This former cheerleader broke barriers at TCU. Now he is coming back to share his story

Ron Hurdle had just won a spot on TCU’s cheerleading team in 1969 and came back to his dorm room to celebrate with friends.

He knew something was wrong as his roommate answered the phone and quickly hung up. The next time it rang Hurdle answered, and a voice on the other end said: “You will never cheer for me” and “We are coming to get you” with racial slurs mixed in.

Hurdle and a few friends stayed in his dorm room, prepared for people to come for him. They never showed up but it showed how the news of a Black cheerleader was spreading on campus and even outside of it.

Hurdle was not only TCU’s first Black cheerleader, but he was also the first Black cheerleader in the Southwest Conference. He joined the squad five years after the first Black students were admitted to TCU.

“It was something unique because before that time, we were off to ourselves, everything seemed fine,” Hurdle said. “We were down with the student body and we would play records on the jukebox and we danced and we played cards, everything was fine. But when this happened, the whole atmosphere had changed.”

Hurdle will share his recollections of college life and experiences as TCU’s first Black cheerleader at the Race & Reconciliation Initiative’s Black History Month event “Breaking Barriers: A Conversation with Ron Hurdle ’71.” It will take place at 6 p.m. on Feb. 7 at the Brown-Lupton University Union on 2820 Stadium Drive.

The Race and Reconciliation Initiative was launched in 2020 to investigate and document TCU’s relationship with slavery, racism and the Confederacy.

Hurdle grew up in South Dallas and was the youngest of seven children. He attended Forest Avenue Christian Church, a Disciples of Christ denomination. Hurdle decided to attend TCU because it is affiliated with the church and two of his friends attended the university.

When he arrived on campus in the late ‘60s the turmoil around the country seeped into the conservative campus environment, he said.

The Vietnam War prompted student protests. It was a time of Woodstock, the civil rights movement, the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., and the Black Panther Party was at its peak. Hurdle remembers all of the turmoil.

Hurdle helped to create the student organization Students for the Advancement of African American Culture to help address the issues by bringing guests on campus for lectures and events.

“It was a lot of frustration, a lot of sometimes violence, and a lot of confusion,” Hurdle said. When he looks back on the unrest in the ‘60s there is not much difference in the issues he sees today, he said.

Hurdle and other Black students continued to push for integration on campus. While others choose the band or sports he decided to pursue cheerleading.

Cheerleaders were elected by the student body at the time so Hurdle had to create a campaign. He won a spot on the squad and was elected the next year as well.

One of the major moments of unity he felt with the team happened the day before a football game at Wisconsin.

A school administrator told the cheerleaders that he did not want them to perform any contact cheers such as lifts and stunts. He realized the administrator was concerned about Hurdle’s visibility and wanted to limit any physical contact on a national stage.

Hurdle was new to the program and didn’t know what to say until the captain of the cheerleading team, Susan Beard, said she was against it.

She said their cheers have always been done and they were going to continue them no matter what, Hurdle said. The next day they did their normal routine of cheers and stunts.

Looking back at his time at TCU, Hurdle never thought he was breaking barriers but simply doing what was right for a small Black population on campus.

He says the Race and Reconciliation Initiative will help set the stage for other universities.

“It’s not just about Black people, but it’s about all kinds of minorities,” Hurdle said. “Anyone who’s involved in a situation that they’re discriminated against, or their opportunities are limited, or they don’t get a chance to fulfill their own dreams. That is what it’s about.”