Jefferies: Dunbar great passes away
By Mike London
Louis Jefferies Jr.’s obituary appeared in Sunday’s edition of the Post.
Jefferies was an athlete at East Spencer’s Dunbar High during the era of segregation so many local sports fans may not have heard of him, but the record book shows he was an exceptional basketball player.
The African-American schools in his era were tragically under-publicized, as a rule, but Jefferies and the 1963-64 Dunbar Tigers were special enough that their games usually received several paragraphs from the Post, along with boxscores. The Tigers’ winning streak that season reached 17 games.
Jefferies usually appeared in print as “Lewis Jeffreys,” but it’s obvious who was being written about. He was a senior in 1964. His scoring totals can be documented for 20 of the 21 games the high-powered Tigers played that season.
Jefferies’ father, Reverend Louis Daniel Jefferies, retired from Isenhour Brick and lived in East Spencer even though he pastored Union Missionary Baptist church in Charlotte for 38 years. The minister, who passed away in 1999, was a U.S. Army veteran of World War II.
His son would carry on the name proudly. He would serve in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star.
When Jefferies Jr. made the Dunbar varsity in 1961-62 as a sophomore, he joined a tradition of strong teams. Dunbar had won the 2A state title for black schools as recently as 1959. In 1953, the Tigers had laid an unheard-of 102 points on their unfortunate opponents from Albemarle.
Jefferies averaged 7.7 points a game his sophomore year on a team led by Lonnie Kluttz.
His junior year, Jefferies upped his production to 11.4 points a game and joined Kluttz, Nathaniel Davis and Richard Faulkner as double-figure scorers.
His senior year, Jefferies and Davis took turns as leading scorers. Davis scored 18.4 points a game. Jefferies averaged 18.1 in the 20 games in which full stats were recorded.
In 1964, Jefferies’ little brother, Romus joined the varsity. The starting lineup for the Tigers also included Roy Lee Goodlett and John Noble.
Romus, a Rowan Hall of Famer who was a standout football receiver at Livingstone, would average a county-record 29.6 points a game for the Tigers in 1966 as a senior.
Dunbar opened the 1963-64 season warm and stayed that way. A 70-64 win over always rugged West Badin in Dunbar’s gym on Feb. 6 got everyone excited. The Jefferies brothers combined for 38 points in that one.
On Feb.11, Louis beat the buzzer and Kannapolis Carver 61-59. The winning bucket gave him 21 points and gave the Tigers 15 straight wins.
On Valentine’s Day, Louis had his biggest game of the season at Price, pouring in 28 to lead an 82-66 victory over the Red Devils and their stars Rufus Agnew and William Boger.
Louis scored 22 points in a 70-58 victory against Troy that stretched the winning streak to 17, but Dunbar ran into a red-hot Johnny Watkins, West Badin’s superstar, the following night. Watkins scored 31 points, and the Tigers fell 76-67.
Dunbar carried an 18-1 overall record and a perfect conference mark into the district tournament and was the host team as the No. 1 seed.
Dunbar had a bye as Belmont, Lexington and Kannapolis matched up against three Charlotte teams ó Torrence Lytle, J.H. Gunn and Sterling ó in the first round.
In a semifinal, Dunbar faced Kannapolis Carver, a team it already had beaten twice, including a 26-point blowout in Kannapolis. But Dunbar lost 60-59 on late free throws to end the dream of another state title.
Arnold Gill was the hero for Carver’s Blue Eagles, and he also led Kannapolis past Torrence Lytle, a school from the North Meck area, for the district championship and a trip to the state tournament in Greensboro.
Jefferies finished his high school career the next night, scoring 19 points as disappointed Dunbar crushed Belmont for third place.
Jefferies continued his basketball career at Johnson C. Smith and Barber-Scotia.
At Barber-Scotia in Concord, Jefferies helped lead the Sabers to a history-making 1968-69 season. That team is immortalized in the school’s Sports Hall of Fame.