HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Matthew Fogg was in a predicament.
The Marshall University graduate and retired Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal learned Thursday about the Celebration of Life Service for former Young Thundering Herd quarterback Reggie Oliver scheduled Friday in Huntsville, and he was home in Prince George’s County, Maryland.
Some quick thinking, a quick call to a friend and Fogg had a ticket for a nonstop flight from Washington D.C. to Huntsville. Fogg made it to Union Chapel Missionary Baptist Church in time for the service and delivered his reflection on the deceased Oliver, who died Tuesday, Aug. 14, from head injuries suffered in a fall at his mother’s house.
Oliver was the Marshall quarterback from 1971 to 1973 in the years following the Nov. 14, 1970 plane crash. All 75 passengers perished including most of the football team and coaches, some athletic department personnel and some fans.
Fogg was a Marshall student and got to know Oliver, who was a freshman in 1970 and wasn’t on the tragic flight because first-year players were not eligible for varsity sports.
“It was important to be here today,” Fogg said. “He had an impact on a lot of people.”
Fogg came to Marshall from Washington D.C., in the early 1970s. He was active in campus sports, television and newspaper. He served as an officer in the Black United Students (BUS) organization. He devoted time as a political spokesman for racial issues on campus. He last saw Oliver at Marshall’s 2017 Homecoming
“It was culture shock. He told me to be myself. ... He was always so positive,” Fogg said.
Fogg graduated from Marshall with a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice Administration and later earned honorary master’s and doctorate degrees for his experience, knowledge and skills in law enforcement, as well as his work for civil and human rights. He joined the United States Marshals Service in 1978. He lives in Washington, D.C.
Several Young Thundering Herd players and coaches attended Oliver’s farewell.
Oliver was buried at Cedar Oak Memorial Park in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where he rejoined former Druid High School and Marshall teamers, mates Joe Hood, Larry Sanders Freddie Wilson and Robert VanHorn. Those four died in the Marshall plane crash.
At the burial site, dirt gathered at the old Huntington location of Fairfield Stadium was spread on the five graves. Steve Chapman, who works for West Virginia Public Broadcasting, and Oliver’s teammates Allen Meadows and David Walsh got the dirt last week and had it transported to Alabama. The Marshall Forensic Science Center complex and Erma Byrd Clinical Center occupy the Fairfield Stadium property now. The Herd played at Fairfield until 1990. The stadium was demolished in 2004.
“The day went great. The Fairfield dirt ceremony went great,” said Roger Hillis, an offensive tackle for the Young Thundering Herd who lives in Hazel Green, Alabama.