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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 ...


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 ...


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 ...


Shana L. Redmond

pianist and composer, was born in Jacksonville, Florida, the son of Clark Benjamin Brown, himself the son of a former slave. Little is known of Brown's natural mother, who died when Lawrence was three; from then on, he was raised by his stepmother Cenia Brown.

During his youth Brown took music instruction from the well-respected William Riddick. Exhibiting incredible promise, Brown was sent to Boston to receive further instruction in his primary instrument, piano. In addition to scholarships, Brown financed his education in Boston by working as an elevator operator. In 1916 he made his professional music debut as accompanist for the tenor Sydney Woodward. With this exposure Brown caught the eye of other musicians, including the famed tenor Roland Hayes. Brown and Hayes toured abroad from 1918 to 1923 and received great popular acclaim They had many important engagements including a performance for ...


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 ...


Paul Finkelman

athlete, actor, singer, civil rights activist, and Communist sympathizer. Paul Leroy Robeson was born in Princeton, New Jersey, the youngest of five children. In 2004 the United States Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp for Paul Robeson. The press release issued by the Post Office recounted his career as an All-American college athlete, a film star, and an internationally acclaimed singer. The release also noted his fearless opposition to racism, describing him as

well known as an activist and an outspoken participant in labor and peace movements [whose] public appearances were infused with his strong political beliefs, especially his principled stand against racism in the U.S. and around the world. He was opposed to colonialism in Africa and worked to assist and support African liberation Movements. Alarmed by the spread of fascism in Europe, Robeson was also a prominent supporter of the Allied war effort during World War II.

The ...


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 ...


football player, was born in Beaumont, Texas, the second of three sons of Willie Ray Smith Sr., a high school football coach, and Georgia Smith, a teacher and head of the city schools’ economics department. A powerful defensive force in both college and professional football, Smith found a second career as an outsized actor in film and television.

Growing up in an all‐black neighborhood in Beaumont, Smith and his brothers, Willie Ray Jr. and Lawrence Edward Tody learned football under their father while at Charlton Pollard one of three high schools where the elder Smith coached and accumulated some of his 235 victories As a standout defensive end Bubba received many scouts attention Smith wanted to attend the nearby University of Texas but while the Longhorns head coach Darrell Royal offered him a scholarship he was unable to promise that Smith would play for the still segregated program In ...


James I. Deutsch

film actor and athlete, was born Woodrow Wilson Woolwine Strode in Los Angeles, the son of Baylous Strode, a brick mason whose mother was a Blackfoot Indian, and Rosa Norris Strode, whose ancestors included Cherokees. Because of his imposing size—6 feet 4 inches and 215 pounds at his peak—and his physical strength and coordination, Strode first achieved renown as an athlete. At Thomas Jefferson High School in Los Angeles, he earned honors in both football and track and field (shot put, high jump, high and low hurdles), which resulted in an athletic scholarship to the University of California at Los Angeles. However Strode's scholastic credentials were insufficient, so he first had to prove himself academically. Over the next two years he took special classes, while also training for the Decathlon event at the 1936 Olympic Games though he was not selected for the team He finally ...


Jacob Andrew Freedman

football player and actor, was born in Williamsburg, Virginia, the second oldest of the three children of Clarence Taylor, a shipyard worker, and Iris maiden name unknown a clerk and cashier Growing up on the outskirts of town separated from his closest neighbor by a divided highway Lawrence had little contact with people outside of his family The only place he regularly socialized was at school where he was an average student with perfect attendance The family lived modestly Testing the household rules and trying to avoid his parents discipline gave Lawrence events around which he built an identity For example when sent to the grocery store with a check for the family s monthly grocery bill he purchased a large quantity of candy that he resold at school for a profit This business venture continued for years and was so successful that he became known as ...


Greg Freeman

professional athlete, blues producer, and record company executive, was born in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, the son of Daniel and Millie McFall Williams. When Williams was seven his father was murdered while waiting to catch a train. Subsequently Williams's mother relocated the family to her hometown of Monmouth, Illinois. In high school Williams demonstrated great athletic ability, winning the 50-yard dash in the Illinois High School State Championship in 1912. He was found to be even more capable on the football field, earning a scholarship to Brown University where he played football in 1916, 1917, 1919, and 1920. Williams served in the army in 1918 as World War I drew to a close, and did not receive his degree until 1921.

After he graduated from college Williams played professional football until 1926 joining the rosters of such teams as the ...


Michael Adams

football player, sportscaster, actor, director, screenwriter, and producer, was born in Gary, Indiana, where his father was a steelworker and his mother a homemaker. Williamson earned a track scholarship to Northwestern University, where he studied architecture, but football coach Ara Parseghian recruited him for an additional spot. After college Williamson played for the San Francisco 49ers in 1960 before jumping to the National Football League's new rival, the American Football League. In four seasons with the Oakland Raiders and three with the Kansas City Chiefs, he was an outstanding defensive back, earning the nickname “The Hammer” for his practice of hitting opposing players in the head with his forearm while tackling them.

Williamson's “unsportsmanlike” play earned him great notoriety. Before the first Super Bowl, played in January 1967, he boasted that he would knock Green Bay Packer receivers Boyd Dowler and Carroll Dale ...