Author and Historian

Black College Football Expert

Nickole Kerner Bobley

Feb 26, 2019

“I got the bug early in life to want to read and learn as much as possible from these books” [The World Book Encyclopedias], explains Hurd. “I loved sports too and followed Mickey Herskowitz’s column in The Houston Post.”

70 year-old Woodlands resident Michael Hurd is an author, historian and the Director of The Texas Institute for the Preservation of History and Culture at Prairie View A&M University (TIPHC). The TIPHC is digitally documenting the 500-year history of Black Texans.

Born in Texarkana, Hurd grew up in Houston’s Sunnyside neighborhood. During the week, he would hear his celebrated pianist mother practice music in their living room. On the weekends, his father who would take him to area sporting events. His favorite thing to do, however, was to read every issue of The World Encyclopedia that arrived to his home from cover to cover. 

“I got the bug early in life to want to read and learn as much as possible from these books, explains Hurd. “I loved sports too and followed Mickey Herskowitz’s column in The Houston Post.”

In 1968 Hurd was headed to the University of Houston, but Uncle Sam had other plans for him, and he served, instead, in the United States Air Force for 8 years as a medic (with a 1 year stint at Phu Cat Air Base in Vietnam). He was honorably discharged in May 1976. 

At the University of Texas at Austin, he began writing for the Daily Texan, the university’s paper, and covering high school football for the Austin American-Statesman while still a university student. 

In 1979, Hurd accepted a job as a sportswriter with The Houston Post and covered small college sports, including those involving the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC), a league comprised of historically black college programs. He was compelled by that experience to write his 1st book, “Black College Football, 1892-1992,” (Donning) the only book that comprehensively documents the legacies of football programs at historically black colleges. The book was initially released in 1993 and was updated and revised for a second release in 1998. Because of his research and writing on black college football, he is recognized as an expert on the subject and for more than a decade served as a member of the National Football Foundation’s Honors Court for Divisional Players, the group that selects small college players to the College Football Hall of Fame. The Hall began inducting players and coaches in 1951, but has only included “Divisional Players,” those from historically black colleges and other small colleges, since 1996. For that process, Hurd’s book was the primary source for identifying possible Hall of Fame candidates from black colleges. He currently serves on the selection committee for the Black College Football Hall of Fame.

His 2nd book, “Collie J., Grambling’s Man with the Golden Pen” (St. Johann Press), was released in February 2007 and is the biography of Collie James Nicholson, the visionary publicist whose press releases and feature stories on Grambling football reached national audiences at a time when black college sports got little exposure outside of the black media, even from local newspapers. 

Hurd’s 3rd book, “Thursday Night Lights, the Story of Black High School Football in Texas,” published by The University of Texas Press. The book details the history of football programs at Texas' all-black high schools, pre-integration (1920-1970), as part of the Prairie View Interscholastic League.

He has also written for USA Today, beginning in 1982 as a member of the newspaper's founding staff in Arlington, Virginia, at the company headquarters. 1 year later, he was transferred to the West Coast Bureau in Los Angeles, California, where he worked for 10 years. He has covered an extremely wide variety of sports events, from auto racing and equestrian shows to surfing and volleyball. Most notably, however, he has covered events of the National Basketball Association (8 Finals), the National Football League (2 Super Bowls), Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, the 1984 Summer Olympics, and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), including major football bowl games and postseason basketball tournaments including The Final 4. He has also chronicled events such as the Million Man March and wrote in-depth stories on social issues such as affirmative action, and the academic performances and graduation rates of black athletes at major universities.

It was here at USA Today that he would meet and become friends with Viviane, who would arrange travel for him all over the Western United States. Friends for almost 40 years, they became a couple in 2006. 

Hurd has spoken on various black history topics to community groups and at high schools as well as at UT-Austin, UT-San Antonio, UT-El Paso, Sam Houston State University, Livingstone College (Salisbury, North Carolina) and has appeared on PBS. He has been a keynote speaker to the East Texas Historical Association Fall Convention, the Prairie View Interscholastic League Coaches Association Hall of Honor banquet, and the New Braunfels Martin Luther King, Jr. Association MLK Birthday program.

In October 2013, Hurd was a featured panelist for a program at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. titled, "Breaking the Line: Black College Football and the Civil Rights Movement." He is a board member for the Writers’ League of Texas and a member of the Texas Institute of Letters and a University of Texas alumnus.

For a brief stint while living back in Austin (where Hurd would return to the Austin American-Statesman as city editor), he was affectionately known as “The CinnaMan”—a nod to a side business he and Viviane created where he baked gourmet cheesecakes and she would market them for sale.

Recently, he curated the “History of African American Legislators in Texas and Voting Rights” exhibit which runs from through March 15th at Paririe View A&M University in the Nathelyne Archie Kennedy Architecture Building. This event is free and open to the public and only a 45-minute drive from The Woodlands. https://www.pvamu.edu/tiphc/.

“Thursday Night Lights, the Story of Black High School Football in Texas,” is available for purchase at amazon.com. 

For relaxation Hurd bakes for family and friends, attends concerts at The Cynthia Woods Mitchel Pavilion and travels the world with Viviane.  

The Woodlander salutes Michael Hurd and can’t wait to hear what he is up to next!