It was 1958. In June, a Baptist Church in Birmingham was bombed by Ku Klux Klan members, killing four girls. In September, the governor of Virginia threatened to shut down any school if it was forced to integrate. In October, thirteen black individuals were arrested for sitting in front of a bus in Birmingham.
And it’s the same year that a 23-year-old white man adopted a paralyzed black man. Their relationship has been described as “the ultimate friendship” and the vitally important lessons learned from Jack Twyman and Maurice Stokes have echoed for generations.
Students at the upper school had the privilege of hearing from Twyman’s son Jay on February 21 in honor of Black History Month. Twyman’s grandson Ted is a student at the upper school.
Twyman spoke of his father’s relationship with Stokes, which started when they were teammates on the Cincinnati Royals. Both were standout players. Twyman described Maurice as the “Lebron” of the era before there was Lebron.
“Imagine being at the top of your game one day, going to sleep, and waking up totally paralyzed,” Jay Twyman said of the horror Stokes faced. After hitting his head on the court, Stokes suffered seizures and ultimately went into a coma. He was later diagnosed with encephalopathy, a brain injury that left him permanently paralyzed.
“My father was not much older than all of you sitting here when he became Maurice’s legal guardian,” Twyman said to the audience in Benjamin Hall.
Twyman not only became his teammate's guardian, he undertook extensive fundraising efforts to help pay for Maurice’s medical care. And, more importantly, the pair became close friends.
“The relationship shared by Jack and Maurice is as profound an illustration of compassionate and unconditional fellowship between two teammates that the NBA has ever seen,” said former NBA commissioner David Stern when he announced the establishment of the Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year Award.
Their relationship, marked by weekly family dinners and an enduring friendship, transcended Stokes’ passing in 1970 at the age of 36. He was posthumously inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame in 2004. Twyman spoke at the induction ceremony. Twyman died in 2012 at the age of 78.
“There are moments in life when it’s easier to look the other way. Don’t. When those hard events com up, make the choice to step up and become that someone for someone else,” said Jay Twyman.