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3 names suggested for All High Stadium

The names of a frozen foods magnate, community development specialist and an early local civil rights leader are each in the running as the replacement names for Bennett High School's All High Stadium.

The Buffalo School Board, during a public hearing Wednesday in the Bennett High School auditorium, heard the cases for renaming the stadium for either Robert E. Rich Sr., Homer B. Platt or J. Edward Nash Sr., respectively.

David Thomas, director of athletics for the Buffalo Public Schools, was among those promoting Rich, the late philanthropist and founder of the Buffalo-based Rich Products Corp., for the honor. Thomas said the fact that Rich was also a Bennett alumnus who coached track and field in the Buffalo Public Schools immediately after college makes him an especially appropriate choice.

"And he's had a very lucrative business that never left the community [and] stayed right inside the City of Buffalo," said Thomas. "For those reasons, I think he well deserves something like this."

But Buffalo Council Member Betty Jean Grant of the Masten District favors Platt, a local U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development official and volunteer track coach who died in 2001, for the honor.

Grant said Platt, who was African-American, like the majority of the students currently attending Bennett, would serve as role model for students who know too little about the positive contributions to the city made by local blacks. Former Buffalo teacher Eva M. Doyle echoed Grant's sentiments and also suggested the board consider Nash, who presided for 61 years over Michigan Street Baptist Church and was one of the pioneers in the early 20th century Niagara Movement, a precursor to the mid-century civil rights movement.

"I would like the Board of Education to name All High Stadium after Mr. Platt or another distinguished African-American of your choice. I respect Mr. Rich. I respect his legacy, but when we think of all the young black men on the fast track to prison, I know that they need to see as many positive, strong black male role models [as possible] and their contributions," said Doyle.

Also speaking on behalf of Platt's name was one of his daughters, Jessica Platt-Parker, who explained how the Boston, Mass., native co-founded the Western New York Jets Track Club, through which he coached and mentored many track athletes throughout their high school and college careers.

Dr. Leonard Katz of the Bennett Alumni Association said Rich, too, had an enormous impact on local sports and physical education, not just at the high school level, but as the engine that brought Bisons baseball back to Buffalo.

West District School Board member Ralph Hernandez said the board's decision will be difficult, because all of the recommended candidates are worthy and suggested a review of the district's deed to the stadium property to determine if there are any restrictions on renaming the property.

e-mail: hmcneil@buffnews.com

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