BRADENTON, Fla. (AP) – Plaques, photos and accolades from 101 years of life ﬁll a room inside Eddie Shannon’s Palmetto home.
They’re a snapshot of memorable moments throughout the accomplished and successful life from one of Manatee County’s most well known residents.
One aspect of Shannon’s story is getting another run at the Sarasota Film Festival this weekend.
The ending of segregation of Manatee County schools in 1969 is captured in the award-winning 2010 documentary, "Through the Tunnel," which has a special director’s cut airing at 4 p.m. Saturday at the Municipal Auditorium.
And Shannon is one of the key ﬁgures from the ﬁlm as a peacemaker during the transition period at Manatee High.
"I wanted to go to another high school," Shannon said. "They told me, ‘Noooo.’ You come onto Manatee High School, because they need you at Manatee High. My whole thing and I didn’t know it right then was to tie Black and white together.
Shannon was the head football coach at Lincoln Memorial High, an all-Black school in Palmetto. When the Civil Rights Act ended segregation in 1964, integration began across the country. By 1969, it happened in Manatee County schools, which meant students from Lincoln began attending previously all-white schools.
The majority headed to Manatee High, the oldest school in the county, and it’s where Shannon went to keep the peace.
"He has always been from his Lincoln days through now and will be well into the future so well respected and admired," said Charles Clapsaddle, a director for the Manatee Educational TV documentary "Through the Tunnel."
Shannon’s stature commanded respect in the community, which translated into that pivotal time period in American history.
Shannon, though, is more than a peacekeeper during the Civil Rights era.
He’s a legendary football coach who guided his players to become better men after their playing days were over.
"If you played football, if you’re going further you’ve got to go to class and get your lesson," Shannon said. "You’re not the boss. The teacher is the boss. You obey what they say. Because I tell you what, when you get to college it’s the same thing they’re talking about right now."
Shannon also had a curfew rule with his players that they had to be at home every night by 9 p.m., and obeying your parents was part of Shannon’s coaching philosophy, which he said comes from former Florida A&M University track coach Robert ‘Pete’ Grifﬁn, along with getting an education.
"Coach Shannon’s greatest legacy is, with the number of years that he has lived, every time you met him, he had an inspirational statement for you," said Moody Johnson, who played for Shannon and narrates Through the Tunnel. "This is the gospel truth, I have never in my life, and he’s 101 years old, heard Coach Shannon ever criticize anybody."
Before his coaching career took root, Shannon served in the Navy during World War II. He then became Florida A&M’s ﬁrst paid athletic trainer, where he worked with future Wimbledon champion Althea Gibson.
"She sprained her ankle one day and I taped, and she said, ‘You’ve got to be around me to help me keep it going,’" Shannon said.
In 1954, Shannon’s coaching career started with a post in Lakeland. But after about a year, he returned home to Palmetto.
In 15 seasons, the Lincoln Trojans lost only two games.
Even after his time coaching Lincoln and at Manatee, Shannon’s motivational speeches continued to impact the next generation in the county. One of his go-to speeches was to "keep ‘a goin’," which, at its core, means to never give up no matter how tough it gets.
As a distinguished citizen and for all his accomplishments, Shannon was selected as a torch bearer for the 1996 Summer Olympics.
He was one of three from the county to take the torch and pass it along as it made its way through Florida.
Johnson and Mickey Presha were the other two locals getting that honor.
In March 2022, Shannon celebrated his 100th birthday, which included a framed message from President Joe Biden to commemorate his milestone birthday and World War II service. Eight minutes of footage was gathered from the birthday party to be added to the director’s cut of "Through the Tunnel." It’s the third time the ﬁlm has been featured at the Sarasota Film Festival. Three-time Super Bowl champion Henry Lawrence is also one of the people highlighted in the documentary.
"I didn’t drink," Shannon said about his secret to a long life. "You’ve got to have a decent meal and you still have to go to bed at a decent time. Get rest. I go for a walk every day. And it ain’t that far (now). … The key to all of it is to go to church, because if it wasn’t for God, you wouldn’t even be here. And the other key is to respect your parents."