TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Tommy Curtis was a pioneer as one of the first Black students to attend Leon High School. Curtis died last week, but his impact on Leon, and how Leon impacted him, is something no one will forget.
"To have a person like Tommy, have to go through all that racial pain, and the pain that went along with integration, but still come out the backside of that with love for the school, it's certainly inspirational for me and anybody else that walks these halls," said Leon head boys basketball coach Sean Crowe.
Curtis was one of the first 50 Black students at Leon High school, breaking the color barrier on the boys basketball team.
"The funniest story I have is he came in and he told me who he was and we just started talking," remembered Crowe. "I said, 'welcome to our humble abode,' just being funny. Tommy says, 'your humble abode? This my house! This is the house that I built!'"
Curtis died last week at the age of 69, and his life will be celebrated in the house that he built.
"He found his way while he was here, and he loves this place," said Crowe. "That's why he wanted his memorial service to be here."
A life well lived. Curtis won two National Titles at UCLA playing for the legendary John Wooden in the Bruins' golden era.
"We could say Tommy Curtis is the best basketball player to come out of Tallahassee bar none," said Crowe. "We're just so proud that he came from Leon High School and he represented us and he came back after doing all those things and still represents us."
A love, and a respect, that's mutual.
"Every player and every coach that comes through here has Tommy Curtis to thank for everything that goes on in this gym."
Curtis' memorial service is set for 1:00 on Saturday in the Leon High School gymnasium. It is open to the public.