High Kicks Across the Color Line

Kilgore Rangerettes Integrate in 1973

Eighteen-year-old Freddie Deloise Goosby forever changed the Kilgore Rangerettes when she was chosen as part of the 34th line. She made history, and the Rangerette experience changed her life.

Freddie Deloise Goosby Evans was the first-ever African American to high kick her way across the color line in East Texas when she was chosen as a member of the prestigious Kilgore College Rangerettes. A 1973 graduate of Oak Cliff High School in the Dallas area, Evans was the Co-Captain of the Pivoteers Dance/Drill Team her senior year. Evans was number eighty out of over one hundred hopeful dancers to be lucky enough to get one of the 35 spots. She was one of the lucky ones and made the 34th line of Rangerettes. “I came down here to make it. I didn’t know anyone at Kilgore Junior College, but I just knew I’d make it no matter what,” she told Texas Monthly during an interview about her ground-breaking accomplishment. Evans was confident in her abilities as a dancer and felt it was where she needed to be.

The World-Famous Kilgore College Rangerettes of Kilgore, Texas, are known for their high kicks, precision, and poise as a dance team. The very first of its kind, the Rangerettes were founded in 1940 by Miss Gussie Nell Davis as a way to keep the rowdy fans in the stands during halftime at the Junior College football games. Entertaining fans for the first time in the fall of 1940 under the direction and leadership of Miss Davis, the team regularly performs now 80 years later at Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans games, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City, the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, the last 5 Presidential Inaugurations in Washington, D.C., and by invitation at festivals and events all around the world.

The Rangerettes were Miss Davis’ girls, and she was very proud of what she instilled in them beyond the stage floor or the football field, explaining in an interview for Sports Illustrated “They’ll forget every dance step and drill routine I teach them, but I trust they’ll never forget the values we have here.”

Sometimes criticized for her emphasis on physical appearance and strict discipline regarding the girls on her team, Miss Davis famously retorted “that there is nothing wrong in learning self-confidence, discipline, cooperation, and the ability to perform precision dance, along with poise, etiquette, and personal grooming.” The Rangerette motto is “Beauty Knows No Pain.” Rangerettes know this and continue to live up to the expectation, even after they leave Kilgore.

Evans lived up to this as well and made the most of her time at Kilgore Junior College. She was an active student beyond the classroom and beyond her commitment as an elite member of the Rangerettes. She was selected as a Freshman Class Senator and served as a liaison between the student governing body, Student Affairs Congress (SAC), and the student body. She was one of the very first students in the newly established Fashion Merchandising course at Kilgore College, which culminated in an end-of-the-year fashion show created and run by the students themselves. Evans was also a member of the Kilgore College Sten-O-Ettes, a local organization for women business students. She was even nominated for Homecoming Queen her Sophomore year by the KC Soul Unlimited Club.

After Kilgore, Evans began a career with the United States Postal Service where she spent thirty years working in various capacities. Now retired, she continues to be an active citizen in her church as well as being named Outstanding Volunteer 2013-2014 for her continued commitment and services at the African American Museum of Dallas. In 2015, the former Rangerette was awarded for her Leadership Through Community Service by the South Dallas Business and Professional Women.

Evans returned to her alma mater in June of 2014. As the first Black woman to wear the Rangerettes’ trademarked uniform of red, white, and blue, she was asked to be the Grand Marshall of Kilgore’s first city-wide Juneteenth Parade and festivities. This day is a traditional celebration in Texas commemorating June 19, 1865 – the day American slaves were finally and officially freed in the state, almost three years after President Lincoln’s famous Emancipation Proclamation. The State of Texas adopted the holiday on January 1, 1980. Evans was excited about the opportunity and said, “It’s like making history twice. I’m doubly excited that they’re giving me this honor.” As the festivities wound down, she said that it was overall a “nice day, a nice turnout, but was long in coming.” The Kilgore celebration evolved more than three decades after Juneteenth was officially adopted as a state holiday. “That’s a little slow,” but she added that “The good thing is that it’s here. You have to make it go, you have to adapt. They did a good job putting this together.”

Evans broke through the invisible color line looming in existence for over three decades. She was chosen for the prestigious Rangerettes at a time when race relations across the nation and especially the South was still in a rocky and at times emotional transition. Miss Davis was never in opposition to the integration of her dance/drill team and said she would “be receptive when a qualified black tried out.” Evans met those qualifications and made history. When asked about her time as a member of the Rangerettes and what it meant to her both at the time and afterward, she stated, “In ’73 things were still changing and her inclusion on the line was life-changing.” “Gussie Nell Davis made me the person I am today,” Evans said, “the Rangerettes just made me a better person. I really thank her for that.”

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