After massive legal precedents were passed during the Civil Rights Movement, three public high schools in Alexandria, Virginia consolidated all of the city’s students, regardless of race, into T.C. Williams High School in 1971. Amongst high racial tensions, it became the only public high school in Alexandra serving 11th and 12th graders. The area’s three football teams combined to form a squad of the city’s best players, and the Titans would overcome their differences on and off the field during that time to win the 1971 Virginia AAA State Championship. The season was popularized in the 2000 film “Remember the Titans” starring Denzel Washington as head coach Herman Boone.
One of the leaders of that team was defensive end Julius Campbell. A team captain alongside linebacker Gerry Bertier, Campbell and the Titans’ defense pitched nine shutouts during a perfect 13-0 season. On January 25, 2019, Campbell died of multiple organ failure, according to The Washington Post. He was 65 years old.
Campbell, who was portrayed by actor Wood Harris in the award-winning film, went on to Ferrum Junior College after his high school career at T.C. Williams. According to The Post, an ankle injury prematurely ended his playing career. He’d aspired to play for head coach Woody Hayes and the Ohio State Buckeyes. Campbell is survived by his wife, Cathy Campbell, one daughter, three stepdaughters, two stepsons and five grandchildren, according to Yahoo! Sports.
“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. 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.”
— Herman Boone, via The Washington Post
In that 1971 season, the Titans’ defense surrendered a microscopic 113.4 total yards per game, recovered 16 fumbles and intercepted 18 passes during the year. Bertier was named an All-American football player with an insane statline of 142 tackles and 42 sacks. Julius Campbell recorded 34 sacks of his own in 1971 as their defense earned the nickname “The Monsters of King Street.”
Bertier was paralyzed during a car accident after the season was over in 1971. He went on to earn multiple medals competing in the Paralympics, and he and Campbell remained close friends until Bertier’s death in a separate car accident in 1981.
With the help of quarterback Ron Bass, tailback Frankie Glascoe, and defensive back Earl Cook, the Titans shutout Andrew Lewis High School, 27-0, and held them to negative five yards of total offense in the state championship game. This differs from the Disney movie, which portrayed T.C. Williams High School defeating Marshall on a last-second, game-winning play. In actuality, they defeated Marshall in a similar fashion, 21-16, during the fifth game of their regular season in ’71.
If you haven’t heard this story before or seen the film, which is widely considered one of the greatest sports movies of all-time, please buy yourself a copy right here.
While the Disney movie exaggerated several aspects of the real season, the story that Julius Campbell helped to tell lives on and still remains relevant today. Instead of flowers, Campbell’s family has requested donations to The ’71 Original Titans Scholarship Award Program.
Just one more act of kindness for a man who helped to shed racial tensions at the source and played one hell of a high school football career that put his incredible spirit and passion on display to the world.