First African American on Bulldog football team to visit campus
Norman Seabrooks, the first African American to play football for the Bulldogs, will return to The Citadel in November.
Seabrooks’ Citadel experience, how it shaped him and how it motivated him to succeed in his career will be the focus of his lecture, which is sponsored by the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, The Citadel African American Studies program and Donald J. Doody, Class of 1973 and a Florida attorney. The lecture is at 6:45 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 11 at the Holliday Alumni Center, 69 Hagood Ave. It is free and open to the public.
Seabrooks, Class of 1973, entered The Citadel at a tumultuous time in the nation’s history. The Vietnam War raged on in Southeast Asia while anti-war protests caused unrest at home, and the civil rights movement experienced some of its darkest moments with the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Throughout the South, the civil rights movement was marked by violence, unrest and the struggle for equal rights. At The Citadel, African American students also struggled at what was then an all-male and predominantly white military college in the South.
The first African American cadet, Charles Foster, graduated in 1970. The year before, Seabrooks enrolled and faced the same challenges Foster did as one of few black men among hundreds of white cadets in a segregated city and state. Amid the challenges, Seabrooks distinguished himself on the gridiron. A three-year starter on the football team he earned first-team All-Southern Conference recognition in 1972 and he served as team co-captain while playing for coach Red Parker. He was inducted into The Citadel Athletics Hall of Fame in 1994. A Dean’s List history major who obtained the rank of cadet first lieutenant, Seabrooks graduated in 1973 and went on to a successful career in the health insurance industry with Aetna Inc., where he is currently a regional market president in Seattle, Wash.
“Norm has had a difficult relationship with his alma mater because of his experience as a cadet. Despite that he distinguished himself on the football field and is among the college’s most successful student athletes,” said Marcus Cox, assistant dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences. “We hope that by sharing his story he can be an inspiration to all those who aspire to be leaders of principle whether they are Citadel cadets, high school students or the general public.”
Seabrooks grew up in Pahokee, Fla., a small town on the shores of Lake Okeechobee in Palm Beach County. With a population today of nearly 6,500 people, the southern Florida town is synonymous with sugar cane farming and with producing a plethora of NFL football stars such as Rickie Jackson (New Orleans Saints and San Francisco 49ers), Reidel Anthony (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), Anquan Boldin (Baltimore Ravens), and Alphonso Smith (Detroit Lions).
Seabrooks began his career with Aetna right after graduation as an account executive in Washington, D.C. He moved up Aetna’s ranks holding positions in New York and Los Angeles before moving to Seattle in 2001 to head up the company’s middle market sales and service. In 2003, he was promoted to vice president of sales and service, overseeing the middle market customer segment. As part of Aetna’s reorganization in 2010, he was selected as one of its 18 market presidents (one of two African-American employees in that role), with responsibilities for the Pacific Northwest. He is now one of the top 100 employees of this Fortune 500 company of 35,000 employees.