Does anyone recognize what’s going on in this vintage photo from the Arkansas Democrat Gazette archives?
Note: The year was 1990.
Gleason “Dub” Allen Jr. of Hot Springs recalls the day he visited Coach Nolan Richardson’s home in Fayetteville to photograph his cowboy boots. Allen’s recording appeared with a feature story in the Arkansas Gazette Sports section on December 20, 1990.
“The editor of Gazette Sports set that up,” says Allen.
Richardson coached basketball teams from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville from 1985 to 2002. On the day of the photo shoot – four years before his razorbacks won the first and only NCAA national basketball championship – the coach owned 22 pairs of cowboy boots.
Allen and reporter Paul Borden saw them all. Size 12D, they lined shelves on two sides of a walk-in closet.
Most were Tony Lama boots. Richardson said he started wearing cowboy boots while training at his hometown high school, Bowie High School in El Paso, Texas (1968-77). El Paso was also the home of the famous shoemaker, and the trainer went to school with relatives of Lama.
“I guess you could say I’m a Tony Lama-man,” said Richardson.
Borden saw boots made from lizard, calf, alligator, eel, elephant, ostrich, and snake leather in shades of beige to black. A pair of red snakeskin boots caught his attention.
Richardson said he got it about three years ago from a friend who owned a shoe store in Paragould. (Richardson had a connection with staunch Paragould fans, particularly Johnny “Nippy” Mangrum, who died in 2015. Nippy owned a sports store.)
Borden quoted Tony Mangrum who said he found the boots in a catalog. But Justin Industries had just bought Tony Lama Company Inc. in August 1990, and Justin’s catalog no longer contained this red model. So Richardson’s red boots are “one of a kind,” said Mangrum.
Richardson said he wore cowboy boots almost everywhere. The only other shoes he owned were the FootJoy golf shoes and the Converse pumps he wore to team training.
“I’ll even wear boots with a tuxedo,” said Richardson. He had boots with a classic wing-tip design on the toes. “If I pull my pant legs over it, you can’t even tell that I’m wearing a boot,” he said.
Anyone who has retired from photojournalism and the U.S. Marines no longer knows how much or if they were paid for the photo, but he has freelanced as a stringer for many publications during his public affairs career.