Eric R. “Duke” McCaskill, Sr, Huntington High School, Newport News, Virginia

Eric R. “Duke” McCaskill is a native of the East End of Newport News, Virginia. He attended the all black Huntington High School. While at Huntington, he made track and field history under the legendary and VIA Hall of Fame Coach, Thaddeus Madden. Eric participated in football and earned honors as an all district defensive back. But, track was his signature sport. From the 1961–1962 school year, as a freshman, he won the state title for both the 120 yard high hurdles and the 180 low hurdles. Eric would then go on to win the title for the next three years. He held records in outdoor high hurdles and low hurdles each year of his high school career. He was also a member of two Championship of America mile relay teams at the Penn Relays in 1963 and 1964. He established a national high school indoor record for the 50 yard high hurdles and another for the indoor 70 yard high hurdles.

Eric was the first Virginian, black or white, to set national records in track and field. He earned a four year scholarship to Purdue University in Lafayette, Indiana. While at Purdue, not only did he continue to excel in athletics, he became a pioneer for the equal treatment of African American students at predominantly white institutions.

Mr. McCaskill helped found the Black Culture Center, which was a result from Mr. McCaskill’s 9- point proposal to establish measures for integrative studies on campus. When he arrived at Purdue University, there were only 120 Black students in attendance out of nearly 20,000 students. Even at the risk of losing his scholarship he and others led to the creation of the center. Over the years, the Black Culture Center has grown tremendously. Mr. McCaskill was honored and recognized for his leadership as the founding director.

Today, Rev. Dr. Eric McCaskill is the leader of a nonprofit religious organization, “Alpha and Omega Ministry”, serving youth in the northern area of Newport News. Along with his wife Duchess, they counsel and mentor countless middle and high school students. His story is one of grit, determination, and breaking down barriers.

Beyond Rev. Dr. Eric McCaskills’ impressive and well documented athletic career, his courage to lead in difficult situations and desire to serve and uplift others will always be his defining characteristics and contribution to the community.

Contributions to The VIA Heritage Association are tax exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.