A Rare Breed: Buddy Phelps

Oct. 17, 2003 — The bark is back and so is the bite in the Bulldogs of Butte High this fall. The Dogs are off to their best football start in over two decades. The leader of the dog-pack, is junior quarterback Dallas Cook. He is putting up incredible numbers for an offensive that seems impossible to stop. A refreshing part of Cooks demeanor is the fact he is an African-American. In today’s world, he is judged by what he does on the field not the color of his skin. African-American players at Butte High have been a rare breed. The most talented was Alvah Phelps better known as Buddy. He played for the purple-and-white 100 years ago when the color of a player’s skin did mean something. There was plenty of prejudice and few opportunities back in 1913 for African-Americans when Phelps joined the Butte High football team. The club was led by the Bulldogs only African-American Coach August Holste. The 1913 squad was tremendous going 6-0-1 and winning the state championship. Butte High won the state title beating Billings in the finals 7-6. The folks in Billings complained that the Butte players were a bunch of cannibals and thugs. They refused to play the Bulldogs the next season. Holste like many other Butte High coaches that were white only stayed on as the Bulldogs skipper for one year. Butte High went twelve straight season with a new coach every year. Holste went on to coach at Lewistown. Phelps stayed in Butte and had a brilliant career for the Bulldogs. Buddy led the Butte club in rushing yards and touchdowns in both 1914 and 1915. He helped Butte High to win a pair of state and regional championships. Phelps also played basketball for two years for the Bulldogs. Yet, the sport where the young African-American was a true superstar was track and field. Phelps won the 50 and 100-yard dashes at the state track finals in 1913. In the next two years, Buddy won the 50, 100 and 220-yard runs at the state track finals in Missoula. When his track career came to an end in 1915, Phelps had won eight Gold medals at the state track meet. It was the most gold medals ever won by a Bulldog. It is a record he still holds today. Phelps was a star of star in his time for the Butte Bulldogs. He produced results that would stand for many years to come. The same thing is now taking place 100 years later with another African-American, Dallas Cook, turning heads all across the state.