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Midway Black History

Robert Underwood a.k.a Ayé A. Aton and Alford Guy greeted each other at the first Woodford County Hall of Fame Awards held at Midway College, now University, in 2012. Both Underwood and Guy received the Hall of Fame’s Legacy Award. (Photo by John McDaniel)

February is Black History month and I will be featuring a Midway Black History article each week of this month in The Woodford Sun.

I remember when Robert Underwood was growing up in Midway. I should say I first noticed Underwood when he started playing basketball at Midway High School during the 1956 and 1957 season. I was in the second grade and it was the first year that our school was integrated. I loved watching Midway Blue Jay basketball and Robert Underwood playing ball. Underwood transferred to Midway from Simmons High School in Versailles where he was class secretary as a freshman, class president as a junior, played basketball, football and softball as a freshman, sophomore and junior. In his senior year at Midway High School, he was a member of the Key Club, worked on the yearbook Echo staff and played basketball.

Midway Basketball Coach Ed Allen started Underwood on Midway’s varsity team, and as a result, Underwood was the first African-American to start on an integrated Kentucky high school basketball team. Other black players that were on that team included Alford Guy, who played varsity and William Darneal, who played on the B-team that year.

Underwood left Midway after his playing days there and went to Chicago, changed his name to Ayé A. Aton, entered the art world and began painting seriously and playing music as a drummer. He is a two time inductee to the Woodford County Hall of Fame. He and Midway resident Alford Guy were awarded the Woodford County Hall of Fame Legacy Award in 2012. Underwood was recognized by the board of the WCHF again in 2014 for his contributions to the world of arts and humanities. His story was featured in the Jan.11 edition of this year’s Woodford Sun.

His art work is now being exhibited at the Woodford County Library.

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