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Tennis Coaches Removed after Racial Flap

May 14, 1988

FORREST CITY, Ark. (AP) _ A high school tennis coach was fired and another resigned after one had a visiting black athlete play her match at a city court while her white teammates competed at an all-white country club, officials said.

Teresa Whitfield, a 16-year-old ninth-grader and the only black on the Earle High School tennis team, was to play a Forrest City High School opponent April 26 at Forrest City Country Club.

But Forrest City coach Charles Bowlin told her she would have to play her match on a city court, school officials said.

Bowlin announced his resignation as tennis coach but will remain on the teaching staff. Calls to his home were not immediately returned Friday.

On Thursday night, Earle tennis coach Jack Hosford was relieved of his coaching duties but kept on as a teacher. Hosford’s number is unlisted, and he could not be reached for comment.

″We felt his decision not to bring the whole team home following the incident was not a wise one,″ said Earle’s school superintendent, Bobby Clark. ″He has done a good job teaching for us. He will not be penalized beyond the coaching duties.″

Embarrassed members of the Forrest City School Board drafted a formal apology to the black teen-ager Thursday night, said board President Marlene Zaleski. The board ″deeply regrets this incident,″ she said.

In addition, the board adopted a policy that calls for the firing of those who disobey board policies on racial equality. It also calls for training of school personnel ″so that there will not be any form of discrimination.″

School officials at Earle refused to allow a reporter to talk to Miss Whitfield by telephone. Calls to her home Friday went unanswered.

Dan Dennis, president of the country club, said the Forrest City High School golf team has used the club’s course for two years and has hosted teams with black players without incident.

Dennis said he assumed Bowlin ″knew it was all right″ for blacks to play at the club. He said the club has no written policy prohibiting black members but has no black members.

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