By MIKE MOGUIN
GTR Sports Writer
If you call Lamar Burks and get his voice mail, you’ll hear this message: “I have left the game, but it hasn’t left me.”
Evidence of that can be seen at a hall of fame/museum started by Burks and his partner, the late Gerald Hicks, both Booker T. Washington alums, located inside the school’s historic building.
Booker T. is known for its rich sports history. On display is an array of state championship memorabilia as well as NCAA D-I and professional sports jerseys from Hornet alumni in the basketball fieldhouse.
But there is more to see in a hall of fame/museum that Burks and Hicks established in 2011, not long before the current BTW basketball facility opened the following year.
“The Nathan E. Harris Fieldhouse holds state championship trophies and newspaper clippings. The historical building is like a walk-in scrapbook on the walls,” Burks said. “The art is like a collage.”
Included is all kinds of athletic gear used by former Booker T. athletes, such as football pants, basketball jerseys, plaques, photos, and other memorobilia from the past 100-plus years.
People can see these displays in the historical building by appointment. Of course, they’ll have to wait awhile due to the COVID-19 pandemic that has temporarily closed schools.
Burks, a 1974 BTW graduate, is an avid sports memorabilia collector, as was Hicks, before he passed due to pancreatic cancer in 2012.
“I’m glad he got to see it get started,” Burks said. “I try to make sure to give him his credit because this is definitely not a one-man operation. It’s almost like a two-man operation and we used to laugh and say we built this project from glue and nails.”
Burks played center for Booker T’s 1973 state championship football team, which also made him a part of the first televised high school football game in the state of Oklahoma. The game was the Hornets’ championship game matchup against Hale, aired that year by KTUL-Channel 8.
Burks was selected as a co-first team all-conference on that ‘73 state title squad. He was also an MVP in tennis. He went on to play collegiately at Southwestern College in Winfield, Kansas, where he was a three-year lettermen, alternating between center and linebacker.
Hicks also played football, wrestled and graduated from BTW two years after Burks.
As an art teacher and coach for 30 years in the Tulsa Public School system, Burks coached football, track, tennis, and was a public address announcer for the Central High basketball program. In 2002, he was selected one of 500 national assistant coaches by Coaches magazine. His name is etched in stone in a monument on campus at the BTW memorial on the former BTW campus. Because of his loyalty and efforts, the two museums have received a recommendation and salutation from State Senator Kevin Matthews and the Oklahoma African American Educators Hall of Fame.
Burks had meditated on the idea long before he started the project. He later discovered someone else thought of it and saw him as the man to launch it.
“I went to Booker T. one day, and I knew Coach (Mike) Mims,” Burks said. ”He was the assistant principal at the time.”
Mims is also a BTW alum and is known as being a prominent assistant basketball coach at Oklahoma during the Billy Tubbs era.
”I decided to go up there and ask him if I could start decorating the historical building,” Burks said. Mims had the same idea for Burks.
“I thought, ‘Wow!’ He was almost reading my notes. He had no idea I was going to take it from putting pictures on the wall to progressing it into a sports museum. It just developed.”
So that stage was set for Burks and Hicks to get it going and it grew from there.
“Alumni groups started coming here for their alumni weekend to see it. I’d get phone calls all the time from people telling me one thing they like to donate,” Burks said.
But there are still other alumni groups who have yet to see this gem.
“One of my goals is to make that place bigger than whatever we thought about,” Burks said. “I talked to alumni groups a lot of times and they say they’ve made other commitments to alumni events and have gone to other places, not really knowing they have a facility right here on campus they can use.”
Burks posts messages on social media to make the BTW community, as well as the public, aware of the museum every chance he gets.
“I put it out there on Facebook or somewhere and pass the word that there is a museum at your high school.
People are impressed once Burks takes them on a tour, he said. He would hear comments such as, “I’ve been to this place many times and I never knew there was a museum here. It was like a scrapbook on the wall with college jerseys, helmets, newspaper clippings, articles from state championship teams, history from when they went to Cincinnati, Ohio (1990) in a round robin tournament and won it.”
Students also get thrilled by learning about their fathers and grandfathers playing football and basketball for Booker T.
By launching the museum, Burks has been called a legend by Reginald “Ice” Terry, a former BTW championship footballer, and longtime assistant coach for the Hornets football and basketball teams.
Midtown Quick HIts
Six Tulsa Public School teams made the state basketball tournament early last month. The tournaments were postponed shortly before it was to begin on March 12 because of the COVID-19 crisis. It was ultimately canceled two weeks later.
Teams that made it on the boys’ bracket were Booker T. Washington (Class 6A), Memorial, Edison (Class 5A) and Webster (Class 4A). The girls bracket had Rogers and East Central (Class 5A) in the field.