Frank Dowsing was a hero in Tupelo, Mississippi.


"No one was more important to the integration of athletics in Mississippi, and where in the country could that have been more difficult? And yet today, his name has faded from the state’s collective memory.


He would not be the first African-American pioneer to be written out of history. But there’s more to it. Dowsing’s story has been neglected, some say, not only because he was black, but also because he was gay. And because he died of AIDS." Andrew Maraniss


Story photographed for ESPN The Undefeated
Frank Dowsing (left) with Robert Bell (right), who were both the first Black football players at Mississippi State with coarch Charley Shira.
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Frank's photo and jersey from the 1973 Hula Bowl
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The current Tupelo High School football stadium. Photography by Lynsey Weatherspoon for The Undefeated
The current Tupelo High School football stadium.
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Jack Reed Jr. shares a story of playing on the B-team with Frank Dowsing. Jack helped lead a campaign to induct Frank Dowsing into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame, which was succeeded in 2010.
Jack Reed Jr. shares a story of playing on the B-team with Frank Dowsing. Jack helped lead a campaign to induct Frank Dowsing into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame, which was succeeded in 2010.
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Emile Petro, former MSU teammate, talks about his last time seeing Frank before he passed away. Photography by Lynsey Weatherspoon for The Undefeated
Emile Petro, former MSU teammate, talks about his last time seeing Frank before he passed away.
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Tupelo is famous for being the birthplace of Elvis Presley. Jack Reed Jr. believes Frank Dowsing has had more influence on Tupelo than Elvis Presley.
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A plaque of Frank's obituary hangs in Virginia Toliver's living room in Palmetto, Mississippi.
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Virginia Toliver looks through albums for pictures of her brother, Frank.
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Virginia Toliver, Frank's sister, holds one of her favorite pictures with Frank.
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Wedding photo of Frank and LaFawn Gilliam in 1973
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Virginia stands at her brother's gravesite which is close to her Palmetto, Mississippi home.
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