Black residents cheer Obama’s win |

Black residents cheer Obama’s win

Music teacher, radio host, student reflect on Tuesday's historic election

Blythe Terrell

— When America elected its first black president Tuesday, Neil Marchman slipped back into history for a moment.

The Steamboat Springs resident remembered being 11 years old. In that year, 1963, Alabama Gov. George Wallace personally barred the door when two black students tried to enter the University of Alabama.

Marchman then thought back to his sophomore year of high school, five years later. On April 4, 1968, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was fatally shot at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn.

But on Tuesday, more than 40 years after the agony of those events, Marchman, who is black, was struck with a far different sensation.

“I was just really overjoyed,” the music teacher said Thursday, recalling the CNN banner projecting Barack Obama’s victory. “I was about to burst into tears. I kind of held that in with my family around. : I just wanted to savor it.”

Images featuring black Americans spread across TV screens nationwide after the Illinois senator’s win. TV star Oprah Winfrey was in Obama’s audience in Chicago. Tears slipped down the face of the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

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In Routt County, however, those sights were rare. The county, which voted 63 percent to 36 percent for Obama against Sen. John McCain, is 0.4 percent black. County Clerk and Recorder Kay Weinland said the election was about democracy, not race.

“I think that speaks highly of our populace,” she said Wednesday. “I’m really proud of Routt County right now, extremely, for a lot of reasons.”

The size of the black population is not an issue for Marchman, nor does it matter to black Stagecoach resident Tony Counts.

“To me, black, white, Hispanic, Asian – if you voted for Obama, you’re my people now,” Counts said.

The radio host, Board of Realtors tech officer and actor was at rehearsal Tuesday evening for the upcoming Pirate Theatre’s “Scary Moving: Night of the Living Dead Realtor” performance and couldn’t watch the election coverage. One performer was an Obama campaign volunteer and checked her laptop periodically, Counts said. He was too tired to celebrate in the snowy night after rehearsal.

But the next day, Counts said, he saw it as an American fairy tale.

“I woke up today and had a flat tire, and I was OK with it,” he said Wednesday. “I thought, ‘What a good time for a change. Off with the old, in for the new.'”

Steamboat Springs High School student Randall Nelson said he never thought a black person would win the presidency.

“It’s one of the greatest times in American history,” the 16-year-old said. “Did you watch the election? It was what Martin Luther King Jr. fought for. It was what everybody in that time and the civil rights fought for. It shows how far as a country we’ve come. It made me proud to be black that night, just like I always am.”

Counts and Marchman also were thinking about the younger generation. Counts and his wife don’t have children, but they plan to expand their family. Marchman and his wife have four.

“I can’t wait,” Counts said. “I’ve got the DVR. This is a speech I will record and try to play and show the kids. The last 43 presidents were all old, white men. Here was the actual change in our century, our time.”

When the results came in, Marchman immediately called his daughter Jasmine Marchman. Jasmine, who is adopted, is white. She and her father attended the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Neil Marchman said.

The convention impressed Marchman, who then volunteered for the Obama campaign in Steamboat.

Marchman has three other children with his wife, Beverly, who is white. His 16-year-old son, Louis, is the only one still at home. Louis also volunteered for Obama, his father said. Marchman’s children have a special tie to the president-elect, whose mother also was white.

“My biracial kids can look at Barack and say, ‘My identity is unique, just like President Obama,” Marchman said.

Louis was “totally elated, totally elated,” Marchman said. “He grew up, he just became politically aware in the last few years, so he knew nothing but the Bush administration. : He doesn’t have any other presidency to look back on, so this tells him, this educates him a lot as to how the United States can transform itself to what it’s meant to be.”

By the numbers

2006 U.S. Census Bureau estimates*

Routt County population: 21,580

93.7 percent white, not Hispanic

3.9 percent Hispanic

0.7 percent Asian

0.5 percent American Indian, Alaska native

0.4 percent black

0.1 percent native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander

*Residents can indicate that they are multiple races.