by Frank Fitzpatrick
Sometime after Christmas, Warren Sutton, 79, will board a bus in Kitchener, Ontario, and, perhaps for the final time, make the 350-mile journey back to his old hometown of Chester.
There are nieces, nephews, and old basketball buddies he hopes to see. His real destination, though, will be Haven Memorial Cemetery. That’s where his parents and siblings are buried and where he’ll attend a headstone dedication for Emerson Baynard, the Chester High basketball legend who died penniless in 1993.
Basketball is Chester’s signature sport. And when the game was taking root there in the 1950s, Sutton picked it up quickly. A co-captain on the 1956-57 Chester High team that lost in the state championship game, he’d go on to become the best player in Alfred University’s history, a Canadian collegiate star, a draft pick of the NBA’s St. Louis Hawks.
But America’s links to racism were older and deeper than Chester’s to basketball. And that was something that, until he fell in love with a white Alfred coed, the young African American hadn’t grasped.