Dr. Jimmy V. Scales has been a pioneer, whether it’s being one of the first two African American football players at East Central University in the 1960s or being the first African American appointed to the Oklahoma State School Board in 1984.
Scales, a nationally-recognized educator, civic and social leader and former superintendent of Hamilton County Schools in Chattanooga, Tenn., will address 232 bachelor’s degree candidates and 101 master’s degree candidates during the 2015 ECU Fall Commencement Ceremonies at 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 12, at the Kerr Activities Center.
He will also be honored as a 2016 ECU Distinguished Alumni.
Scales, along with fellow teammate and African American Jackie “Tex” Rollins, came to ECU during a tumultuous 1960s in which civil unrest was the rule of thumb between desegregation and segregation, but Scales remembers an ECU campus which accepted him with open arms.
“For me, I was embraced by my professors and (football) coach Elvan George. I never experienced any discrimination,” said Scales, who played for the Tigers from 1963-65 and graduated in January 1966 (finals were taken after the holidays then).
Some of the racial barriers were gone from campus after legendary basketball coach Mickey McBride recruited a couple of African American players a few years prior, according to Scales. But that doesn’t mean the divisions were not around, especially on the gridiron when the Tigers were away from home.
Scales remembers and was amused by one incident in which ECU was scheduled to play a team from Arkansas in a home-and-home series. The Tigers were headed to Arkansas the first year with the return game scheduled for the next year in Ada.
“Coach George made a courtesy call to let the coach and athletic director at the Arkansas school know that there were two African American players making the trip,” Scales said. “After a few days they called back and said they needed to leave the two of us at home. Coach George shot back and told them when they came over to play us, to leave their best linebacker and defensive halfback at home, no matter what color they are.”
The games were not played, according to Scales, who treasures many stories from his time at ECU.
The fortunes didn’t end at ECU for Scales, particularly when it came to the education field. Scales served as a teacher, coach and later as a principal at Millwood High School in Oklahoma City and McLain High School in Tulsa before becoming superintendent of the College Station (Texas) Independent School District and deputy superintendent of the Dallas Independent School District.
He was appointed to the State School Board in 1984 by fellow ECU alum Gov. George Nigh. That same year, Millwood High School received the National Exemplary School Award from the United States Department of Education. Scales served as superintendent of Hamilton County Schools in Chattanooga, Tenn., from 2006-2011.
In 2010, Scales was inducted into ECU’s Gene and Evelyn Keefer Educators Hall of Fame. Recently, Scales was inducted into the Oklahoma African American Educators Hall of Fame.
He has received the Distinguished Alumni Award from Booker T. Washington High School in Idabel and is a former trustee of Hillcrest Hospital in Tulsa and Texas College in Tyler. Scales has been an avid supporter of the United Way of America and is a Rotarian, a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. and Alpha Epsilon Boule’ of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, in which he serves as chairman of its Education Foundation in his retirement.
Scales received his bachelor of science in health and physical education with a minor in history from ECU in 1966, master of education from ECU in 1969 and a Ph.D. in education and research from the University of Tulsa in 1991.
Scales and his wife, Cynthia, have three children – Jimmy V. Scales Jr., Rosalyn Aplin, and Jacquelyn Burden. Burden is an ECU graduate. The couple also have four grandchildren.