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Michael L. Krenn

boxer, was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Little is known of Foster's life before he began boxing. Foster himself admitted that he got into numerous fights as a child and a high school student and was once taken to court for fracturing the skull of another young man with one punch. With few options open to him and a close scrape with the law motivating him, Foster signed up for the U.S. Air Force in 1957, shortly after graduating from high school.

Foster's tremendous punching power soon became evident to his air force commanders during informal inter- and intra-unit boxing matches, and they put him on the service's boxing team. For four years Foster traveled with the team all over the United States and the world. He engaged in well over one hundred fights, losing only three. In 1960 he won the light heavyweight title at the ...


Antje Daub

athlete, scholar, soldier, and judge, was born in Jacksonville, Florida, one of nine children of Walter Holmes Gourdin, a meat cutter and part Seminole Indian, and Felicia Nee, an African American woman who was a housekeeper. Little is known about his early school career, other than that he was valedictorian of his high school class in 1916. Although poor, Gourdin's parents recognized their son's talents and educational potential and, following his high school graduation, moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, to further his career. There, Gourdin attended Cambridge High and Latin, which helped prepare him for the high academic demands of an Ivy League education.

By the time he enrolled in his freshman year at Harvard in 1917 Gourdin appears to have been a conscientious and responsible student To pay tuition he supported himself by working as a postal clerk He also became a ...


Elliott J. Gorn

John Arthur Johnson was born to former slaves in Galveston, Texas, just as Reconstruction ended and he came of age in the Jim Crow Era of rigid racial segregation. In boxing, the color line was firmly drawn. Although Johnson had established himself as an accomplished boxer by 1902, white heavyweight champions Jim Jeffries, Robert Fitzsimmons, and Tommy Burns refused to fight him. But Johnson persisted, allegedly following Burns all over the world until Burns in 1908 agreed to fight in Sydney, Australia. In the fourteenth round, with Burns defenseless, police stopped the fight.

Johnson s championship sparked a wave of antiblack hostility For the next several years he flaunted his wealth and fame Not only was Johnson the heavyweight champion and defiantly so but he violated the ultimate racial taboo by conducting relationships with white women eventually marrying two The search for the great white hope ...


Henry Lyman

poet, boxer, policeman, and journalist, was born Arthur Winslow MacAlpine in Birmingham, Alabama, the third of five children of Francis P. MacAlpine, an Alabamian born in slavery four years before Emancipation, and Mary Winslow, a music teacher from Canada and the first black woman to graduate from the University of New Brunswick. Having met and married in Springfield, Massachusetts, the MacAlpines had moved to Birmingham so that Mary, unable to find employment in the mostly white schools of New England, could teach in a segregated one. In 1919 the promise of a better education for their children persuaded them to return to Springfield, where Francis kept a small convenience store and Mary gave piano and violin lessons.

Poetry and music were paramount in the household Mary who knew countless poems by heart would recite Longfellow Frost and the English romantics sometimes to young Arthur ...


Todd M. Brenneman

athlete and attorney, was born in Selma, Alabama, to William Henry Matthews, a tailor, and Elizabeth Abigail Matthews. Little is known about his early childhood, but he attended Tuskegee Institute from 1893 to 1896 and came to the attention of Booker T. Washington, who arranged for him to attend Phillips Andover Academy in Massachusetts in 1896. At Andover Matthews excelled at football, baseball, and track as well as academics. He was also popular with his classmates who gave him a silver loving cup, a large cup that has multiple handles on it so it can be passed around to various people at a banquet, at graduation.

As successful as he was at Andover, Matthews truly came into his own as an athlete during his college career. Enrolling at Harvard in 1901 Matthews earned places on the varsity football and baseball teams in his freshman ...


O.J. Simpson was born in a poor neighborhood of San Francisco, California, the third of four children. His father left the family when Simpson was a child. At a young age Simpson wore leg braces to correct weakness in his legs, but as a teenager at Galileo High School, he was a star athlete, participating in baseball, track, and football. At the same time Simpson received several suspensions from school for misbehavior. He graduated from Galileo in 1965, but his grades kept him from attending a major university. Instead, he enrolled at City College in San Francisco, where he had a remarkable first season of football and was offered several athletic scholarships. He remained another year at City College before meeting the admissions standards for the University of Southern California (USC), which he entered in 1967. That same year, he married his first wife, Marguerite.


Steven J. Niven

football player, sportscaster, and actor, was born Orenthal James Simpson in San Francisco, California, to Jimmie Simpson, a cook, and Eunice Durden, a nurse's aide. The child disliked his unusual first name, which was-given to him by an aunt who had heard of a French actor named Orenthal. Sometime during his childhood—accounts differ as to when—he began using his initials “O. J.,” which friends later adapted to “Orange Juice” and, later, to “Juice.” When O. J. was four, Jimmie Simpson abandoned his wife and family, leaving Eunice to raise four children in a two-bedroom apartment in the run-down Potrero Hill public housing projects near San Francisco's Chinatown. Eunice Simpson worked long hours to provide for her children but it was often a hard struggle When O J contracted rickets as an infant for example he was left bowlegged and in need of leg braces that his ...


John M. Carroll

football player and judge, was born Frederick Wayman Slater in Normal, Illinois, the son of the Reverend George W. Slater Jr. and Letha Jones. As a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, Slater's father moved around so frequently that as a boy he was left to live for long periods with his grandparents in Chicago. During these visits he played “prairie” football, a pick-up form of the game, at Racine Avenue and Sixty-first Street, the neighborhood from which would spring his future team, the Chicago Cardinals. His old friends speculated that Slater received his nickname because of a mongrel dog named Duke, which he owned as a boy.

In 1913 his father accepted a position in Clinton Iowa where Slater attended high school and played football When he asked his parents to buy him a helmet and a pair of football shoes neither of ...


Leslie Heywood

Olympian in track and field and professional bowler, was born in Malden, Massachusetts, the eldest of six children of William Stokes, a gardener, and Mary Wesley, a domestic worker. Stokes began her running career during her time at Beebe Junior High in Malden when one of her basketball teammates suggested, because of her speed, that she join the local Onteora Track Club, sponsored by William H. Quaine, Malden's park commissioner. At the club, she soon began to excel in the sprints and jumping events.

At Malden High School where she also played basketball Louise repeatedly set records in track She was awarded the James Michael Curley Cup as a junior for outstanding track performance of the year She set the New England record in the 100 meters and tied the world record in the standing broad jump jumping eight feet five and three quarter inches She ...


Andrew Smith

boxer, was born in Brooklyn, New York's Bedford-Stuyvesant section, the third child to Lorna Smith Tyson. Tyson's father, James Kirkpatrick, left the family in 1968, and Lorna Tyson soon moved to Brownsville, New York. Arrested for various crimes by the age of ten, in 1979 Tyson entered the Tryon School for Boys in Johnstown, New York. Bobby Stewart, a Tryon staff member, recognized Tyson's athletic potential and introduced him to the notable boxing trainer Constantine “Cus” D'Amato. Tyson quickly impressed the trainer, and on 30 June 1980 he was released from Tryon and placed in D'Amato's custody.While living with D'Amato in Catskill, New York, Tyson trained rigorously and studied the fight-film library maintained by cofounder of Big Fights, Inc., Jim Jacobs. Never dedicated to his education, Tyson was expelled from Catskill High School in 1982 after several allegations of harassing female students ...


Lane Demas

football player and actor. At the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), from 1937 to 1939 Washington was the most celebrated college football player on the West Coast. He was also one of two African Americans to integrate the National Football League (NFL) in 1946.

Kenneth S. Washington was born in Los Angeles and played football at Abraham Lincoln High School. From 1937 to 1939 he played tailback at UCLA and rushed for 1,914 yards. In 1939 he led the team to its best season ever and a top-ten national ranking. At a time when prominent teams even outside the South were still unwilling to accept any black athletes, Washington played with four other African American students, including Jack Roosevelt “Jackie” Robinson and Woody Strode.

Washington and his black teammates achieved immense popularity on the West Coast and earned national recognition Los Angeles citizens overwhelmingly supported the ...