Anyone who has seen the Disney cinematic adaptation of the T.C. Williams High School (Alexandria, Va.) state championship story will be familiar with a couple names. One of them is Sunshine, the nickname for long, blonde-locked quarterback Ronnie Bass. The other two are Julius, the African-American team captain, and (Gerry) Bertier, his white counterpart.
Now, the real-life Julius Campbell has died of organ failure. He was 65.
Campbell’s 1971 T.C. Williams team was the first integrated high school football team in integrated Alexandria. The team finished undefeated, went on a run to the Virginia AAA state championship, and helped present a message of unity during a time of extreme racial tension in suburban Washington D.C.
“Julius was very, very instrumental on that team at simply getting kids to just talk to one another, kids who never talked to kids from another race their entire lives,” Herman Boone, who coached the Titans from 1971 to 1979, told the Washington Post. “By doing so, they learned many things about each other that were not passed down to them and for that, the world owes Julius a debt of gratitude.”
Most importantly, despite facing tough physical breaks that derailed his collegiate career, Campbell never let what could have been impact his outlook on the world, as his coach was quick to note.
“He had a hell of a sense of humor,” Boone told the Post. “Everybody loved being around Julius Campbell.”