University of Houston Cougars' head coach Kelvin Sampson became emotional as he shared a story about his father fighting the Klu Klux Klan during a Final Four news conference on Friday.
Sampson's father, John "Ned" Sampson was one of 500 Lumbee Native Americans who helped prevent a KKK rally in North Carolina in 1958.
During the news conference, Sampson recounted the story, which is known as the "Battle of Hayes Pond," USA Today reports.
"I'm very proud of Lumbee Nation. I'm very proud of my father," Sampson, 65, said, according to the outlet. "[Ned Sampson]'s a pretty good person to be a role model of growing up."
He continued, "Even to this day if you go back to Pembroke, North Carolina, he was a rock and a foundation piece for that community. We're a non-federally recognized Native American tribe that's felt prejudice and racism our entire lives. When I was raised in Pembroke, that was a big source of pride — that we stayed with each other. We kind of care of each other. The KKK was huge in that area. That's a vivid, clear image with me."
In 2018, Sampson told Deadspin he was three years old when the confrontation occurred.
"They were bound and determined to break up that KKK rally," he said. "[A KKK member] had put a lightbulb out there in the shed, they were having that rally, pumping their KKK rhetoric. [A member of the Lumbee tribe] shot the light out, shots were being fired. And the first thing [the Klan] did, because they didn't have guns, was they jumped under a truck. Just jumped under it… The next thing you know was the rally was broken up and it was gone, and that was considered a victory. They ran the KKK out of town."
During the 2018 interview, Sampson said he "distinctly" recalled encounters with the KKK around his hometown. He told the sports website that he remembered going Christmas shopping once with his family, only to run into a cross burning.
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"On the way back—I thought it was a wreck. I remember it distinctly. There was a big traffic jam and you could see something burning way up above. And as you got closer, you realized it was this big cross that was burning and you could see people running around with hoods on," he said.
"I didn't know what the KKK was at the time, but my mother got real nervous, talking about taking us out of the car and putting us all in the trunk, because they were going car-to-car checking for minorities. So that was a scary time."
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On Friday, he spoke more about the racism he was confronted with while growing up in North Carolina, including segregated coaching clinics with his father, USA Today reported.
"You didn't think anything of it at the time," Sampson said. "It's the way it was in the 1960s. It was very divided. Very racist. But we survived. We achieved."
Sampson's father was the head coach of his high school basketball team. Now, Sampson heads into his first Final Four appearance since 2002.
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