In Memory of Alamogordo High School Alumnus Art Keller: A Legacy of Triumph and Team Spirit

t was with great sadness and fond remembrance, that we learned on March 14th, 2024, of the passing of our friend and a legendary Alamogordo High School Alumnus and star Tiger athlete; Art Keller.

Arthur Dudley Keller Jr., longtime resident of Portland, Oregon, and Las Vegas, Nevada, died on March 14, 2024, after a long illness. He was 68. Born in Alamogordo, he was the son of Arthur Sr. & Helen Keller, who preceded him in death.

Mr. Keller graduated from Alamogordo High School where he did well academically, but was best remembered for his success in track and field and football.

This author and journalist, had the pleasure of having several conversations with Mr. Keller, who was passionate that we call him Art. "Mr. Keller was my father," he explained to us.

Art Keller contributed his time to assist us in a book series we wrote and published on the Alamogordo Public Schools and the history of its athletics program, and the impact it had on thousands of students during the tenure of Coach Bob and Marilyn Sepulveda. The book titled Coach Bob Sepulveda: the Early Years features highlights of several conversations we had with Art Keller, and of course highlights his success while at Alamogordo High School and beyond.

In tribute to the life of Art Keller, what follows are highlights of his career at Alamogordo High School and a few quotes from Mr. Keller, in his own words, from thephone conversations we had in May of 2000 through June of 2001 and again in 2002.

Coach Bob Sepulveda remembers, Art Keller fondly and an individual that could “inspire his fellow teammates and make them laugh, while a young man of deep held convictions, he had a respect for history and religion. He was a young man that was always respectful to others and held the greatest respect for his own father and family and our coaching staff. He and my Assistant Coach Dan Columbus were close and that relationship continued well past high school.”

During an interview with Art Keller, who was a Cross Country, Track and Field Medalist and a Defensive Back for the Varsity Tiger Football team in 1972, he expressed to us the story of the greatest football game of his career. Some ole times in Alamogordo call it one of the greatest games in Alamogordo Sport History. Art Keller called it; “the game to remember.”

That game was the homecoming game against Artesia in November of 72, his senior year. Art Keller did well in his studies and was excellent as an athlete.

As a junior Art had mentioned to his father his desire to, possibly graduate early. Art Keller’s dad was firm about that one thing, and said,“No!”

Mr. Keller said, “Son you cannot graduate early. Your destiny is to be on a football team that beats Artesia.”

For you see, Artesia and Alamogordo were and are fierce rivals and have a history of deep rivalry. During the late 60's, several Alamogordo football players as a politcal protest against a very short tenured Tiger Coach, left Alamogordo, and went to Artesia to make a political statement. Art's father protected him from a lot of the political stife of the 60's, excepting for one very short term Coach, Alamogordo students, locally didn't witness, nor feel much the racial and political tension seen in other communities. Alamogordo was much more diverse, was prosperous and more progressive in that era, than today. The Schools ranked as some of the best in the nation in the 60s through the early 70's.

The situation of political division, especially around the schools, is more intense today, than it was in 1973, says several teachers and coaches from that era.

Artesia Football showed, NO mercy to the Alamogordo Tigers, over the years.

A November 9th, 1972, news story in the Alamogordo News as explained by the Alamogordo Town News better explains the sentiments about Artesia at the time…

“Greenhorn Notes” by Stan Green Alamogordo News

“As the Alamogordo Tigers head into their biggest football game of the year...Homecoming...they are about to face the Artesia Bulldogs.

“I’m putting a closed sign on my flower shop” declared Ray Pierce Tuesday night when the Tiger Boosters met at the Desert Aire Hotel to review films of the previous week's game.

Mr. Pierce said, the best thing the Tigers could do to honor all the past teams was to “whip Artesia Friday night.”

Ray can recall being carried off the football field injured when he played Artesia several years prior.

Artesia had beat Alamogordo 19 times in prior meetings...Since 1946 the scoresheet shows Artesia winning 19 times, losing 2 and tying 1.

Alamogordo had a long dry spell, 17 years to be exact since they were able to hand a loss to Artesia. The Tigers won the 1955 game 21 to 6. The only other win was in 1949, 18 to 6. The Tigers had a 6-6 tie in 1948 and the two teams did not play in 53 nor 51.”

Things changed in 1972, between a solid and unified coaching staff, which worked well with community partners in prepping the Tiger boys, and Art Keller.

The Tiger team was one of determined athletes; the headline was much different, and Art Keller’s father's vision came true…

Alamogordo News, 11/12/1972 as per a story in the Alamogordo Town News; “Tigers Hand an 18-0 Loss onto The Artesia Bulldogs”

“The greatest turnout of Tiger football fans Friday night for one of the greatest Homecomings in Alamogordo Tiger history….They handed the Artesia Bulldogs the first zip score ever by an Alamogordo football team as they stirred up the big orange and swallowed them in one big gulp 18 to 0.

The long dry spell since 1955 under Coach Newt McDonald beat Artesia 21 to 6, was finally broken that Friday night under the coaching of Garland “Mr. Football” Braun, who can take a lot of credit for getting the job done as Varsity Football Coach.

Not only did the Tigers humiliate Artesia for their 3rd homecoming loss while on the road that year...each one without the Bulldogs scoring a point, but it was also, undoubtedly an extra bitter pill for long winning coach I G Henderson to swallow when the Tigers got their second touchdown…

The Alamogordo Senior Class placed an ad in the Artesia paper that came true, it read; “Fat Dogs Do Make Tiger Tidbits.” A humiliating defeat indeed, for Artesia.

According to Art Keller and several other classmates from that year; “When coach Braun was first assigned to Alamogordo, some of the seniors on the team resented that Coach Bob Sepulveda was not the varsity coach any longer. Sepulveda had proven he can create winning teams both in Track and Field and in Sophomore Football, as Coach Bob had an 11- win, 0 loss prior season and was a multiyear district champion in track and field.”

While some questioned, “who is this Texan coming in here to coach Varsity Football?” Coach Sepulveda was incredibly supportive of the decision, so he could focus on Track and Field, he remained an assistant football coach as well as head of track and field and coach the JV Football teams as head JV Coach.

Eventually the students and the community came around as well. Alamogordans at the time would have to remember all the way back to 1960 under Coach Ralph Tate; when the Tiger season ended with a resounding 297 points versus the opposition's 103 points, to remember a better season than the 1972/73 season.

When Art Keller was asked about his football career, he said, "I did not plan on playing my senior year, but planned on focusing on Track and Field with Coach Columbus and Coach Bob Sepulveda or Uncle Bob, "as he affectionately called Coach Sepulveda. "Between my dads vision and encouragement from Uncle Bob (Coach Sepulveda) I decided I could, and would, do both and make it matter."

Art said his dad wanted him to play football to fulfill his dream of a team beating Artesia.

So, Art told the new Coach and the quarterback,“throw me the ball on the field from the 100-yard line, when I say throw then I’ll run to it.” The quarterback waited until he ran, and Art said, “no throw the ball, then I’ll run and catch it.”

Catch it, he did. So, the new, Coach Braun, told Keller to suit up, and let us see what you can do. Bob Hayes was Keller's idol, and Art Keller was going to prove his worth. Coach Sepulveda encouraged him. He suited up and practiced. He was hit so hard by Dusty Ferr ,that it knocked him out. When Art Keller woke under smelling salt, Coach Braun laughed and told Keller, "if you can take a hit like that, and catch like you did, and run that fast, you will be a starter and be on my varsity team." And so, Alamogordo Sports history was about to be made with that decision.

Thus, Keller ended up playing football, again his senior year, and yes also running in Track and Field. Keller went on to become a multi-medal winner in track and field and led many relays to victory with his teammates.

Art Keller crossing the finish line and breaking the ribbon to victory for Alamogordo High School in 1973.Photo byCoach Bob Sepulveda The Early Days Book with permission to

When this author asked Keller, what made him so fast? He explained, "I lived on Second Street and was the fastest kid on the street." He said that his dad would come outside at night and scream out to Art to come home for dinner. Keller’s dad would say, I’m about to spit on the sidewalk, you better run boy and be by my side before the spit hits the ground.” Keller said he learned to run fast to beat his daddy’s spit hitting the ground.

He said, his first track race was with Coach Joe Erwin in PE Class. I did well then Coach Erwin told me I had to run against Debbie Scott. “I said to Coach Erwin and Mrs. Erwin there isn’t no girl going to beat me,” said Art Keller. They ran, it was competitive, as Debbie was one of the fastest female runners ever to come out of Alamogordo ,and she eventually went to the Junior Olympics and is the only female from Alamogordo to make it to the Olympic Trials. However, he did beat her.

Debbie Scott cornered him a few days later and said, “you didn’t have to clown me, I’m just a girl.” He apologized but told her he could not let a girl beat him. They became very dear friends, and his family and hers were remarkably close for decades.

Art Keller, while not only a great success in football, was also a great success in Track and Field and that led him eventually to the Olympic Trials with a wee bit of help from Alamogordo Coach Dan Columbus.

Track Records Broken in White Sands Relay was the headline in a story by Stan Green Alamogordo News April 2, 1973

“School records were established in the mile relay and the 180- yard low hurdles Saturday during the White Sands Relays sponsored by the Tiger Track Team and the Evening Lions Club.

Art Keller flashed over the hurdles in 19.6 in the preliminaries and went on to win the event as he was named the “Outstanding Athlete” for the Relays.

Remembering Art Keller Alamogordo High School Class of 73. Carrying the baton to victory...Photo byCoach Bob Sepulveda The Early Days Book with permission to

The Tiger 440 Relay Team took first when they ran it in 43.6 Art Keller, Ken Washington, Chuck Wood and Jimmy Sanders were on the team. Keller also took first in the 100- yard dash. Chuck Wood took 1st in the 220 dash. Jimmy Sanders took 1st in the 440 dash. Carl Hutchison tied for1st in the High Jump. Steve Frederickson took 1st in the discus. Robert Golightly placed 1st in the two-mile run….

Meet results showed the Tigers with a team 1st place win with a final total of 112 ½ Bowie came in 2nd at 46 ½ and Cobre came in 3rd with a 41 ½

At the District Meet Art Kellers senior year, Coach Bob Sepulveda the Early Years Bookexplaines that, “Tiger Thinclads walked... or ran… jumped or threw further and faster than anyone else in the district 3AAAA at Las Cruces on Saturday, to take their 4th District Win in a row under Coach Bob Sepulveda. 12 of the Tigers placed 1st Place in the meet competitions as the Tigers Topped 135 points for a 1st Place finish. Mayfield scored 94 points for a 2nd Place Finish and Las Cruces scored 75 points for a 3rd Place Finish.”

  • Art Keller, 1st Place, 100 Yard Dash
  • 1st Place, 880 Relay Team
  • 1st Place, Mile Relay Team
  • 2nd Place,120 Low Hurdles

At the state Meet Art Keller played a big role in Alamogordo High School bringing home a Second Place State Track and Field Team Trophy.

Alamogordo News, May 17, 1973...

“Alamogordo Tiger Thinclads surprised most of the track experts when they pulled into the 2nd Place position during the State Track Meet to capture a big trophy at Albuquerque.”

Defending State Champion Hobbs took an early lead and placed 1st to win the state. The Alamogordo Tigers placed second in the state meet with 48 points followed by Carlsbad in 3rd place and Clovis closing out with a 4th place win.

2nd Place State Track Trophy 1972/73 Season Alamogordo Tigers Won and Art Keller played a huge part of that victoryPhoto byCoach Bob Sepulveda the Early Days Book with permission to

Pictured above is Back L-R: Coach Dick Strong, Coach Jack Geron, Dale Norman, Steve Frederick, Carl Hutchison, Jimmy Sanders, Scott Hutt, Mark Taylor, Coach Jack Narrell, Head Coach Bob Sepulveda. Front L-R: Manager Pat McMurry, Art Keller, Robert Golightly, Brad Pierson, Dennis Baca, Ken Washington and Chuck Wood, Head Coach Bob Sepulveda.

After graduation, Art Keller enlisted in the Navy, attained the rank - Petty Officer Third Class Anti-Submarine Warfare Technician and was awarded the Navy Expeditionary Medal for service in the Iranian/Yemen/Indian Ocean area. He served with Patrol Squadron 17, Barbers Point, Hawaii

Keller upon graduation ran in the Junior Olympics and had a photo Finish. He thought he was first with a 9.86 but a photo’d finish proved otherwise.

Art Keller then went into the US Navy. While in the Navy he was stationed in Hawaii for a while. As a Petty Officer he would get up early and go run against cars in the morning, to work on his speed. As such he would get faster in the 100 and 200 and wanted to enter the Olympic trials. In the Navy he was entered into the AAU contest, and he ran a 10.028.

He was invited to the military Chisholm Games in San Diego. He ran the 100 meter and 4X100 Relays. He set records there.

When he returned. his commanding officer, threw a newspaper at him and asked why he did not know he was a capable athlete. The CO then told Keller he wanted him to prepare for the Olympics. Keller was transferred to Moffett Field found between San Francisco and San Jose. While practicing on the field one day a guy came up to him with a stopwatch and said, “yes you are as fast as Dan Columbus said you were.”

Keller at first did not recognize the guy but then it hit him, it was Olympic Gold Medalist from the 1968 Olympics Tommie Smith. Coach Dan Columbus from Alamogordo’s Cross-Country program had also run the Olympic Trials with Tomi Smith and Ron Carlos, and they remained friends for decades.

Ron Carlos came to Alamogordo last year by invitation of Ed McDonald for a meet and greet and was able to have a brief phone call with Dan Columbus and reminese about their Olympic Trials Days.

“It felt amazing to be trained by Tommie Smith, whom I had seen at the 68 Olympics and who was best known for the Black Power Fist he made during the awards ceremony in Mexico,” said Art Keller during one of our interviews. Keller went on ,that his dad had “protected him from the civil rights struggle” and he was raised to be color blind by his parents. He said he had a poster with Dr Martin Luther King Jr. in his bedroom, that said, “If you haven’t found something to die for, you have not lived.”

He said that inspired him, but “I ran around town with the athletes; Kevin Ireland, Dale Norman, Jimmy Sanders, Golightly etc., white, brown, black it did not matter we were just athletes. My dad told me to look at people's character traits, not the color of their skin. I was 12 years old when Tomi Smith and Ron Carlos protested at the Olympics. My world was different than that, things were different in Alamogordo back then, there was little division, everyone collaborated and got along, and my dad protected me from that stuff, by us living in Alamogordo.”

“Tomi Smith taught me about weight training and training of the mind and self-esteem”, Keller went on. “With his training I competed in the Fresno Relays.” Keller placed 4th. Keller was disappointed, but Tomi Smith told him he was proud of him, to weight train and he would be ready for the Olympic Trials.

Art Keller said he also remembered what Coach Sepulveda had told him, “Adjust and adapt, put the past behind you and just do your best.”

With that, he went on to the Olympic Trials. Keller is one of only five male athletes from Alamogordo to make it to the Olympic Trials. He got off the airplane and was met with a host of reporters. A reporter asked him what he thought of President Jimmy Carter canceling the U.S. participation in the Olympics. Art Keller responded, “no single man should have the power to keep me and other athletes from competing.”

That statement was a mistake, and sadly ended his Olympic dreams and ultimately his military career. Art Keller’s orders were rescinded, and he was discharged for speaking out against the president.

It turned out the military viewed him as their property, as he was representing them in the Olympic Trials. As such he was considered insubordinate for speaking out against the office of the president and President Carter.

Art Keller being of kind heart, said he had "no ill will toward President Carter and it was a humbling lesson learned."

Art Keller, was a member of Corinth Baptist Church in Alamogordo, and faith was always an important part of Kellers life, he later became an ordained minister.

Until his death in March 2024, Art Keller remained kind, funny and of a big heart. He was a minister and aided those in rehabilitative treatment including past teammates from drugs and other life altering issues. Keller said. he loved his time in Alamogordo, "but Coach Bob Sepulveda still owes me two steak dinners", and that is a story for another time.

While we are not sure if Art Keller ever collected on those steak dinners from Coach Sepulveda, we do know that his memory and the positive impact of his life lives on. The story of Arthur Dudley, Keller Jr's life is woven into the colorfully diverse fabric of Alamogordo history.

Remembering Arthur Dudley Keller Jr. later in life always smiling, his legacy lives on...Photo Courtesy of Family of Arthur Keller

Alamogordo and the Alamogordo High School Tiger's remember Arthur Dudley Keller Jr., and pay tribute to his life and his legacy.

Source: Notes from Author Chris Edwards Interview with Arthur Keller 2000 and 2001, Photos Courtesy of Coach Bob Sepulveda, Coach Bob Sepulveda the Early Days Book, excepts with permission, Alamogordo Town News, Alamogordo Daily News, interview with Coach Bob Sepulveda April, 30, 2024.

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