ABOUT Heidelberg of the Norfolk 17

Andrew Heidelberg stood alone … anxious, defiant.
Once again, he had drifted into the center of the universe, the suspect of 11,000 white stares. Some were curious, others prayed for his very destruction.

The true story of Andrew Heidelberg, the first African American to play “white” high school football in the South. His childhood alone could make for a wild and beautiful novel. Add the NAACP recruitment of The Norfolk 17, the white backlash, and the eventual integration of public schools in 1959, where every day was laced with humiliation and threats. It was never easy … even when, with a hammer to the racist South, Andrew made and then starred for the Norview football team. His impact in a surrealistic world of the late fifties and early sixties now creates a powerful work of humanity, humor, absurdity, and survival.


Categories: History › Americas


2023, 230 pages, paperback
ISBN: 978-1-955893-18-3


2023, ebook
ISBN: 978-1-955893-19-0


“Superb … Gaines and Heidelberg dive deeply into a fierce, rich and soul-stirring chronicle of how a Black teen passed through a gauntlet of jeering whites to eventually become the first to integrate all-white high school football in the South … a relentlessly honest account filled with pain, triumph, inspiration and transformation.”
– Luressa Heidelberg, Andrew’s widow, author of Breaking Silence 

“A time when so many saw race first, humanity second.”
– Brenda H. Andrews, Publisher/Owner, New Journal and Guide

“An African American pioneer!”
– Kenny Alexander, Mayor of Norfolk, Virginia

“Andrew was my brother as the seventeen of us faced challenging and often horrific days.”
– Patricia Turner, PhD, The Norfolk 17, retired educator

“I was there, I saw it … this book is on the mark!”
– Randy Wright, Norfolk City Council 1992-2010

“A true portrayal of unimaginable courage. I love this story.”
– Ken Whitley, retired educator, coach

Meet The Author

Robert D. Gaines

Born into a naval family in 1945, Bob Gaines was raised in California, Rhode Island, and Virginia. Even as a child, he had an obsession for recording his stray thoughts into hundreds of notebooks. He attended Norview High School from 1959-62, moving before his senior year to Long Beach, California. After graduating from San Diego State University, Bob would spend a decade as an award-winning sports columnist before moving east, eventually retiring from Bucknell University in 2012. 

Heidelberg is the sixth book he has had published— The Three Mathewsons (Hidden Shelf Publishing House 2012); The Christian Gentleman: How Christy Mathewson’s Faith and Fastball Forever Changed Baseball (Roman & Littlefield 2015); Loose Chronicles: Dog from a Distant Universe (Hidden Shelf 2017); One Christmas Lasts Forever (Hidden Shelf 2018); and The Brave Historian (Hidden Shelf 2021).


Hidden Shelf Publishing House - P.O. Box 4168 - McCall, ID 83638