Phil Hicks

In between partaking in barbecue and celebrating America’s 245th birthday, along with my Patriotic puppy’s fifth, I ventured to the movie theatre on the Fourth of July.

I had not been to the cinema since December 2019, but having taken both of my COVID-19 vaccinations I was ready for a crowd, not to mention that wonderful smell and taste of popcorn.

More than a decade ago I had read “Twelve Mighty Orphans: The Inspiring True Story of the Mighty Mites Who Ruled Texas Football.”

It was such a wonderful book by Jim Dent, such an inspiring story, and I have been anxious to see the film version, “12 Mighty Orphans.” Plus, the movie was produced by Lindale’s own Houston Hill, a former Eagle quarterback.

While the film has received mixed reviews, I always like to make my own determination. Hollywood is not always on the mark for Best Picture.

One of all-time favorites is “All the President’s Men” but really you can’t argue with “Rocky” in 1976. I would have voted for “Star Wars” instead of “Annie Hall” in 1977 and “Back to the Future” in 1985 in place of “Out of Africa.”

I am biased toward sports films like “Field of Dreams” in 1989, and, of course, my all-time favorite movie “The Natural” was not even nominated in 1984.

But I digress.

Back to the movie, I am a big fan of Texan Luke Wilson, who plays Rusty Russell — a World War I hero and new coach and teacher at a Fort Worth orphanage — and Martin Sheen, who co-stars as the hard-drinking assistant coach known as Doc, and I wanted to see how Amon Carter (played by Treat Williams) and Texas High School football were depicted in movie. And Newman (Wayne Knight) was in the cast, who after watching the movie played a more despicable character than the Seinfeld version.

The Masonic Home in Fort Worth was constructed by the Texas Freemasons for the purpose of housing and educating orphans.

As Dent would write, “In the 1930s and 1940s, there was nothing bigger in Texas high school football than the Masonic Home Mighty Mites ― a group of orphans bound together by hardship and death. These youngsters, in spite of being outweighed by at least thirty pounds per man, were the toughest football team around. They began with nothing ― not even a football ― yet in a few years were playing for the state championship on the highest level of Texas football. This is a winning tribute to a courageous band of underdogs from a time when America desperately needed fresh hope and big dreams.”

With the “Dust Bowl” and “The Great Depression” as backdrop, the Mighty Mites were something Americans got behind. They even inspired President Franklin Roosevelt.

East Texas native DeWitt “Tex” Coulter was on those teams as well. Coulter was 5 when he moved to the home with his brother and two sisters from the Red Springs community near Tyler. Their late father was a Mason, which qualified them to live at the Fort Worth home until they graduated from high school. By the time Coulter was in the seventh grade, Coach Russell knew he had two stars in DeWitt, who went on to play at West Point and later the New York Giants, and his older brother Ray.

Not everyone is on board for sports, but this shows how important athletics is for instilling teamwork and building character.

We are in a difficult time in America, a country seeking to recover from a pandemic that has killed nearly 600,000.

This is a movie that offers hope and inspiration, something we always need.

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— Phil Hicks is sports editor at the Tyler Morning Telegraph. Email: