Of all the stories about
Wilson Matthews (and there are literally thousands of them), his
total command of a situation is best exemplified by something that
happened in 1957.
As the whole world knows,
President Eisenhower ordered Army paratroopers to Little Rock to
restore and enforce the court-ordered desegregation of Little Rock
(by then Central) High School. When the troops moved in, they
started parking vehicles and erecting tents on the Tigers' practice
field. They intended to turn it into a campground, helicopter
launching pad and armored vehicle parking lot for the 101st
That is, they did until they
found a loud, angry and assertive civilian in their midst.
"Get those (expletive) things off this field right now," Coach
Matthews yelled. "Where the hell do you think we're gonna practice
troops didn't know who Matthews was, but their instincts told them
they were up against the football equivalent of General George
Patton. According to a Sports Illustrated article by Gary Smith,
nearly 50 years later, the Army reacted by "jumping to Matthews'
command, clearing tents and moving jeeps to the end of the field.
A helicopter levitated so fast that players looked to see if it even
had a pilot in it."