By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
50-year-old feat finally recognized
1958 team gets championship rings
Placeholder Image
After 50 years, Leesburg native Joseph “Joe” Lane never dreamed he would receive a long overdue recognition. But stranger things have happened.  
Lane was raised in Jacksonville, and as a teenager,  he was part of the 1958 Matthew Gilbert High School football team. That year, the team was undefeated for the season and won the state championship.  
“We were the state’s first all-back champions. I was a left guard on the football team,” Lane said.  
Since it was a time of segregation and all their opponents had been other black schools, the team’s accomplishment went unrecognized for years.  However, things changed when Florida Sen. Tony Hill got involved and decided it was time the team receive the recognition it deserved.
Subsequently, Mayor John Peyton of Jacksonville proclaimed Dec. 11, 2008,  as Matthew Gilbert High School’s 1958 Championship Team Day. On Jan. 2, members of the 1958 championship team were honored at the old high school by the mayor and school superintendent.  
Each member of the team, along with coach Earl Kitchings, received a championship ring and jacket.
“I received my No. 61 jacket,” Lane said.  Many players were deceased by then. Some of them were in wheelchairs, but that didn’t dampen their spirits.
The recognition, however, did not stop there. Hill wanted the state legislature to honor the team. He chartered a bus for the players to travel from Jacksonville to the capital in Tallahassee.  
On April 22, Lane and members of the 1958 football team arrived in Tallahassee and met Gov. Charlie Crist. The players were honored during a luncheon.   
“It was truly a special moment. My wife Amy,  my mother-in-law Vesta Dean and other relatives also attended with me,”  Lane said. “It was long overdue.  It took 50 years to get rings and recognition. We were the first all-black state champions in the state of Florida.  Our record was 11-0. I am proudly wearing my ring,” Lane said.
“The late great Bob Hayes, who played with the Dallas Cowboys and in the Olympics, was a member of our team. The team was coached by Earl Kitchings.  He passed away a few days before the luncheon. He was 84 years old,” Lane said.  
After graduating from high school,  Lane  joined  the military and served 24 years in the Army, including combat time in Vietnam.  He came to Fort Stewart from Germany in 1981 and retired in 1985. While serving in Germany, Lane worked with the 3rd Infantry Division Military Police Company. When he came to Fort Stewart, he worked with the 24th Infantry Division Military Police Company.
After retiring, Lane was employed as a Department of Defense civilian policeman  and then with the Hinesville Police Department.  He retired from the HPD in 2002 and is currently working with the Liberty County Sheriff’s Department in the security division  at the Liberty County Courthouse.  
An avid sportsman, Lane says athletics promote camaraderie, values and strength.  “It shows you how to work together as a team,” he said.  “I am a people person and knowing how to work with people goes a long ways.”

Anderson is the author of “Lack of Knowledge” and “Dare to Soar.”
Sign up for our e-newsletters