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Betti Carol VanEpps-Taylor

Tuskegee athletic coach, was born in Yankton, South Dakota, to Elbert B. Abbott, a stonemason, and Mollie (Brown) Abbott. Abbott grew up in Watertown, South Dakota, attending Watertown public schools, where he was a superior student and athlete. He graduated from high school in 1912 with an unheard-of sixteen Arrow letters in athletics.

Abbott entered South Dakota State College in Brookings, South Dakota, in the fall of 1912, selecting a dairy science major and joining the athletic program. His outstanding athletic and academic performance attracted the attention of the college president Ellwood Perisho, an acquaintance of Booker T. Washington Washington promised Abbott a job at Tuskegee contingent on his continued scholastic excellence Abbott did not disappoint maintaining his high marks and earning fourteen athletic letters in four years in track football baseball and basketball In this last he played center captained the team and was named All ...


Adam W. Green

baseball player, was born in Empire, Alabama, the third of five sons of Garnett Bankhead Sr., a coal miner, and Arie (Armstrong) Bankhead. Baseball was in the family blood: Garnett Bankhead was a power‐hitting first baseman in an Alabama industrial league, and all five Bankhead brothers played in the Negro Leagues, though Dan was the only one to play in the major leagues, becoming the first black pitcher in modern baseball history.

After attending various public schools in Birmingham, Alabama, Bankhead followed his two brothers Sam and Fred into the Negro Leagues, when he signed as a shortstop with the Birmingham Black Barons in 1940. He soon moved to the pitching mound, establishing himself with a dominant fastball and effective breaking ball; in 1941 he was named to the East West All Star Game hurling a pair of shutout innings That winter he played in the Puerto ...


Michael C. Miller

Hall of Fame football player, was born in Charlottesville, Virginia, to Roosevelt Brown, a railroad worker, and Catherine Jackson Brown. He attended Jefferson High School, where he played trombone in the school band because his father forbade him from playing football. The football coach saw Brown and decided that a 180-pound thirteen-year-old should be playing football, not trombone. Rosey's father, who was worried because Rosey's uncle had died from a football injury, finally relented after Rosey played a full season injury free in 1945. Brown played four years of high school football, graduating in 1948.

After high school, Brown attended Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland, mainly because his high school coach was an alumnus. Brown was a standout lineman on the football team and was named to the 1952 Negro All-America team selected by the Pittsburgh Courier He also wrestled while in college and ...


Gregory Travis Bond

athlete, football coach, college administrator, lawyer, and public servant, was born in Dabney, North Carolina, to former slaves Jesse Bullock and Amanda Sneed Bullock. Looking for better educational prospects for their seven children and perhaps seeking to escape Ku Klux Klan harassment, his parents moved the family north when Bullock was eight years old. After a brief stay in Boston, the family settled in Everett, Massachusetts, in about 1894, where Bullock first made a name for himself as an athlete. At Everett High School he excelled at football, baseball, and ice hockey, and his teammates elected him to serve as the captain of each of these teams his senior season.

After graduating in 1900 Bullock entered Dartmouth College which like many schools outside of the South admitted black students and encouraged them to participate in the life of the school Bullock took advantage of the wide range ...


Charles Orson Cook

Negro Leagues superstar and manager, with a career in professional baseball that spanned almost forty years and more than a dozen teams. Oscar Charleston was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, on 14 October 1896, and as a lad he was the batboy for the local Indianapolis ABCs, a Negro team. In 1910 he left home to join the army, at the age of fourteen. He was stationed in the Philippines, where he played baseball and ran track as a sprinter. Charleston was mustered out of the service and returned to his hometown in 1915 there he joined the ABCs where he established himself as a left handed power hitter and a southpaw outfielder of extraordinary speed and agility From his center field position Charleston claimed to be able to cover the entire outfield one unconfirmed account has it that his outfield teammates covered only foul territory allowing him to ...


basketball player, was the third of five children born to John DeJernett, a day laborer, and Mary Woods, a housewife. Though born in Garfield, Kentucky, as a baby DeJernett was moved with his family to Washington, Indiana, when his father found employment repairing railroad tracks on the B&O line that had been damaged during the Great Dayton Flood of 1913, one of the worst natural disasters in Ohio's history.

DeJernett grew up in a working-class neighborhood, and attended the segregated Dunbar Elementary School before entering the junior high school section of the integrated Washington High School. In 1925 the high school hired Burl Friddle, a celebrated Indiana high school and college basketball player, to coach the team and teach physical education. Friddle immediately saw that DeJernett's height and jumping ability would suit him well on the basketball team, and recruited the novice for the team.

Though DeJernett was ...


Joe Dorinson

baseball player and Hall of Famer, was born Lawrence Eugene Doby in Camden, South Carolina, the only child of David Doby and Etta Brooks. Abandoned by his father and left behind by his mother, who went north to look for a better life, he lived with his maternal grandmother and was known as Bubba Brooks for ten years. After his grandmother suffered a mental breakdown, he went to live with an Aunt Alice and Uncle James in 1934, at about which time he reclaimed his given name. Larry later remembered the four years that he spent with aunt and uncle, from 1934 to 1938, as the happiest of his young life.

At age fifteen, summoned by his mother, Doby arrived in Paterson, New Jersey, where he set the high school athletic world on fire with sparkling performances in baseball, football, basketball, and track. Like Monte Irvin ...


Wesley Borucki

professional baseball player, coach, and manager. Larry Doby was born in Camden, South Carolina, to David Doby and Etta Doby (Brooks). He lived most of his youth in Camden with his maternal grandmother and an aunt and uncle.

Doby developed athletically in Paterson, New Jersey, where he joined his mother in 1938. He was an all-state athlete at Eastside High School. Doby played his first professional baseball game on 31 May 1942 with the Negro National League's Newark Eagles. In 1942–1943 he played basketball at Long Island and Virginia Union universities before conscription into the United States Navy. His fellow serviceman and Washington Senators all-star Mickey Vernon encouraged Doby to pursue professional baseball. Doby played second base for the Eagles, champion of the 1946 Negro World Series. That summer he married his high school sweetheart, Helen Curvy.

Doby played several successful exhibition games against ...


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 ...


Edward Morrow

Edward Orval Gourdin was born on August 10, 1897, in Jacksonville, Florida, the son of Walter Holmes and Felicia Garvin Gourdin. As a child, Gourdin demonstrated such athletic and scholarly excellence that his family sacrificed and took him to Massachusetts to realize his potential. He prepared at Stanton and Cambridge Latin high schools for Harvard College and graduated in 1921 with a B.A. degree; he completed Harvard Law School in 1924 with an LL.B. degree. On May 10, 1923, he married Amalia Ponce of Cambridge, Massachusetts, who became the mother of their four children: Elizabeth, Ann Robinson, Amalia Lindal, and Edward O., Jr.

Gourdin gained fame as an athlete during his college and university career, passed the bar, practiced law in Boston, Massachusetts, and joined the National Guard in 1925. During World War II he served as lieutenant colonel and later ...


Jeffrey R. Yost

physicist and engineer, was born in Newark, New Jersey. He was one of four children. His father worked at various maintenance and painting jobs and his mother was a teletype operator. After classes at Brooklyn Technical High School, Gourdine often worked long hours with his father on cleaning and painting jobs. This experience led him to focus on his studies as well as athletics in hopes of an easier life.

His talent in swimming earned him a scholarship offer from the University of Michigan but he instead chose to attend Cornell University He paid his own tuition early in his college career working for a radio and telegraph firm prior to receiving a scholarship for track and field Gourdine competed in sprints low hurdles and the long jump The six foot tall 175 pound Gourdine earned the nickname Flash as a result of both his speed and his favorite ...


John Hanners

football player, social activist, author, singer-actor, and ordained minister, was born Roosevelt Grier on a farm in Cuthbert, Georgia, the seventh of Joseph and Ruth Grier's eleven children. At age thirteen he moved with his family to Roselle, New Jersey. Offered an athletic scholarship to Penn State University, he enrolled in 1950 and studied psychology, music, and education. His college athletic career was exceptional. Not only did he receive first-team All-American football honors in 1955, but he also set an Intercollegiate Association of Amateur Athletics of America shot-put record (fifty-eight feet) in track and field.

In 1965 Grier signed with the National Football League's New York Giants for a $500 bonus and a yearly salary of $6,500. During a long career that lasted from 1955 through 1968 Grier was a dominant defensive tackle in an era known for excellent defensive players His size ...


Scott Yanow

jazz trumpeter, figure skater, and psychiatrist, was born in New York City. His father, Billy Williams, was the lead singer in Billy Williams and the Charioteers, while his mother was a dancer who was one of the Brown Twins at the Cotton Club. She danced with Bill “Bojangles” Robinson and the Nicholas Brothers and can be seen in the Fats Waller short film of “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” sitting on the piano while he sang to her. After Billy Williams's death, Henderson's mother married a doctor in San Francisco. His stepfather had many musician patients, including Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Duke Ellington.

Henderson began on the trumpet when he was nine. His first teacher was Louis Armstrong who gave him a few informal lessons Henderson moved to San Francisco with his family when he was 14 He studied at the San Francisco Conservatory of ...


Greta Koehler

track-and-field athlete, was born in Virginia. The names of his parents and their occupations are unknown. He grew up in suburban Philadelphia and later moved to Plymouth, Pennsylvania, a coal-mining region during the Great Depression, with his family.

Johnson started his track-and-field career as a junior at Plymouth High School, where he won the 100- and 220-yard dashes in state record times, 9.8 seconds and 21.4 seconds, respectively, in 1932 He won state titles that same year in the 100 and 220 yard dashes and the long jump and qualified himself for the Olympic Trials in California When his parents did not have the resources for him to make the trip the town raised the necessary money Johnson finished fourth in his semifinal In Johnson s senior year the state did not hold a state meet because of the Depression not giving Johnson the chance to compete at ...


Peter C. Holloran

professional basketball player, was born in Wilmington, North Carolina. He attended high school at Laurinburg Institute from 1947 to 1951, where he was a four-year letter winner and an outstanding all-conference and all-state player in 1951. After he was drafted and served in the U.S. Army from 1954 to 1956, he graduated from North Carolina Central College in 1957, a historically black college in Durham. In college, Jones was again a four-year letter winner and was named all-conference three times. Jones was one of the few African American players on the National Collegiate Athletic Association list of outstanding players. After seven National Basketball Association (NBA) teams overlooked Jones, he was drafted by legendary Boston Celtics coach Arnold “Red” Auerbach in 1957 The Celtics had the last pick in the first round of the draft and Auerbach chose Jones solely on the recommendation of Wake ...


Michael C. Miller

Hall of Fame football player, was born in Austin, Texas, to Johnnie Mae King, a prostitute, and her pimp, known only as “Texas Slim.” King abandoned her baby in a garbage dumpster when he was three months old, and Ella Lane, a widow, discovered and adopted him, naming him Richard. He attended Anderson High School, playing football and basketball and running track. Anderson won the state title in 1944 in the Prairie View Interscholastic League, a league for black high schools in Texas.

After high school, Lane moved to Scottsbluff, Nebraska, to live with his birth mother, who had straightened out her life. Though the town was predominantly white, Lane remembered it as open and friendly to him. In 1947 he signed a professional baseball contract with the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Baseball League and was assigned to their farm team the Omaha Knights ...


Michael Ezra

the longest-reigning heavyweight boxing champion in history. Born Joseph Louis Barrow on 13 May 1914 near the rural town of Lafayette, Alabama, in the Buckalew Mountains, Louis was the seventh of eight children born to Munrow and Lillie Reese Barrow. Munrow Barrow, a cotton sharecropper, left the family when Joe was two years old and was never seen by them again, leaving Lillie to work the land and raise the children alone until she married Patrick Brooks, who also sharecropped.

Tiring of scratching a meager living out of the land and enthralled by stories of prosperity and freedom in the North, Brooks moved the family to Detroit in 1926 settling in a black neighborhood on the east side Things were not much better there however as the Great Depression began to slow the nation s economy Brooks was laid off from his city job as a street ...


Bob Greene

boxer, paratrooper, and prison guard, was born Theodore Adolphus Lowry in New Haven, Connecticut, the fourth and youngest child of James Wesley Lowry and Grace Editha Mathews. His father was born in what is now Beckley, West Virginia, whereas his mother was a native of Brunswick, Maine.

In a sixteen-year boxing career that was interrupted by World War II, Lowry became the only fighter to twice go the ten-round distance with Rocky Marciano, who was known for his knockout punch and who finished his career as the undefeated world heavyweight champion.

On 1 June 1946 in New Haven, Lowry married Marjorie Frances Parris, whose brother, Fred Parris, was the lead singer of the Five Satins and wrote the hit song “In The Still of the Night.” Ted and Marjorie had three sons: Wayne, Kenneth, and Kevin Ted married ...


Negro League baseball player and manager, was born in Whitehall, Louisiana, the youngest of the eleven children of Martha, a midwife, and Henry Louis Malarcher, a plantation worker. His mother had been a slave in Louisiana prior to the Civil War. Malarcher's family emphasized religious and educational training. His grandparents were founding members of the local black church and his family relocated in order to increase the educational opportunities for their children. As a young boy, Malarcher attended a country school in Union, Louisiana, and played on a local black youth baseball team known as the Baby T's. From 1907 until 1916 Malarcher attended New Orleans University (later Dillard University). There he starred on and served as a coach of the school baseball team, which went undefeated from 1913 until 1916.

Malarcher s stint at New Orleans University was productive both personally and professionally While there ...