews with about, probably 60-70 interviews. And in addition to that, kind of a complement to it, I did a lot of archival research,” Chatelain said.
While these sports legends’ legacies are remembered, Chatelain said he thinks the city of Omaha can do better in acknowledging the injustice the North Omaha community faced all those years ago.
“I don’t think the people have appreciated to this point the neighborhood’s role in their success,” Chatelain said.
Attendees of the lecture said they learned how much the North Omaha community influenced these athletes’ lives.
“[It’s interesting] for me to learn about a town and its events when I was actually here, but didn’t know any of it or learn it,” said Sister Cynthia Hruby of the Notre Dame Sisters.
“I never had the idea that they came from the same neighborhood,” said Notre Dame Sisters resident Mike Driscoll.
Chatelain said he hopes his book is the first step toward acknowledging the tragedies North Omaha faced, while showing how these heroes faced discrimination and gained redemption.