PEOPLE Whatever Happened to the Class of ’65?

This month, it’s reunion time for a Highland Park High School class that is haunted by the untimely deaths of 19 classmates.

THE FORD MUSTANG WAS introduced while they were in high school.

They can recall in which classroom they were sitting when President Kennedy was shot here in Dallas.

They can also remember where they were and what they were doing when John, Paul, George, and Ringo hurst onto their black-and-white TV screens on the Ed Sullivan Show. For them, nothing has come close in the 30 years of music since.

They’ve got plenty to remember- including the proud moment their football team upset the Garland Owls, back-to-back state champions, in the fall of ’64-But, as members of the Highland Park High School class of’65 gather this month for their 30-year reunion, their joy and laughter will be tempered by a freakish pall that has been cast over this group for three full decades.

It began on Sunday, May 7, 1965, just days before their high-school graduation, when two popular football players- Walter Beams and Tim Rushing-were killed in a head-on collision in Abilene as they were returning home during a blinding thunderstorm, Rushing had accepted a football scholarship from Texas Tech. Beams, an All-State and All-Southern lineman, was bound for the University of Oklahoma and had NFL potential.

Their sudden deaths knocked the class to its knees.

Of course, many other high-school classes have lost members to untimely death. What makes Highland Park’s class of ’65 different is that losing Beams and Rushing was not a fluke, but rather an eerie premonition of things to come, of more tragedy to strike.

Seventeen others from the class of ’65 have died over the years, often in bizarre incidents, most of them losing their lives while in their 20s and 30s. Eleven were male varsity athletes. None died of cancer. None died in Vietnam.

The quarterback of the Highland Park Scots that year was David Morgan, son of legendary SMU coach Sleepy Morgan. A year after graduating, David was on his way to Austin. Changing a flat tire on Interstate 35, he was hit by an 18-wheeler and killed.

Two other Scot football players also died tragically. Thomas Hudnall “Tom” Turner committed suicide while in college and James Mayo “Jim” Miller died of a heart attack while he was in his 20s.

Two of the top HP Scot basketball players also lost their lives at early ages, both in Harris County. John Goode was stabbed to death in Houston in 1978 while trying to protect his girlfriend from a rapist. Goode’s killer, a maintenance man who used his pass key to enter the girl’s apartment, was convicted of murder by a Houston jury. Bill Voight, an All-State post man for the Scots and one of the best basketball players in Highland Park history, went on to star for the SMU Mustangs. Though he had no history of heart trouble, he dropped dead of a heart malfunction at the age of 40 after a pickup game of basketball.

Former HP tennis ace Mac McClung was killed in a freak accident during a fraternity prank at Trinity University. Baseball co-captain Bo Keith lost his life to encephalitis after being bitten by a mosquito in Louisiana. Star swimmer Dick Bowling drowned in 1966 while scuba diving in Oklahoma. And distance runner Bobby Whittington, the first openly gay member of the class of ’65, died of AIDS in 1988.

Marsha Crabb and Janet Taylor (daughter of former Dallas mayor Starke Taylor) were victims of suicide. Chuck Grant, Marti Heiman, and Bill Rager were lost to illness. Linda Wyatt, the wife of Park Cities Realtor Charles Freeman, died of a heart defect three months after the class of 65 celebrated its 25-year reunion.

Perhaps the most freakish death was that of classmate Mike Harris. Five years ago, while Harris was driving on Abrams Road in northeast Dallas, a man shooting up heroin swerved into his lane, Harris died in the head-on collision.

One of the most intriguing characters in this high-school class was a street-fighter named jay Heathington, who quietly bragged to classmates that he was the mysterious and elusive “King of Diamonds, ” a clever and very bold cat burglar who terrorized North Dallas in the mid-’60s. The burglar struck at some of the biggest mansions in Dallas and was widely assumed to be a member of Dallas society who knew his victims (hence the nickname). Several friends of Heathington claim that during their high-school years, he took them to houses he had rented and showed them stolen goods he had stored. Although he was never charged and convicted as the King of Diamonds, Heathington did spend several years in the mid-’70s in the feder-al prison at Leaven worth tor other crimes. He was killed in 1981 when his motorcycle slammed into the side of a bus as he was going 50 miles an hour through Preston Center.

“All this has made us closer as a class, ” says Mary Ann Myers Ayres, a former homecoming queen nominee who helps coordinate class reunions. “We’re more united than most classes. In addition to regular reunions, those of us in Dallas get together at least once a year. “

Ayres and others point out that the HPHS class of’65 is known for more than a string of early deaths. The pride of the class is Tricia Wilson, president of Tricia Wilson and Associates, another homecoming queen nominee who has become one of the best-known and most respected interior decorators in the world, with an international business that employs hundreds. Last year she became one of the youngest Highland Park grads to he honored by the HPHS Alumni Association as one of its “Distinguished Alums”-joining people like Margaret McDermott and former Governor Bill Clements.

As the class officers (who are usually in charge of reunions) have drifted away, Wilson has helped take charge of the reunions. She surprised Warren Beatty, Madonna, and the cast and crew of the movie Dick Tracy a few years ago when she bypassed one of their Hollywood parties to attend a class reunion back in Dallas.

“Most reunions are reunions, ” says one classmate. “With Tricia in charge, our reunions are galas. “

One of Wilson’s employees is George Aldredge, another class of ’65 veteran, who was featured in Sports Illustrated in 1965 as the fastest schoolboy sprinter in the United States. Throughout his high-school career, he never lost a race. He is currently renovating a hotel oft the coast of Africa for Wilson and Associates.

Like most HPHS classes, this one is chock-full of well-known family names: Crow, Bright, Schoellkopf, Shamburger, Touchstone. The grads have taken diverse paths: Paul Shoop lives in Malibu, where he’s an entertainment attorney representing many Hollywood stars. Patrick O. Dooley is a nationally acclaimed motivational speaker. Bobby Douglass is a Desert Storm veteran. Connie Coit is an actress. Bruce Hardy, the general manager of Texas Stadium, is one of the few people in America to earn two Super Bowl Rings. Trigg Dealey is wildcatting in Texas olive oil [see D’s December 1994 story, ’The New Texas Oil Baron”].

What’s in store for this year’s reunion, as class members approach the big Five-O ? Given the class’s history, the goal for some is merely to be alive. For others it’s the reunion of the Twilights, the band that played at their senior prom. One group of “girls” is looking forward to a slumber party.

“We’re going to celebrate our growing older, ” says Mary Ann Ayres. “We’re going to talk, dance, and have run with our old friends. Some of us have had face lifts, some have had tummy tucks, and some have had boob jobs. No matter what any of us have done or haven’t done, we’re all going to feel like we’re 17 that night. “

And the next morning?

“I’m sure we’ll feel our age again, ” says Ayres, “except it will probably hurt a lot more. “

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