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Jane Brodsky Fitzpatrick

basketball player, was born Charles Henry Cooper in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the youngest of five children of Daniel Webster Cooper, a mailman, and Emma Caroline Brown, a schoolteacher.

Cooper played basketball at Westinghouse High School in segregated East Pittsburgh. After graduating in February 1944, Cooper attended West Virginia State College, a historically black institution. He played basketball from 1944 to 1945, until he was drafted into the U.S. Navy. He served from July 1945 to October 1946.

Upon leaving the Navy, Cooper attended Duquesne University in Pittsburgh on the GI Bill and graduated in 1950 with a B.S. in Education. Although Duquesne was a predominantly white university, it was an early leader in the recruitment of black athletes. Cooper made the basketball team, The Dukes, when only a freshman. He was their first black starter and an All-American. As captain in 1949–1950 he led ...


Pamela S. Rivers

professional football player, was born Marion Motley in Leesburg, Georgia, to Shakeful and Blanche (Jones) Motley whose occupations are unknown. In 1924 Motley's family moved to Canton, Ohio, where his father worked as a foundry molder. Little else is known about Marion's background or life until he gained notice as a football player at Canton McKinley High School.

Motley was a standout, a three-sport star whose size advantage and dominance as a fullback helped usher in a new era of football. In 1937 he scored over sixty points only to best himself the following year with 113 points, which was unprecedented for a high school player. He earned All-Ohio honors and ranked eighth in all time McKinley rushers. Years later, in 1968, he would be enshrined into the school's Hall of Fame.

After graduating from high school in 1939 Marion went to South Carolina State and was ...


J. Todd Moye

Negro League baseball player, coach, and manager, was born John Jordan O'Neil Jr. to John Jordan O'Neil Sr., a farm and sawmill laborer and small-business owner, and Luella O'Neil, a homemaker and cook, in Carrabelle, Florida. O'Neil realized early on that his baseball talents could earn him a ticket out of the area's celery fields, and he began playing semipro ball at the age of twelve. He received his nickname through a case of mistaken identity in his twenties. A bootlegger named “Buck” O'Neal owned the all-black Miami Giants. When O'Neil left Florida to play on national barnstorming teams he was billed as “Buck”—perhaps as a result of innocent confusion, but more likely in an effort to capitalize on O'Neal's name recognition—and the moniker stuck.

O Neil attended segregated public schools in Sarasota Florida and Edward Waters College in Jacksonville He left college before earning ...


Michael Adams

professional football player, was born Fletcher Joseph Perry in Stephens, Arkansas, the son of Fletcher Perry and Laura Wheeler Perry, whose occupations are unknown. Perry grew up in Los Angeles, graduating in 1944 from Jordan High School, where he starred in football, baseball, basketball, and track and field. He was a star running back during 1944–1945 at Compton Junior College, scoring twenty-two touchdowns in his first season.

After college Perry joined the U.S. Navy and played for the Alameda Naval Air Station football team in 1947. The San Francisco 49ers tackle John Woudenberg saw Perry play and told 49ers owner Anthony J. Morabito and coach Lawrence T. “Buck” Shaw about the six-foot, two-hundred-pound running back. Perry reportedly turned down offers from fourteen colleges to sign a contract with the 49ers.

The 49ers began playing in 1946 during the initial season of the All America Football Conference ...


Michael C. Miller

professional golfer, was born in Nashville, Tennessee, the youngest of nine children. Rhodes rarely spoke of his parents, though he did mention in an interview that his father died when he was four years old. By the time he reached the fifth grade, Ted had dropped out of school to work as a caddy on area golf courses, including being a club favorite at the Belle Meade Country Club. When he was not caddying, Rhodes took other odd jobs at any golf course he could, or played golf. Nashville had no courses for blacks to use, so Rhodes and other caddies made their own courses in neighborhood parks. Rhodes also sneaked onto courses where he caddied or played on “caddy days,” and became fairly well known as a golfer and hustler.

Rhodes s golf swing the result of endless practice soon came to be recognized as one of the ...


Olympic champion boxer, was born in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles, California, to Hays Sanders, a municipal garbage worker, and Eva Sanders, a homemaker. Sanders, the oldest male child of the family, was mature and physically strong, even at an early age. He and his friends exercised vigorously as children, collecting coffee cans and then filling them with cement and connecting them to steel bars to make weight sets. As Sanders grew during his teen years, he continued working on his strength and speed, becoming a star athlete in football (he played wide receiver) and track and field (specializing in the four-hundred-meter run) at Jordan High School in Watts.

After high school Sanders attended a nearby junior college in Compton California At Compton Junior College he continued to excel in football as both a wide receiver and end With the urging of a local coach he ...


Jeff Shantz

civil and labor rights activist, was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In 1941, at the age of twelve, Smith ran away from home and joined the U.S. Navy. The navy did not discover their mistake in enlisting the underage Smith until he had reached the age of fourteen, by which time Smith had successfully passed through boot camp and sailed to Europe. During his two years in the navy, Smith would learn two skills that would greatly influence the course of his life: boxing and heavy equipment operation.

Upon his return to Pittsburgh in 1943, the fourteen-year-old Smith chose not to return to school. Instead he decided to devote himself full time to boxing. In two years as a middleweight fighter Smith participated in more than one hundred professional fights. He also met and developed a friendship with Edgar Kaufmann a Pittsburgh department store owner and boxing ...