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St. Norbert College renames basketball court to honor alum Chuck Holton

Vintage photo
Holton, a St. Norbert College ’56 graduate and basketball star, in his younger days. Submitted photo

By Tori Wittenbrock

Associate Sports Editor

DE PERE – On Thursday, Sept. 7, St. Norbert College officially honored the school’s first African-American graduate, Charles Holton, by naming one of their basketball courts located in the Ray Van Den Heuvel campus center, after him.

“I’m simply overwhelmed by the number of people who are here today,” said Holton’s brother Michael, who was present at the event.

Holton’s brother, Michael Holton, speaks about Chuck’s tenacity as both an athlete and as student while at St. Norbert College, and how his expereinces on the campus translated to his success later in life, while also influencing generations of young African-Americans to come. Tori Wittenbrock photos

Seventy-five years ago, on Sept. 14, 1948, Holton first began his basketball career as a Green Knight and would eventually become a three year starter for the team, contributing vastly to the team’s breakthrough season in ‘50-’51 when St. Norbert College would go on to beat Marquette University and rack up 19 wins on the season.

In addition to playing basketball, Holton was a trailblazer on the college’s track and field team as well, being the first person to run a sub 10-second 100-yard dash.

Michel shared an analogy about a study that was done by a gentleman that he once heard about, stating that he said, “‘Most people give up just before they experience success.’ But someone in the audience stopped him and said, ‘But if they quit, how did they know they would have succeeded?’ And the man replied, ‘I didn’t count the people who quit. I counted the number of people who were successful,’ and that was what Chuck was about. Never, ever letting up,” as a testament to his brother’s tenacity. 

However, sports were not the only area that Holton excelled in. He also participated in Greek life as a member of the campus’s Alpha Delta Fraternity, and was a member of the Catholic Action Society. Although he graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Economics, Holton also had experience as the St. Norbert College Times sports editor and editor-in-chief.

St. Norbert College alum and Milwaukee native Chuck Holton was both a prolific student-athlete at St. Norbert, as well as a successful basketball player in the years following his 1952 graduation.

Not only did Holton compete in both basketball and track for the Green Knights, but he was also a part of the Harlem Globetrotters for six years and had a successful career as an athlete.

Chuck Holton's signature enscribed on a baseball court
As a way to both honor and memorialize Chuck Holton, the court was enscribed with his signature for all to see and to recognize his contribution to the St. Norbert College campus and the Green Bay community.

After he wrapped up his career on the court, Holton became the Director of Health and Human Services in Milwaukee County, as well as the Executive Director of Milwaukee’s House of Peace.

Holton passed away at 91 years old in April of 2022, but his memory and legacy will now be enshrined forever on the courts of the St. Norbert campus.

After Michael finished speaking about how meaningful it is to see the impact his brother has left on the campus, Father Michael Brennan blessed the court as members of the current team bowed their heads in prayer and celebrated the legacy of Chuck Holton.

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