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Edward ‘Punkin’ Vincent remembered

November 3, 2012
By DAVE GOSSETT - Staff writer ( , The Herald-Star

STEUBENVILLE - He grew up on Wells Street in the city's South End, the son of a housekeeper and a steelworker.

According to Dawn Vincent, her father Edward Vincent Jr. never had enough to eat and "was pretty much raised by his father's family."

"As a small boy he developed his lifelong love of horses by walking thoroughbreds at a local race track.

Article Photos

THE VINCENTS — Edward and Mary Vincent are shown in a December 2011 photo. Edward met his future wife while they were both attending the University of Iowa. The Vincents were married for more than 55 years. -- Contributed

But the scrawny kid who was called "Punkin" by his friends developed a love for sports, a loyalty to his friends and a love for his hometown that lasted forever.

After college Vincent was drafted into the Army and later was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams professional football team.

Vincent, one of the Steubenville Trio who starred in several sports at Steubenville High School with Calvin Jones and Frank Gilliam and then accepted a football scholarship at the University of Iowa with Jones and Gilliam, died Aug. 31 in California at the age of 78.

"Eddie was always smaller than the rest of us. We called him 'Punkin' because he was so small. But he was a tough kid. Some people would pick on him because he was small but they never did it again. He was small until the summer between his junior and senior years in high school when he grew about 5 or 6 inches and developed muscles," recalled Gilliam.

"We grew up in 'the bottom,' which is gone now. It was down by the steel mill entrance gates. And we were all close," added Gilliam.

"I never knew anyone like Eddie. I knew him for more than 70 years. We lived in the same neighborhood since we were 4 or 5. We were always together. We were three guys who liked the same things. We had the same ideas about things. We always did everything together. We discussed issues but never argued. In later years we could go three or four years without seeing each other, but once we were together it was like we had seen each other the day before," continued Gilliam.

"I broke my leg while playing football at Iowa and spent an extra eligible year there after Eddie and Calvin graduated. That was the first time we were ever separated. We grew up with a desire to be successful. We wanted to be successful in whatever we did. One way we could be successful was through sports. We never thought about sports as a way out of the neighborhood. It was a way to be successful in something and that's what everyone wants," explained Gilliam.

Bill Kerr, who played two years with Vincent on the Big Red football team, said his friend "was just like the rest of us. None of us had a lot of money."

"Punkin accomplished a lot in his life. His family should be very proud of him. He was a very well respected person," said Kerr.

"He was one of my childhood heroes," noted city resident Pete Barren. "I was a bat boy for the American Legion baseball team when Eddie played for coach Ang Vacarro. And later my dad took me to the Ohio State versus Iowa football games in Columbus to see the three guys from Steubenville High School. I was just a little kid but he always smiled and said hi to me.

"I was on the Steubenville board of education in 1984 when Eddie was the commencement speaker. It was held in the school auditorium that year because of the weather and I remember him being very excited and very enthusiastic. He was very good with the kids," Barren recalled.

Vincent began his political career when he was elected to the Inglewood Unified School District's Board of Trustees. From there he moved on to the Inglewood Council from 1979 to 1983.

In 1983, Vincent began his term as the first African-American mayor of the city of Inglewood and was re-elected for three additional terms. He also served as commissioner of the State of California World Trade Commission.

Vincent served as a member of the California State Assembly from 1996 until 2000, when he was elected to the California State Senate. He left the Senate in 2008 due to term limits.

Patty West of Steubenville said she was "about seven or eight when I first noticed Punkin and Frank with my cousin Calvin Jones. They were always together. Even after Calvin was killed in the 1956 airplane crash Punkin and Frank stayed in regular touch with my grandmother until she died.

"Punkin always came back to Steubenville for visits. And he usually came back during the football season so he could see his Big Red football team. He was a real gentleman. When he came home he would rent a place where everyone could get together to socialize. He never forgot where he came from. And when he was here he always talked to the kids about going to college," according to West.

"I knew my father more as the politician than a sports hero. Inglewood was going through a racial transition when he was first elected mayor and he played a part in that transition. He was a firecracker and a mover and a shaker," Valerie Vincent Taylor said.

"He was a good leader, and if you ever met him, you liked him. In California he was known as the mayor and later on as the senator. But there are a few Steubenville transplants living here who still called him Punkin. I know he always held Steubenville in the highest regard. He was spoke well of the community, his coaches and his friends there. He was very proud of being from Steubenville," Taylor said.

"Those were great days in Inglewood. And my father was a leader. He enjoyed working with people," Taylor said.

Her younger sister Dawn Vincent said her father was "always a fighter."

"He was someone who had fought hard in life and he always fought for the underdog. He was a scrappy guy who would not tolerate anyone being bullied or abused. I think he was small at a young age because he never had enough to eat. Later on in high school Coach Vacarro and some of the people at the high school looked after him and made sure he was eating right," she remarked.

"His three favorite places were Steubenville, the University of Iowa and Inglewood. Many of his stories focused on growing up in Steubenville. Anyone who had a conversation with my dad knew he was from Steubenville, Ohio," commented Vincent.

"He believed he had the right to go to college and to be successful in life. And he worked hard in everything he did," added Vincent.

"My dad was shooting baskets one day in the fieldhouse at Iowa when he was introduced to an athletic, red haired farm girl named Marilyn Williams. She was working her way through college and that chance meeting would lead to a lifelong love affair and a marriage that spanned 55 years," explained Vincent.

"Punkin was one of a kind. I remember a lot of stories about him. He was my friend and I will miss him," stated Gilliam.

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