Known for their outstanding basketball skills and fierce red hair, the All American Red Heads were the first women’s professional basketball team and will be coming to Jonesboro for their 86th meeting.
The meeting will be held in conjunction with a presentation by Tammy Harrison, author of “The Journey of the All American Red Heads,” and guest speaker Destinee Rogers, head women’s basketball coach at Arkansas State University, who will speak on women and sports.
During the presentation, Harrison will discuss the lives of his parents, Orwell and Lorene “Butch” Moore, as well as the remarkable female athletes who entertained and inspired fans across the country with their skill and passion, which was the inspiration for his new book.
Harrison was born in Caraway to the Moores, who owned and operated the All American Red Heads for more than 30 years.
Harrison graduated from Arkansas State University with a Bachelor of Science in Education in 1983, before beginning her teaching and coaching career at a Northern Louisiana high school in Tallulah, Louisiana.
After which he accepted the opportunity to further his career and moved his family to Baton Rouge, La., where he still lives.
In 1992, he earned his Masters in Education from Northeastern Louisiana University, now the University of Louisiana.
Harrison has spent most of his life following in his parents’ footsteps and dedicating his time and love of sports to boys and girls of all ages. Although she is now retired after 38 years as a teacher and coach, she still fills in.
“I just love kids,” he said.
She also spends time writing. Along with her recently released The Journey of the All American Red Heads, her first book was Breaking the Press: The Story of the Incredible All American Red Heads, which was published in 2017.
His new book will be available for purchase at the event and is also available on Amazon.
Harrison said each “Red Head” has a story about the impact the organization and experience had on their life path.
In his new book, Harrison said he tells the story of the Red Heads in a yearbook style, filled with historic photographs, memorable player quotes and funny memories.
The book, co-authored by his father, was published earlier this year.
“It takes the reader through a year-by-year journey,” said Harrison, noting that it covers from the very beginning in 1936 with the conception of the team and how they were treated; to grow up with his red-haired parents, who not only owned but also trained and played for the team; as well as through all the award ceremonies and meetings, continuing to this day.
She said that even before Title IX, these women were showing the world what women could achieve if given the chance.
Harrison said authorities at the time questioned the medical, social, mental and physical fitness of the girls and women.
“When the Red Heads started, women were considered weak. They said the game was too strenuous for their bodies and their mental health,” Harrison explained, noting that doctors at the time had even said it could prevent women from having children.
“These were just some of the myths that women had to overcome,” she said.
According to the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame website, the team regularly played more than 200 games per season around the world, winning 70 percent of its games during the six decades, from 1936 to 1986; highlighting that the Red Heads broke social barriers and stereotypes playing in small towns and rural hamlets, as well as in Madison Square Garden and Chicago Stadium.
Harrison said they traveled thousands of miles, reaching 51 states, Canada and the Philippines.
“They played in Alaska before and after it became a state,” the team laughed with pride.
Although they were known for their red hair, they had their own unique antics and were even called the ‘female Harlem Globetrotters’ by some.
Harrison said her goal was to show that women could play basketball and do it well, while still being proud to be a lady.
According to the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame website, although the game was invented in 1891 by Dr. James Naismith and the rules for women were adapted by Senda Berenson in 1892, it was 1926 before the first women’s basketball national championship, which used men’s rules, would be sponsored by the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU).
According to Harrison’s book, it was nearly 50 years after women’s basketball began when CM “Ole” Olson, who already owned a famous traveling African-American team called Olson’s Terrible Swedes, started an amateur team called the “Cassville Red Heads” in Cassville. , Mo., but soon changed the name to “Missouri Red Heads” in 1935.
The Red Heads were a storm team, referring to sports teams or individual athletes who traveled to various locations, usually rural areas, to stage exhibition matches.
“They were a box office draw,” Harrison said, noting that the team’s name actually came from Olson’s equally astute wife, Doyle Olson, who owns several hair salons in the South.
Doyle Olson and Peggy Lawson, who was one of the original Red Heads, named the team while sitting in the backyard.
Harrison said that Doyle named the team “Red Heads” and then Peggy added “All American” because he said the players were AAU, All Americans: and thus the “All American Red Heads” were born.
They played by men’s rules and were hugely successful with the audience, in fact so successful that they would eventually foster two other teams, the Ozark Hillbillies and the Famous Red Heads.
Olson would also meet an itinerant beautician named “Mama” Langerman, who was the mother of twins Geneva “Jean” Langerman and Jo Langerman, who would become two of the first players on the team, having led three teams to the tournament. state high school and an AAU team to win the national championship in 1934.
In 1948, Orwell Moore, who was originally from Ash Flat and had already been a high school coach, began coaching two of the teams, the All American Red Heads and the Famous Red Heads.
Meanwhile, his wife, Lorene “Butch” Moore, began playing basketball for the All American Red Heads.
Harrison expressed his pride in his mother, who played guard and center for several years.
“Plus, he filled in for several more years when the girls were away for whatever reason,” Harrison boasted.
Lorene was also one of the team’s leading scorers with over 35,000 points in 11 seasons and was able to convert 25 free throws directly from a kneeling position.
Harrison still remembers sitting courtside, cheering on her talented 5-foot-6 mother scoring against men who were much taller than her.
Harrison’s father would eventually purchase the Red Heads in 1954. Now based in Caraway, they had three touring teams during the 1960s and 1970s, and during the off-season, the players taught girls basketball at Camp Courage.
The Red Heads were so good that they were reported to have won 500 of the 642 games played against men’s teams in 1972 alone.
They were also featured in many national magazines such as Life, Sports Illustrated, and Women’s Sports, and were widely regarded as the best women’s basketball team in the world.
The All American Red Heads played for 50 years from 1936 to 1986, which remains the oldest women’s professional team.
Over the years, the teams featured AAU All-American players and stars like Peggy Lawson, Kay Kirkpatrick, and Hazel Walker, as well as many local stars like older redhead Willa Faye “Red” Mason of Siloam Springs. , former Caraway coach Benny Overman and his wife and player Pat Rimer Overman, originally from Edina, Mo., and many, many more.
In fact, over the years there were 76 team members from Arkansas, almost twice as many as any other state, followed by Oklahoma with 45 team members and Missouri with 23.
“They were playing seven nights a week, sometimes twice a day, full court against men’s teams,” Harrison said. “They played when basketball was a game of finesse. So different from today. Both women’s and men’s games have switched to more brute force and less finesse. There were no three-point lines in play.”
In 1986, Coach Moore retired and disbanded the Red Heads. They still have meetings when possible.
“When something big happens, we have a meeting,” Harrison laughed, noting that that was usually when they were being honored, like in 2012 when the team was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame or in 2020 when the team was inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame.
This year’s meeting will be a four-day event from September 8-11, with the presentation and book signing on Thursday, September 8 from 6-8:30 pm at the Reng Student Union Auditorium and Mockingbird Room in Arkansas. Campus of the State University in Jonesboro.
Harrison noted that there will be a German film crew on site, working on a documentary about the All American Red Heads during this year’s meeting.
According to an A-State news release, the presentation and meeting will be hosted by ASU’s Dean B. Ellis Library, and Sherry Eskridge, student outreach and engagement librarian, said admission is free and open to the public.
Free parking will be available in the north parking lot for the event on September 8th. For more information about the event, contact Eskridge at libraryevents @AState.edu or call 870-972-3077.