by Dan Ford
The Milton Barron Story
Milton Eugene Barron had played all sports in the little town of Melrose, just 26 miles due west of Clovis on Highway 60, for his previous three high school years. In his junior year they had lost to eventual champion Capitan in the Class C semi-finals. Milt played all sports and was a star in all, but it was football in which the 200-pound bruiser excelled.
His parents were divorced, apparently sometime during that last year in Melrose. It became common knowledge that Milton’s mother could not support her family on Melrose wages and they would move. Milton had four sisters and one brother. There was a hint that she was approached by some Clovis businessmen who enticed her to move to Clovis. Milton and his mother did move and Milton earned a letter in track in the spring of 1954, his junior year. But then that summer she moved to Ft. Worth,TX and Milton went his separate way. He moved to Weed, a hamlet tucked away in the foothills about 80 miles west of Artesia. They had a high school in Weed but it didn’t play football.
It was never revealed why he went to Weed except that maybe his father was there. Another good reason for moving from Melrose in 1954 was because his high school sweetheart, Betty, was pregnant. They would be together when she gave birth to a healthy baby girl on September 23, 1954, the day before the Albuquerque game (curiously, there is no mention of his stats during that Albuquerque game, suggesting he was with Betty when she gave birth in Melrose and missed the game). They would marry in December and have two more children together.
There are several clarifying assumptions that need to be made at this point. Why was Milton Barron allowed to transfer in the middle of his junior year from Melrose and participate in Track at Clovis? Why did Clovis allow a married man with a child to participate in sports in 1954? It was later revealed that Barron participated in Track at Clovis before he was released by Melrose but apparently the transfer was otherwise legal with both schools agreeing. The transfer due to the hardship of his guardian mother probably did not need Association approval. Even into the 1970s many schools would not let a married student participate in sports, reasoning that, as the Bible says, “when I became a man, I put aside childish things.” But this was Clovis. This was Wildcat football and he was an important part of it.
Barron continued to play and was not a part of the Dugan controversy until someone began to ask questions. During the investigation by Montgomery word came down about “downtown” business influences and a certain loan fund made available to the Barron family. On top of the Dugan review, Montgomery was hailed to take a closer look. What they found was like a starter pistol smelling of gunpowder. Yes, a smoking gun.
The annual teacher’s convention in New Mexico was always a big deal. School was out for a few days late in October. Football games were played on Thursday or not at all that weekend. All teachers attended whether it was in Santa Fe, Albuquerque, or Roswell. It was also a time for election of the related associations, including the NMHSAA.
It was at the 1954 convention that U.G. Montgomery announced that he was extending the penalty against Clovis to not only require forfeiture of two more games played since the initial penalty but that the entire rest of the season was to be canceled. Some argued that it was double jeopardy since Clovis was being penalized twice for the same action. The Clovis school board was outraged by the October 28th decision. Letters to the editor ridiculed Montgomery. The Clovis administrators heard about it in their hotel rooms in Albuquerque and were equally stunned.
What nobody knew at the time was that Montgomery had uncovered allegations regarding a second player, Milton Barron.
The NMHSAA organized a 3-person investigation team that came to Clovis and talked to involved citizens for two days, starting November 1st. Besides Monty, a board member from Deming and from Las Vegas joined him. (it was never made clear why the penalty was assessed and announced before the investigation although it was certainly more convenient to do so with all parties at the convention.)
It revealed that the Rotary Club in Clovis had established a loan fund for students in the area. Although the investigation centered on the Rotarians, it evolved into other “downtown” activities. It was discovered that Barron had been lured to Clovis from Melrose.
The Rotary Loan Fund was managed by Floyd Bresenham, the father of Wildcat co-captain Jack Bresenham. Floyd explained that the fund was established 15 years ago and that it was a common practice among all Rotary Clubs across the nation. This fund had loaned students $200-800 to continue their education. 80 students had received such loans over the last 12 years. The loans had to be repaid from summer work during the school year involved and interest was charged at a 6% rate. The damning part was that most of the students were female and only two of the 80 were. It was deemed highly inappropriate, if not a masking effort to recruit the athlete. Bresenham was cooperative to the point of disclosing Rotary policy and history of the fund.
The Rotary Club would be exonerated as was the Staubus Memorial Loan Fund, named after the Clovis coaching legend who died in 1951. Neither had supplied funds directly to the Barrons.
A more damaging account was set up by nine businessmen in Clovis, each agreeing to put $50 into the fund to be called “Personal Student Loan Fund”. It was established September 10, 1954 specifically for Milton Barron. Milton was to be limited to $50/month withdrawals but had taken $156 in a 20-day period. His only income was from his 8-hour shifts at Safeway on Saturday and Sunday at $1.15/hr. Clearly he did not have the income to support his family or pay back any loans. Barron told the investigating committee that he was living in the house for free, just being required to keep up with maintenance. The landlord however said he was paid $45/month from the loan fund.
The news of the investigation was released and printed in its entirety in the Clovis News-Journal on November 3, 1954. While public outcry continued, it was hollow and without substance. The report had concluded that there were many contradictory statements that made it hard to follow all of the evidence but that “there has been a great deal of interest by town people in assisting students through loans.”
Milton Barron was suspended from participation for the rest of the 1954-55 school year.
The final nail in this story came a few months later when the Clovis legislator presented a bill to abolish the New Mexico High School Athletic Association. It was roundly defeated and numerous newspapers in the state criticized the legislator and Clovis in general for carrying the chip on their shoulder pads a little too long.
How It Ended
Travis Stovall was in his first year as Superintendent of Clovis in 1954 and weathered the storm. He continued until 1964 when he accepted the same position in Alamogordo, finally retiring in 1977.
Dave St. Clair continued as principal and with the Clovis School District for over 20 more years.
Bill Stockton was best known for his coaching success at Clovis prior to becoming Athletic Director. Well informed basketball historians will also know him and his brother, Charles, as members of the Forrest High School team that won state in 1931 and 1933. He left Clovis High in 1955 to become the head basketball coach for the Lobos at UNM. He eventually retired to Clovis.
U.G. Montgomery stayed on as Executive Secretary and saw the transition to the New Mexico Activities Association, retiring in Albuquerque in the mid-1970s.
Bob Dugan is a tough one. He had planned to get enough summer credits to graduate early but he returned to Clovis High School for his senior year. He didn’t play football. He graduated in 1956. A few years later a Bob Dugan bought a moving and storage business in Clovis but it is unknown if it is the same one.
Milton Barron certainly had a tough life. The broken family in Melrose, the early marriage and the suspension during his senior year was a stressful way to start out. He was chosen for the all-star game in the summer of 1955 and he starred on the freshman team for UNM. He did not appear on the Lobo roster the following year. Milton and Betty had a child, Milton Jr, born in Clovis in November, 1956. The family lived in Albuquerque and Milton worked for Mountain Bell during the day and for the Chesterfield Bar at night. Late on the evening of January 13, 1959 Milt was dropping off employees from the bar. He had one final stop to make five miles south of the city. His car left the road for an unexplained reason and hit a tree. His passenger survived but Milton Barron was pronounced dead at the scene. He was 23 years of age. Betty returned to Clovis where, two weeks after her husband’s death, she gave birth to their third child, Larry David Barron.
Clovis would not have a winning football team until 1960 when they started out 2-4 but fought back to win the state championship game against Ralph Neely and the Farmington Scorpions. Under coaches Dunny Goode and Eric Roanhaus starting in the 1970s they dominated the large school scene and, all toll, have won more football games than any school in the history of New Mexico. Roanhaus has won more games than any coach in state history since he started in 1978.
The 1954 season ended with the two league champions, Highland and Artesia, meeting on Thanksgiving for the state title. Highland won, 20-0. Clovis finished 5-1-1 on the field when their season ended abruptly after a thorough spanking of Hobbs (50-7) but the official record book shows them 0-7.