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Bill Overton

Actor Bill Overton was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and was raised by his mother and stepfather, Hessie and Eugene Waterhouse. As a child, Overton attended Boston’s Asa Gray Elementary, W.L.P. Boardman Elementary, Henry L. Higginson Elementary and Lewis Junior High Schools. As an adolescent, Overton was a premiere athlete and member of his school’s football and basketball teams. He attended the historical Boston English High School where he was voted vice president of his senior class.

Overton went on to attend one of Nebraska’s junior colleges and established himself as one his era’s phenomenal football players. His display of athletic talent at the junior college level earned him a full scholarship to attend Wake Forest University. Overton graduated in 1968 as a speech and drama major, and that same year, he was drafted by the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys. In 1969, he was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs and the following year, he began playing for the Canadian Football League. Then, in 1970, Overton moved back to Boston and worked as a sports agent for Pro Sports, Inc. While there, he was instrumental in the company’s signing of four-time Pro Bowler Raymond Chester, and worked to ensure fair contracts for African American football players.

In 1971, Overton began a career in modeling and was hired for various advertising agencies including Black Beauty and Ford modeling agencies. He helped to launch ad campaigns for Hanes, Benson and Hedges, Canadian Mist, Sears, and Montgomery Ward. During the 1970s, Overton also began appearing in television commercials. He honed his acting skills by enrolling at the Lee Strasberg Institute in New York City and was mentored by actor Woody Strode. Overton starred in several films throughout the mid-1970s, often appearing in roles that required him to demonstrate his athleticism. He was featured in episodes of the New Perry Mason series, Firehouse and the films Cover Girl and Invisible Strangler. Then, in 1981, he starred alongside Harry Belafonte and LeVar Burton in the film Grambling’s White Tigers.

Overton married award winning actress Jayne Kennedy in 1985. He continued to make television appearances throughout the 1980s and 1990s, starring in classic sitcoms such as The Red Foxx Show, 227, and The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.

In 2002, Overton published The Media: Shaping an Image of a People. He lives in Los Angeles, California with his wife and three daughters.

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English High School

Asa Gray School

W.L.P. Boardman Elementary

Henry Lee Higginson Elementary School

George A. Lewis Middle School

Higginson-Lewis K-8 School

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All Seasons



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If You Didn't Know How Old You Was, How Old Would You Be?

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Los Angeles


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Soul Food

Short Description

Television actor and football player Bill Overton (1947 - ) played in the NFL and Canadian Football League before turning to modeling and acting. His television credits include roles on 'The Redd Foxx Show,' '227' and 'The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.'


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Timing Pairs

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Bill Overton's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Bill Overton lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Bill Overton describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Bill Overton describes his parents' personalities

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Bill Overton describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Bill Overton describes his home life

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Bill Overton remembers his early education

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Bill Overton remembers his community in Boston, Massachusetts

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Bill Overton remembers Lewis Junior High School in Boston, Massachusetts

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Bill Overton recalls enrolling at the English High School in Boston, Massachusetts

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Bill Overton recalls his experiences the English High School

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Bill Overton describes his activities at the English High School

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Bill Overton remembers his football scholarship to McCook Community College in McCook, Nebraska

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Bill Overton describes his first impressions of McCook Junior College

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Bill Overton describes his experiences at McCook Junior College

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Bill Overton recalls transferring to Wake Forest College in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Bill Overton remembers his experiences at Wake Forest College

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Bill Overton talks about 'Guess Who's Coming to Dinner'

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Bill Overton talks about black athletes at Wake Forest College

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Bill Overton remembers dating at Wake Forest College

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Bill Overton talks about interracial relationships among celebrities

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Bill Overton remembers joining the Dallas Cowboys

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Bill Overton describes racial discrimination in the National Football League

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Bill Overton talks about the role of race in college basketball

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Bill Overton recalls playing for the Dallas Cowboys

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Bill Overton recalls playing for the Kansas City Chiefs

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Bill Overton recalls joining the Canadian Football League

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Bill Overton remembers his decision to quit professional football

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Bill Overton describes his career after leaving professional football

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Bill Overton remembers his modeling career

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Bill Overton remembers his decision to pursue acting as a career

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Bill Overton describes his acting career

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Bill Overton talks about his marriages

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Bill Overton recalls his colleagues in the entertainment industry

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Bill Overton talks about his success in the entertainment industry

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Bill Overton describes his marriage to Jayne Kennedy

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Bill Overton talks about his family

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Bill Overton describes his career as a real estate developer and author

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Bill Overton describes his book, 'The Media: Shaping the Image of a People'

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Bill Overton reflects upon the mass media

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Bill Overton reflects upon the impact of stereotyping

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Bill Overton shares his advice to future generations

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Bill Overton talks about African Americans in the entertainment industry

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Bill Overton describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Bill Overton describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Bill Overton reflects upon his legacy







Bill Overton recalls playing for the Dallas Cowboys
Bill Overton describes his book, 'The Media: Shaping the Image of a People'
So, now you get drafted by Dallas [Dallas Cowboys] in what position?$$Linebacker.$$Okay, so you go to Dallas, tell us about that experience?$$(Laughter) It was an interesting experience, not necessarily positive. Which is something I don't even want--let me just say this. I--Dallas was a great team, it was an honor for me to go. I was excited because they had a very tough reputation. Gil Brandt was the--this hall of fame, one of the great minds of--in terms of recruiting and drafting and all of putting teams together. And it was an honor for me to go. And my training camp, I mean, all my--all of it was positive for me but at the same time what sticks out with me, and it shows you a lot, 'cause I've got an interesting quote in my book about Tom Landry. And he's renowned for it's either his way or the highway. Not you got to understand, I'm coming from Boston, Massachusetts, having gone to Nebraska to North Carolina to Texas.$$So you're playing under Tom Landry?$$Oh, yeah. Then it wasn't that long. Now, I come in what--part of--some of my time in training camp I can remember one particular meeting, I'm sitting beside Pete Gent [Peter Gent]. Pete Gent, 'North Dallas Forty,' renowned author, et cetera, et cetera, turned into a movie, all that stuff. Pete's sitting right here, I got a dashiki on, big afro and--$$Is this in the club room or--$$Yeah, I forgot what it was, team meeting or something like that. Linebacker, 'cause the linebackers and the ends--I forgot exactly--I know he was there, I just don't remember what else was happening. He said to me, "You know, Tom ain't gonna like that, you need to--what is that?" And it was really condescending.$$Your outfit?$$What I had on. And I had--I can remember it was burgundy with a yellow, mustard colored belt, with a mustard colored border. It was a dashiki. And I had just, you know, I'd come from Wake Forest [Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, North Carolina]. I mean, I'd purchased this shirt from some women, you know, the civil rights era, and people were becoming Afrocentric all of that (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) Had your fro on.$$Oh, man, and, I mean, they talk about Hollywood Henderson [Thomas Henderson], I was crazy, you know what I mean. I knew I came to play and I'm making the team and that, end of story. When he said that to me, it was an insult to me. I said, "I don't care about what he thinks, I don't care about what you think." Hey, I didn't like him, I tried to whip his ass every time I could as an end 'cause I'm a linebacker. But he took--we're about sports. It should all, it should just been about sports. He's now messing with my, with my--$$Your whole racial consciousness (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) Oh, yeah, with who I was as a man. So, I didn't fit in with the Cowboys so I ended--that's why I ended up leaving, got released, went to Oklahoma. You know, the farm, what they call their farm team there.$$Farm team for the Cowboys?$$Cowboys.$$Okay.$$Played there a season, did pretty well, and went back--I don't know if I went back home, or went back to New York. I just forgot exactly where I went. No, sorry, excuse me, no when the season was over I went back to Wake Forest (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) A lot--okay.$$Okay.$Through the '80s [1980s] you start doing real estate development and different things into the '90s [1990s] and up 'til now. Talk about the book that you've authored, what is the title of the book and what is the thrust behind the book?$$Well, thanks for the question. The answer to your question is the book is entitled 'The Media: Shaping the Image of a People' [Bill Overton]. And, the book came from--I over--all this time I'm--as an athlete, I started in New York [New York] going back and forth from Boston [Massachusetts] to New York I stumbled on--in an antique shop, I stumbled on some old pictures and some old newspapers from the 19th century. And it blew my mind because I saw pictures of blacks, Irish, Jews, Mormon, Chinese, Native Americans. Folk that I knew but didn't know much about their history. Some of these pictures represented my classmates in high school [English High School, Boston, Massachusetts], and we never studied--the stuff that I saw, I didn't know anything about and I questioned if they knew anything about it, 'cause they never said anything to me about Irish potato famine, you know, or the Holocaust or a lot of these things. Okay, so I--this sort of became a passion and an interest. I say, I'm gonna have a big house one day, I'll take these pictures, I'll put 'em in frames on the wall. So, as I'm moving around five years, ten years, fifteen years, I'm buying pictures, putting em in storage in Boston, Maine, you know, California. Fast forward, I see life changing in front of me. I decide, as a project at Santa Monica College [Santa Monica, California], to take--to do something for kids 'cause it's a very diverse school. I took the pictures out and had them--had some copies and put 'em in a gallery. And the school flipped out. And I went, wow, I'm really on to something. So, I got a bunch of notes, comments in a book. I put it away, put the collection away. Two years later, I'm doing something--it's 1997, doing something at UCLA [University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California]. Mentoring students, doing whatever. And I say, well, you know, I got this collection and maybe this could work. So I brought it--brought some of the pictures, and they said, "Well, the only way we could do this at the museum here is you got to have it researched." So they assigned five historians from UCLA to do the research on my collection. And it was fascinating what they did. And so they basically established the connectivity between the 19th century and present day. And that time was 1997. So then I took the exhibit to Martha's Vineyard [Massachusetts] 'cause after I had showed it here for a month, I wanted to get an international feel, an international sense from people, travelers, what they thought about something like this. So I was at Union Chapel [Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts] on Martha's Vineyard and I had the exhibit there for a month. People flipped out, from all over the place.$$Now, how large is the exhibit?$$It's--I had sixty pictures. The pictures are 11" by 14", and some are 16" by 20". So there's sixty individual pictures with display panels that are 3' by 5'.$$Okay.$$And so, the reaction to that was great. I come back and many people said, "You know, we wanna buy something. You're not selling anything, you got to do something." So, I ended up talking to a publisher who was gracious enough to join me, write the check to get the book done. And he got his money back relatively quickly. The--I didn't have to--I didn't travel that much. And some things happened within the company that I didn't like, and some things that I thought should have happened didn't happen. So, I mean, I sold half, you know, half the inventory and the bottom line was I said, let me just--here's what I'm gonna do, 'cause I been--and on a daily basis I'm becoming more and more obsessed with the media, with what they're doing and what they're not doing. 'Cause I'm a bookworm and newspaper worm, and magazine worm. So, make a long story short, I ended up buying the rights back, so this book then and--'cause what it is--and I missed a key ingredient. The book is my collection, and then out of respect for you and Neculai [Neculai Burghelea], and Julieanna [Julieanna Richardson], I reached out to image makers of present day. The sculptors, the painters, the--this is a tribute to Daniel Pearl, the photographers, the last quarter of the book is their work. So people like [HistoryMaker] Lamonte McLemore who was renowned for taking beautiful pictures of women.$$He's a HistoryMaker (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) And the Jet magazine where David Kibuuka from Uganda, but lives in Toronto [Canada], spectacular, you know, paint, Jameel Rasheed, guy I grew up with who was like flesh and blood to me. I had no idea he was an artist when we were growing up. He did the picture of Rosa Parks, which they're trying to get--use as a stamp. So I--not only do I have four--three of my homeboys and home girls, let's see, Jameel Rasheed, Hakim Rakib [ph.], Artis Graham [ph.] did a picture of President Clinton [President William Jefferson "Bill" Clinton] in the book. And then Gale, Gale Fulton Ross is a phenomenal artist, lives in Florida now. She did the picture of Du Bois [W.E.B. Du Bois] in my book as well. So this is a celebration of what the media does, what they can do, what they have done, and what they might do.