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Ron Howell

first African American elected to political office in Brooklyn, New York, and a leader in the mid-twentieth century effort to integrate American tennis, was born on the Caribbean island of Nevis, then part of the British West Indies. His mother was Lillian de Grasse Baker, whose family had successful retail businesses on the island; his father was the Reverend Alfred B. Baker, a Wesleyan Methodist minister.

Tragedy struck in 1900 when Lillian Baker died of consumption. Bertram, an only child, would find comfort in the care of his maternal grandmother, Eliza de Grasse. In 1905 Baker's father left Nevis, accepting an offer to become founding pastor of the Ebenezer Wesleyan Methodist Church in Brooklyn. The Reverend Baker would later also found the Beulah Wesleyan Methodist Church in Manhattan.

In 1915 the Reverend Baker returned to Nevis to pick up his seventeen year old son Bertram who ...

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Kate Tuttle

By the time Jim Brown retired in 1965 after nine seasons in the National Football League (NFL), many sports writers had described him as the best fullback ever to carry a football. Born on Simmons Island, Georgia, Jim Brown moved with his mother to Long Island, New York, at the age of seven. An all-state athlete in high school in football, basketball, and track, he became a four-sport star in college, adding lacrosse to his arsenal while at Syracuse University.

After graduating in 1957, Brown received job offers from professional baseball and basketball teams as well as invitations to become a boxer, but he chose to sign with the NFL's Cleveland Browns. The NFL named Brown Rookie of the Year in 1957 and chose him as its Most Valuable Player three times in his brief career He played in the Pro Bowl nine times setting records for ...

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David F. Smydra

athlete, actor, and activist, was born James Nathaniel Brown on Saint Simons Island, Georgia, to Theresa and Swinton Brown, a onetime boxer, who abandoned Theresa and their son two weeks after his birth. A couple of years later Theresa departed for Long Island, New York, to take a domestic job, leaving Jim to be raised by his great-grandmother and grandmother, the latter an alcoholic. By 1944 Theresa had saved enough money to send for Jim, and they were reunited in Manhasset, Long Island, for the first time in six years. Despite the usual friction of being the new kid—he was once accused by his peers of fighting dirty—Brown eventually distinguished himself athletically. He gained the attention of a local policeman, who lent Brown keys to the high school gym so that the youth could organize Police Boys' Club games whenever he and his friends wanted to play.At Manhasset ...

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Julian C. Madison

athlete, actor, civic activist. Jim Brown is generally recognized as the greatest football player and the greatest lacrosse player of all time. At 6 feet 2 inches tall, weighing 228 pounds, and with a 32-inch waist, Brown combined great speed with a powerful running style and fearsome stiff-arm to terrorize National Football League (NFL) defenders for nine years. The only person in history voted into three halls of fame (college football, college lacrosse, and the NFL), Brown is arguably the greatest athlete of the twentieth century.

James Nathaniel Brown was born on Saint Simons Island, Georgia, to Swinton “Sweet Sue” and Theresa Brown Swinton Brown left his family barely two weeks after his son was born and they rarely heard from him afterward When Jim was two his mother left him in the care of his great grandmother and moved to Great Neck Long Island where ...

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Pellom McDaniels

football player and businessman, was born in Gainesville, Alabama, one of four children of Wallace Buchanan, a steelworker, and Fannie Mae Buchanan, a bank employee.

At Birmingham's prestigious Arthur Harold (A. H.) Parker Industrial High School, known as the “largest Negro school in the world,” (Carolyn McKinstry interview). Buchanan worked diligently to master his growing physical stature and athletic ability. Reaching six feet five inches in his senior year, Buchanan became a star athlete and was voted captain of both basketball and football teams. For Buchanan, as well as others who attended A. H. Parker from the late 1940s to the mid-1960s, the instructors were responsible for providing the students with a sense of race pride and inspired them to achieve beyond the expectations of the outside world.

In addition to the teachers at A H Parker High School Buchanan had several coaches and mentors who influenced ...

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Richard Sobel

first African American Ivy League head coach, 1984 U.S. Olympic men's track-and-field team head coach, and president of USA Track & Field from 1992 to 1996, was born Lawrence Thomas Ellis in Englewood, New Jersey. With two older sisters, Virginia Robinson and Theresa Brisbane, Ellis grew up in the Bronx in New York City, on a street known for its gangs. His parents, Henry Ellis, a tailor, and Anna Wright Hart, a Macy's saleswoman and a child's nurse, separated during his youth and Ellis worked part-time jobs in order to help make ends meet. Ellis's mother and the late Rev. Edler Hawkins, a Presbyterian minister, were positive influences in his younger years. “Basically, I was a good kid,” he explained. “I joined the Boy Scouts. I played ball in the street, touch football (Alfano, New York Times, Apr. 1984 section 5 1 For ...

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Born and raised in Paducah, Kentucky, Clarence Gaines attended Morgan State College near Baltimore, Maryland, where he played football and basketball. He graduated in 1945 with a B.S. degree in chemistry. Intent on becoming a dentist, he accepted a position as a teacher and assistant coach at Winston-Salem State University (then Winston-Salem Teachers College) in North Carolina, planning to stay only one year.

The athletic director left the following year, and Gaines took over the job. He coached football, basketball, boxing, and tennis. As Gaines told an interviewer for The New York Times in 1983, coaching at Winston-Salem, with its tiny budget, forced him to take on many tasks. “I was the coach, the manager, statistician, the janitor and everything else.” In addition, he earned a master's degree in physical education in 1950 by attending Columbia University in New York City during the summers.

Gaines decided to ...

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basketball coach, was born in Paducah, Kentucky, the only child of Lester Gaines, a cook, and Olivia Bolen, a domestic worker. By the time he entered Lincoln High School in rural Paducah, he was already six feet, five inches tall and weighed 265 pounds. He became a powerhouse on the football team and made All-Conference. In 1941 Gaines graduated third in his class of thirty-five.

Education was very important to his parents, so it was understood that he would go to college. While visiting Morgan State College in Baltimore, where he ultimately enrolled in 1941, the business manager, James “Stump” Carter, spotted Gaines walking across campus and exclaimed, “Man! The only thing I've ever seen bigger than you is a house!” (Gaines, 2004). From that day forward Gaines became known as “Big House.”

Gaines excelled in college athletics He made All American for two years and ...

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Adam Bradley

basketball player, was born in Detroit, Michigan, one of six children. When Gervin was two his father abandoned the family, leaving his mother to support the children alone. Growing up in the 1950s and 1960s Gervin experienced first-hand the desperation caused by urban poverty and racial discrimination, tensions that culminated in the 1967 Detroit riots.

As a 5'8” sophomore Gervin failed to make the Martin Luther King High School basketball team in 1967. However, assistant coach Willie Meriweather saw his potential and offered him a place on the junior varsity squad. Gervin made the most of the opportunity. After befriending the high school janitor, he gained after-hours access to the gymnasium for late-night shooting practice in exchange for sweeping up afterward.

By his senior year Gervin had grown to just below his full height of 6 7 and had developed a silky shooting touch Averaging thirty one points ...

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John Hanners

college athlete and professional football player, was born the son of Foster, a Pullman porter, and Ella Johnson in Waterproof, Louisiana. In the early 1930s the Johnson family moved to Pittsburg, California, near Oakland, where John Henry emerged as an exceptional athlete at Pittsburg High School. He earned varsity letters in baseball, football, basketball, wrestling, and track. In 1949 he set a California schoolboy discus throwing record. Three years running he was an All-Contra Costa County Athletic League all-star in football, basketball, and track. His legendary athletic performances resulted in numerous awards. Johnson married Barbara Flood in 1950, and they had five children together before their divorce. He later married Leona Johnson.

Johnson enrolled at California's St. Mary's College in 1950 where he developed the football playing style that would mark the rest of this athletic career At 6 2 and 225 pounds Johnson helped ...

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Wayne L. Wilson

football player, was born David Jones in Eatonville, Florida, five miles from Orlando. David's parents, Mattie and Ishmeal, who worked a variety of jobs including farm workers, had eight children, three boys and five girls. He was the seventh. The poverty-stricken family lived in an old, wooden house with no indoor plumbing until David attended high school. He was a three-sport star (baseball, basketball, and football) at all-black Hungerford High School.

However, all David dreamed about as a child was becoming a star professional football player. His father demanded that all three boys play the sport. But he noticed that David had the greatest potential for success in the pros. Jones said of his father in Pro Football Weekly, “He used to watch me practice at 5:00 in the morning doing my running when nobody else did. He supported the hell out of me” (Arkush, 27 Jan ...

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Ramona Hoage Edelin

professor, coach, and civic leader, was born in Chester, South Carolina, the eldest of sixteen children of William Charles and Susie (Jackson) Lewis. Only five of the children lived past early childhood. Lewis's father was born on 11 March 1854, the son of an enslaved woman. He was permitted to obtain an education by learning with the white children of the household and, later, by attending public school. He later taught school in Chester County, South Carolina. He and Susie, always a homemaker, raised their surviving children in a two-story house and farm on York Road in Chester.

William Charles Lewis II attended the Brainard Academy in Chester, a private school of the Presbyterian Church. He graduated with a three-year trade certificate in harness making from Virginia's Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute (later Hampton University) and in 1907 was a football player and coach ...

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Andrew James Kellett

professional football quarterback, was born in Los Angeles, California, the fourth of seven children (and only son) born to Harold Warren Moon, a janitor, and Pat Moon, a nurse. In 1963 the elder Harold Moon died suddenly of liver and heart ailments, leaving Pat to raise Warren and his six sisters. Warren played almost every sport growing up, but had decided by the age of fourteen that football offered his likeliest shot at a professional career. Thus he attended Los Angeles's Hamilton High School even though it was outside his school district, as much because of its reputation for football as for its academic strength.Moon was the varsity starting quarterback his junior and senior years at Hamilton overcoming Los Angeles s rising gang culture more than once his life was threatened by gang members at rival high schools and apparent racism though a prolific passer on ...

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Michael C. Miller

football player, was born Melvin Lacy Elisha Renfro in Houston, Texas. When Mel was four his family moved to Portland, Oregon. He attended Jefferson High School, where he excelled as a football player, playing offense (quarterback and running back), defense (defensive back), and special teams (kick and punt returner). Renfro led Jefferson to thirty-four consecutive victories, including three state championships. The only loss he suffered was the state championship his senior year. He graduated high school in 1960.

Renfro attended Oregon University where he ran track and played football becoming one of the best players in the school s history As in high school he played offense defense and special teams For his career he amassed 1 540 rushing yards averaging 5 5 yards per carry and twenty three touchdowns On defense he played safety and once recorded an astounding twenty one tackles in a game against Ohio ...

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Thomas A. Mogan

professional basketball player, college coach, author, and foundation president, was born Dawn Michele Staley in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Clarence and Estelle Staley. The youngest of five children, Staley grew up playing sports with neighborhood boys on the streets of North Philadelphia.

Staley enjoyed success at every level of athletic competition, beginning with her high school basketball career. She led Dobbins Tech to three Philadelphia Public League titles and was named USA Today Player of the Year during her senior season in 1988. Staley went on to the University of Virginia, where she led the Cavaliers to three National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Final Four tournaments in her four seasons in Charlottesville. Standing only five-feet six-inches tall, Staley relied on her quickness, intelligence, and unmatched intensity to succeed as a point guard. She was named National Player of the Year in 1991 and 1992 She ...

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T. Natasha Turner

international fencer and philanthropist, was born Peter Jonathan Westbrook in St Louis Missouri the son of Ulysses Westbrook an African American army corporal and Mariko Wada a school custodian Peter s parents met while his father was stationed in Kobe Japan and married despite the objections of his mother s well to do Japanese Catholic family Soon after his birth Westbrook s family relocated to Newark New Jersey where they lived in near poverty in a housing project When he was a toddler Peter s parents separated and he rarely saw his father again His tough surroundings and teasing because of his biracial background often compelled young Peter to get into fights Seeing that her son needed a positive way to channel his aggressive energy and believing that the discipline involved in fencing would be good for him Mariko Westbrook persuaded her 13 year old son to join the ...