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Praise for All Guts and No Glory

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Bill Elder’s memoir combines the three most powerful and sacred elements of Alabama folk culture: sport, religion, and race. Based on his experiences as basketball coach of Northeast Alabama Junior College when he recruited the school’s first black student-athletes during the racial charged 1970s, Elder reminds us how harrowing those years were for racial iconoclasts in places such as Scottsboro and on Sand Mountain. His strength is recognizing paradox when he sees it: the evangelical religious values that provoked him to challenge segregation while different religious values caused his Southern Baptist brethren to ostracize him; college faculty and administrators who encouraged his martyrdom while running for cover themselves; sport offering opportunities for blacks that churches and colleges rejected. As history switches focus from the dramatic 1960’s battles at Montgomery, Birmingham, and Selma to the 1970’s skirmishes in places like Scottsboro and Section, it is memoirs like Elder’s that open entire new vistas into the Civil Rights struggles after laws were changed but hearts stayed pretty much the same.
In Bill Elder’s All Guts and No Glory, I felt as if he were raising his hand and swearing to tell the whole truth, so help me God. Through the lens of basketball, he provides an honest look at the complicated and deep seated issues of race while he was growing up and becoming a man (player and basketball coach) in pre-integrated Alabama. The twenty-first century will do well to hear this testimony.
Bill Elder’s book All Guts and No Glory is a painful story told with poignancy and candor. Such a narrative reminds us once again that we must remember our history so that we are not cursed to repeat it.
Dr. Bill Elder’s book All Guts and No Glory is an inspiring and motivating book about how one person faced big issues in life and was faithful in dealing with them. Bill Elder coached during a time of high racial tensions, but he knew what was right and proceeded to do what was right. He faced many adversaries, but always sensed that God was with him. The reader really gets caught up in the story when he faces an angry mob, makes tough decisions about discipline, walks into a house where you could smell gas, etc. This book is an exciting story about one man who did his part to bring about racial reconciliation.
All Guts and No Glory by Bill Elder is a well written account about a component of the Civil Rights experience during the 1960s and 1970s in higher education—especially with the community college sphere in the South. Elder’s work is a good window into a fairly common experience, one about which little is written. Elder is representative of many individual leaders in sensitive positions of supervision who, because of their personal belief, were able to facilitate change that reflected and acknowledged genuine value and human worth regardless of skin color. A profound story of an era when our nation made significant strides at the grassroots, far beyond the court of sports.
Elder writes about the team’s struggle for acceptance, and its eventual success on the court and off, by proving a strong sense of unity to the entire sports community throughout the state.
From the first page until the last, I was riveted by the words, dancing off the page, singing and humming and resonating in a way I could not have imagined. The book by Bill Elder, who has spent more than a quarter of a century as an athletic director and coach, has an eagle-eye approach to the early days of desegregation in Alabama. Brilliantly reported and exquisitely written, All Guts and No Glory should be must reading for those interested in politics and religion as well as the obvious sports audience.
The full story of integration and the civil rights movement in Alabama is being told, bit by bit. Books such as Diane McWhorter's Carry Me Home and Wayne Greenhaw's The Thunder of Angels cover the major upheavals in Birmingham and Montgomery, but smaller, narrow-scope memoirs such as All Guts and No Glory fill in other parts of the picture … It is fascinating to see how [Bill Elder] was determined to put his experiences on the record and name names. And we should bear in mind this all happened in the 1970s, not the 1930s.
A captivating account throughout. Highly recommended.
Elder’s All Guts and No Glory deserves a place on the short shelf of highly readable coaches’ memoirs as well as (on a higher shelf) inclusion in the stack of titles recording the toll of breaking down color barriers to create the New South.
Bill’s story is an empowering one. He not only writes with honesty and recounts the various trials he faced, but he presents it with an non-threatening tone and quietly speaks of his love for Christ and the way it influenced him. In fact, Bill avoids saturating his story with sermons and teachings, and instead focuses on letting his experience as a whole speak for itself. Truly, it does.
Like recent studies of the civil rights movement which concentrate on grass-roots activities in specific communities, Elder gives us a useful account of how “local people” experienced racial change in college basketball. He is correct that this part of the broader story of athletic integration has been mostly ignored, In fact, one can go even further and suggest that the complicated and sometimes painful story of high school sports integration across the South remains to be told. All Guts and No Glory takes one small step towards recreating the landscape of the non-elite college sports world and the effects of athletic integration on local communities.