• Why the Immortal Ten story still resonates, 95 years later

    Baylor Lariat frontpage: "Ten Members of Baylor Cage Team Killed"

    Each January, the Baylor Family pauses to remember the legacy of the Immortal Ten, a forever-remembered group of 10 students who lost their lives in a tragic bus accident on Jan. 22, 1927. (A memorial in their honor stands in the heart of campus.)

    Nearly a century has passed since that day — this year marks the 95th anniversary — and yet their legacy still resonates among the Baylor Family. Every Bear knows the basics of the story: The Baylor basketball team was headed to Austin to play Texas. In Round Rock, heavy rain obscured the bus driver’s vision of an oncoming train. Unable to stop or swerve in time, the bus and train collided, killing 10 of the 21 student-athletes, coaches and fans on the bus.

    Ninety-five years is a long time for a story to continue to be felt by different generations, by diverse people in divergent eras. One reason it still resonates: The story is told each year at Freshman Mass Meeting, keeping the Immortal Ten’s flame burning across the decades.

    “The story of the Immortal Ten embodies the Baylor spirit, both as it was in 1927 and today,” says Todd Copeland (BA ’90), Baylor’s director of advancement marketing and the man who literally wrote the book on the Immortal Ten. “Sharing this tradition at Freshman Mass Meeting during Homecoming and having the presence of the statues on campus demonstrates the compassion and sense of community that flows through the Baylor family. The story also serves as a reminder to make the most of every day that God gives us in this life.”

    There’s another layer as well that provides connective tissue to the present day. In Copeland’s book, Neil Knighton (BSED ’75, MA ’78) — who for years has had the honor of telling the Immortal Ten story at Mass Meeting — says that, while their memory as the “Immortal Ten” is elevated, they were normal people who played roles that relate to us all.

    “One of the things I try to bring out… is that we don’t make heroes out of these young men,” Knighton told Copeland. “They are your roommates, or the friend across the hall… They were kids just like the ones you’re sitting next to tonight… Tradition is bound up in our relationships that we carry on for a lifetime. The stories help us enhance those relationships. That is the Baylor tradition.”

    Sic ’em forever, Immortal Ten!

    [Want to learn more? Check out Copeland’s book, The Immortal Ten: The Definitive Account of the 1927 Tragedy and its Legacy at Baylor University — available at the Baylor Bookstore, on Amazon and elsewhere.]

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