football player, was born Melvin Carnell Blount in Vidalia, Georgia. Blount was the youngest of eleven children who grew up in rural Georgia in extreme poverty, often going barefoot and living in a home with no indoor plumbing. Blount's father, a deeply religious man, instilled values in his children through hard work and high expectations, and Blount recalled that some of the most satisfying moments of his childhood came from doing chores for his father and earning his praise. Blount learned football from his seven older brothers, who played a rough brand of football in which Blount excelled at an early age. In high school Blount proved that he was a gifted athlete on the football field and beyond. He was a multiple‐sports star, running track as well as playing baseball, basketball, and football. Blount made such an impression in high school that by the time he graduated in 1966 ...
Daniel A. Dalrymple
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 ...
CanadianFootball League player, coach, sports executive, and philanthropist, was born Michael Lutrell Clemons in Dunedin, Florida, to Anna O'Neal and Willy James Clemons. The diminutive Clemons earned his nickname in the CFL because, according to Bill O'Billovich, the Toronto Argonauts' head coach, he resembled a pinball when bouncing off of would-be tacklers. His parents never married; Anna raised Michael, while Willy stayed largely at the periphery of his son's life. Later, Anna married and gave birth to Kelli, while her new husband added two children of his own to the family.
Clemons grew up in the projects of a predominantly black working class community His family and neighbors struggled economically at one point Clemons an excellent student and math whiz even helped his mother s boyfriend run a numbers racket Still Clemons and his mother were devout attendees of the local Baptist church ...
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 ...
Adam R. Hornbuckle
was born James Ray Hines in Dumas, Arkansas, the ninth of twelve children of Charlie Hines and Minnie West Hines. In 1952 the Hines family moved to Oakland, California, where his father worked in construction and his mother in a cannery. At Oakland’s Lowell Junior High School, Hines played center field on the baseball team; his speed at that position impressed Jim Coleman, the McClymonds High School track and field coach, who asked him to join the track team. Once at McClymonds, Hines began specializing in the 100- and 220-yard dashes. Undefeated throughout his high school career at both distances, he clocked 9.7 seconds in the 100 yards as a sophomore, and improved to 9.4 as a senior, to earn a share of the national high school record. Graduating high school in 1964, Hines ranked as the nation’s top high school sprinter.
Hines earned an athletic scholarship to run ...
Laura M. Calkins
football player, was born in Mansfield, Louisiana, to Paul C. and Mary Howell. Little is known of their early lives, but in the late 1880s Howell's parents decided to leave Louisiana, seeking a new life in the American West. In 1888 the Howell family and their six children (Abner was the only boy) reached Dodge City, Kansas, and then traveled together to Trinidad, Colorado. Under unknown circumstances, the family split up; Paul Howell went ahead by train, reaching Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1888. Mary and the children remained in Colorado until 1890 when they were able to join Paul in Salt Lake City where he had been hired as the city s first black policeman Although Paul and Mary Howell did not join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints LDS which was based in Salt Lake City and commonly known as the ...
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 ...
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 ...
naval officer, was born in Tobacco Port, Tennessee, the son of Charles, a tobacco farmer, and Carrie Martin; he had two sisters and one brother. For the first few years of his life, Martin lived on a farm in Tennessee, near the Cumberland River. When Martin was about five or six years old, his father died. Because she was unable to keep up the farm, his mother moved to Indianapolis, Indiana, where she became a seamstress. Graham Martin, by then seven or eight, went with his mother, while his siblings remained in Tennessee. He attended segregated public schools and had to deal with the Jim Crow practices of his new home city. For instance, blacks had to sit in the balconies of movie theaters, and the sports teams on which Martin played were not allowed to compete against teams from local all-white schools.
As he recalled in ...
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 ...
professional football player, was born in Reading, Pennsylvania, one of eight children of Virginia Moore and George Moore, a steel-mill worker. At Reading High School Moore starred in track, but football would become his main focus: Moore scored twenty-two touchdowns during his senior season in 1951, earning a scholarship to Pennsylvania State University. Penn State coach Rip Engle would not allow players to wear the low-cut shoes Moore had worn in high school. Uncomfortable with high-top shoes, Moore learned from teammate Bob Pollard that he could use tape to eliminate the tightness of the upper part of the shoe. Because of this white tape, Moore became known as “Spats.”
Moore became the first Penn State running back to gain over one thousand yards in a season. After graduating in 1956, he was chosen by the Baltimore Colts in the first round of the 1956 National ...
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 ...
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
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 ...
football player, was born in Wichita, Kansas, one of three children of Roger Winfield Sayers, a car polisher and mechanic for Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, and Bernice Ross. In 1951 the family moved to Omaha, Nebraska, where Roger Sayers's brother lived. But financial difficulties forced the family to move within the city nine times in eight years. By the time Gale entered high school, his parents were suffering from depression and alcohol abuse, and the family lived in poverty. Because they often had no coal for their furnace, Gale and his two brothers would turn on the kitchen's gas oven for nighttime heat, which often caused them to wake up feeling sick.Despite such adversity Sayers thrived while in Omaha because the city gave him opportunities to compete in sports At the Howard Kennedy grade school Sayers led his teams to city titles in baseball ...
Jason Philip Miller
athlete, was born Wilmeth Webb in Washington, DC, the son of Elias, a pharmacist, and Pauline Miner. In 1925 Elias died of stroke, and Pauline subsequently remarried. Her new husband was Samuel Sidat-Singh, a medical doctor of West Indian descent. He adopted Wilmeth and moved the family to Harlem, New York, where Wilmeth was raised and attended school. Even as a young man, Wilmeth showed great promise as an athlete. By the time he was attending high school at New York's DeWitt Clinton, he was a basketball star. In 1934 he led his team to a New York Public High School Athletic League championship. He was offered a basketball scholarship to Syracuse University, to which he matriculated in 1935. He was also recruited by the school's football coach, and soon he was playing on the gridiron as well as the hardwood.
College sports at the ...
professional football player, businessman, and historic preservationist, was the youngest of six children born to Fred and Ora Switzer of Nicodemus, an all African American town in northwestern Kansas. He grew up playing football on the dusty dirt streets of Nicodemus. He liked fishing and hunting and especially helping with farm chores. He attended grade school at Nicodemus until the eighth grade and then attended nearby Bogue High School. While in high school he played on the football and basketball teams and ran track. He lettered each year in all three sports.
Upon graduation in 1950, Switzer entered Kansas State University as one of the first African Americans to receive a football scholarship to the university. While at Kansas State he lettered three years in both football and track and was named to the All Big Seven three years in a row. In 1952 Switzer ...
Joy Gleason Carew
Wilberforce graduate, All-American football player, animal husbandry specialist, and African American expatriate in the USSR, was born in Roanoke, Virginia. His parents' names are unknown, although one source noted that his father was a pastor. Tynes's family history was a mix of African American and Native American. One source cites his Native American heritage as Seneca, and another suggests he was a Dakota. Whatever his Native American heritage, as a man of African ancestry, Tynes was no less hampered by Jim Crow restrictions. He nonetheless earned a degree in Agricultural Education at Wilberforce in 1929 and had achieved some notoriety for his prowess on the football field. Under the name “Whirlwind” Tynes, he was also listed on the Pittsburgh Courier All American football team in that same year Despite these achievements he was unable to find work in his chosen field and in the early 1930s ...
professional football player and union leader, was born in Robstown, Texas, to Eugene Upshaw, an oil field worker, and Cora (Riley) Upshaw, a domestic worker. As a boy, Upshaw honed his ability to endure unfavorable conditions while picking cotton in the fields surrounding Robstown. The harsh and sometimes brutal experience of working in the unforgiving Texas heat taught Upshaw lessons in humility and toughness. He learned early the value of a solid work ethic, while earning the extra money that his family could not afford to do without. The eldest of three sons, Upshaw was the example for his younger siblings, who often followed his lead and even in his footsteps: his younger brother Marvin Upshaw was a first-round draft pick of the Cleveland Browns in 1968.
Considered a stellar athlete at Robstown High School where he showed promise in sports such as baseball football and ...