NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Fifty years ago, St. Augustine's Marching 100 was the first African-American band ever to march in the Rex.
This Mardi Gras, Rex honors those band members from the 60s for breaking barriers.
"We were a marching band, but we were extraordinary athletes," said one band member who marched in 1967. "We marched - we didn't skip, we didn't walk, we marched," he said doing a high knee.
Rex invited members of the 1967 Marching 100 to participate in its parade that year. It was the volatile 60s and the young musicians had to grow up fast..
"I was in ninth grade 50 years ago," said Steven Foster. "We knew racial tension, but we had no idea what we would be confronted with."
These former Purple Knights were welcomed into the Rex Den Tuesday for a tour, a peek at the float they'll ride in the parade, and given their own signature St. Augustine/Rex cups to throw.
St. Augustine President Kenneth St. Charles collaborated with Rex to shine a spotlight on the men.
"When they marched 50 years ago they weren't greeted fondly by everyone. That will change today," said St. Charles.
Robino Barnes played the bass horn.
"People would throw stuff in my horn to keep it from playing right. I had pickles, beads, beer cans and all kind of stuff in the horn," he said
"They are incredibly brave people who decided to march in a parade," said Christy Brown with the Rex organization. "Any time you break a barrier, it takes guts."
The veteran band members will be riding on the Royal Calliope float near the front of the parade.
"They'll march in front of the Marching 100 and that's really special," St. Charles said.
The experiences of the 60s brought these groups together. Rex and St. Aug's partnership has spanned decades.
So have the memories from 1967 Joe Givens holds most dear.
"When we got to Gallier hall we played 'If Ever I Cease to Love' in front of Gallier Hall in front of the mayor. I knew we had done something special. It was a great time.