The Bowl Era


Classic Football

Home The Core Story and Stadium Renaming Proposal Appendix #2: Those who denouce Jim Crow
Appendix 2 E-mail
Tuesday, 27 March 2012 23:10


Some might suggest that by my expecting BC to have done what might, in hindsight,
be viewed as the right thing, I am being naive, unrealistic, and overly harsh in
bringing the Lou Montgomery story further into the light.  I disagree.  In the
research I have been able to uncover in just a few days worth of locating
easily available sources, I have found many examples of instances in which
colleges and universities of all stripes , out of a variety of motivations, refused
to “go along to get along”.  A few of these follow:

The University of Nebraska football team, including its black halfback George
A. Flippin, was scheduled to play the University of Missouri  at Columbia,
Missouri. Despite Missouri's official policy of strict racial segregation, Nebraska
officials  refused to agree to keep Flippin on the bench.  With each side refusing
to bend, Missouri decided to forfeit the game.  Flippin, incidentally,  went on to
receive a medical degree from the University of Illinois, and became a successful
physician in Nebraska.

Samuel Gordon, a young black student at Wabash College in Crawfordsville,
Indiana, joined the football team as a lineman.  Shortly before its 1903
scheduled game with Rose Polytechnic Institute (RPI), the Wabash football
manager received a telegram from RPI officials, who stated that they refused
to play the game if Gordon was in uniform.  Wabash College's President,
hearing of the matter, ruled that if Rose maintained its racially exclusionary
stance, then the game should be cancelled.  Rose did, and the game was
cancelled.  Later that same season, Wabash was scheduled to play Depauw
University of Greencastle, Indiana.   Just before the Nov. 21 game was to begin.
Depauw officials noticed Gordon in his game uniform, and told its football
team to remain in the locker room until Wabash agreed to keep Gordon out
of the game.  Wabash players, coaches, and school officials were prepared to
do no such thing.   After over an hour of arguing back and forth, Depauw
finally conceded the right of Wabash to play Gordon, and the game was

In virtually every Wabash game that year – the one and only year that Gordon
remained at the school – some kind of race-related controversy arose.  In every
case  the entire Wabash community remained steadfast that Gordon would play.

Another black, William Cantrell, played for Wabash the following year.
Seemingly as a result of Wabash's continuing support for the inclusion of Samuel
Gordon the previous year, the complaints and opposition to racially integrated
college football games across the nation's heartland region were reduced
markedly, the University of Missouri being among the few, and easily the most
notorious holdout.

In 1904, the Harvard University baseball team, on an early season swing through
the District of Columbia and some adjacent upper south states, found that
several schools – among them Georgetown University, the U.S. Naval
Academy, and Trinity College (later renamed Duke University) refused to play
them unless Harvard agreed not to play its single African American player.
Harvard refused, and in response, removed all three schools from future
baseball schedules.

In 1907, the University of Alabama baseball team arrived, after what must
have been a very long train ride, in Burlington, Vermont for a 2-game series
with the University of Vermont.  When Alabama learned that the Vermont team
included two black players, they warned that they would not play unless Vermont
agreed to bench them.  To its credit, Vermont refused to do so.  Alabama
refused to play, thus incurring a $300 cancellation fee.

Part 2 of the Archie Alexander story.  After the University of Iowa agreed to
Alexander's benching during the first two seasons of his Hawkeye football
career, in 1911 they refused to accept the demands of the arch-segregationist
University of Missouri to continue the practice at this year's game in Columbia,
Missouri. In response, Iowa officials not only cancelled the game, but also
permanently terminated what had been up until then an annual series.  The
teams did not meet again for almost 100 years, when they were matched up
in a post-season bowl game.

Part 2 of the Paul Robeson story. I have already noted above the details of
Robeson's early season benching in Rutgers' game against Washington & Lee.
Later in the same season they were scheduled to play a game in Morgantown,
West Virginia against West Virginia University (WVU).  Sometime before the
game, the WVU coach had written to Rutgers coach George Sanford: “We've
got a lot of southern boys on this team, and they don't want to play against
your man Robeson”.  Sanford rejected the West Virginia demand to keep
Robeson out of the game, and Robeson suited up. Apparently WVU decided
to try and make no more of a case than they already had, and the game went on
as scheduled.  Robeson played brilliantly, and the game ended in a scoreless
tie.  After the final whistle, every member of the Mountaineers team reportedly
lined up and shook Robeson's hand.

Harvard University chose to cancel a dual track meet at the U.S. Naval
Academy at Annapolis, Maryland because Navy officials refused to allow
Harvard's star long jumper to participate.

Washington & Jefferson College (W&J)  of Washington, Pennsylvania was
hosting a football home game.  The similarly named visitors – Washington
& Lee College (W&L) – were from Lexington, Virginia.  When the southerners
arrived at the W&J field, they were surprised to discover the W&J black
quarterback was dressed for the game.  W&L had made the apparently
incorrect assumption that the now traditional white Gentlemens' Agreement
would prevent any such racially divisive incident from occurring.  But this
was not to be the case that day.  W&J fully intended that the black player in
question – Charles West – would play, and they refused to back down to
W&L's pressure.  W&L refused to play, and packed up and left, thereby
forfeiting the game.

W&J President S.V. Baker maintained that his school had a longstanding and
proud tradition to protect – one of never making a distinction in athletics or
in any other pursuit based on race or color.  He defended quarterback West
as an honor to the school, both as a student and an athlete.

In 1929, Georgia Tech was invited to play in the Rose Bowl against the Uni-
versity of California.  Cal was not inclined to pull its lone black player in
deference to southern white racial sensitivities.  As a result, Georgia Tech
agreed to play the game on California's terms.  Apparently, the prestige and
profits accruing from a Rose Bowl appearance overcame Tech's Jim Crow

The William Bell story, Part 2.
Ohio State changes racial policy in mid-season. As mentioned earlier,
in an early season home football game against a southern school – Vanderbilt
University – OSU went along with the Gentlemens' Agreement and held
black footballer William Bell out of the game with the Commodores.
Apparently, after criticism in the local press to the effect that “OSU has
joined the Confederacy”, Bell was then used later in the same season in a
game against Navy.  The Naval Academy had previously refused to compete
against black opponents in football games either at home or away.  For whatever
reason, they surprisingly agreed to alter that policy for this game with the
Buckeyes.  Bell's performance was so outstanding that several Navy players
went out of their way to shake hands with him after the game.

Surprising everyone who followed college football at the time, the University
of North Carolina, scheduled to play NYU at the PoloGrounds, announced to
NYU officials that the Tarheels would agree to play against any players – black
or white – that the hosts put onto the field.  It had been widely believed that
NYU would have been quite willing to continue to follow that school's
earlier policies, governed by the ever-present Gentlemens' Agreement, and to
withhold its single black player – Ed Williams – from play.  Williams played, and, it was reported, played well.

Southern Methodist University (SMU) of Dallas, Texas, had previously
refused to play against any teams that featured black players, but in 1937
agreed to compete against UCLA in L.A.    The Bruins' two primary offensive
players – halfback Kenny Washington and end Woody Strode – were both
Americans of African descent.  To avoid any potential criticism of earning a
hollow victory over a depleted opponent, SMU agreed to play the game,
winning by a score of 26 – 13.  Pretty much the same scenario existed in 1940
when the Mustangs again travelled to a game against UCLA.  This time UCLA's
two great black players  were halfback (and future Major League racial pioneer)
Jackie Robinson and end Ray Bartlett.  For the same practical reason, SMU
chose not to place its high national ranking at risk, and agreed to play, winning
again by the score of 9 to 6.

Cracks continued to emerge in the world of Jim Crow in 1938. with Syracuse
University being involved in both instances of surprising behavior on the
part of schools that would be considered to be southern in custom and
sentiment.  In 1937 Syracuse had travelled to Maryland for a game with theTerrapins.
The Orangemen brought along its great black quarterback, Wilmeth Sadat-Singh
a black who had been adopted by an East Indian physician father in New York
City.  Maryland officials complained of this breach of “Gentlemens”
etiquette, and Syracuse held Sadat-Singh out of the game.  The two teams met
again the following year, this time in Syracuse.  SU officials insisted that
Sadat-Singh would play, and Maryland agreed to play the game.  Sadat-Singh
and his Orangemen teammates had no fear of the Turtle that day, crushing
Maryland by the score of 53 to 0.

Duke University (formerly known as Trinity College until the family made
fabulously wealthy from the sale of tobacco products dropped a pile of money
on them) was also scheduled to play Syracuse in 1938.  They had a powerful
team, and were hoping for a Rose Bowl bid.  They too agreed to allow
Sadat-Singh to play, fearing (ala SMU) that if they did not, their record of
wins and losses would look somewhat compromised to Rose Bowl officials.
It was a good decision for Duke, as they proceeeded to shut out Syracuse,
21 – 0.

In 1939 Texas Christian University (TCU) of Fort Worth, Texas, an arch
conservative Disciples of Christ institution, who had not previously agreed
to play against black opponents, travelled west for a game at UCLA. The
Horned Frogs were highly ranked, and were hoping to be invited to play
in the Rose Bowl the following New Years Day.  As with SMU and Duke,
they knew that if their schedule appeared weak in any way, they might
lose out to a school who played whomever their opponents put onto the field.
As a result, they agreed to put their segregationist principles aside and play
against the full UCLA lineup.  UCLA in 1939 was absolutely loaded with
offensive talent – Kenny Washington, Woody Strode, Jackie Robinson,
and Ray Bartlett.  TCU almost pulled off their biggest win of the season.
But their 14-game winning streak came to an end that day by the score of
6 to 3. (What were all those UCLA offensive weapons doing all afternoon?)

In 1940, Texas A&M University also relented its previous “no games against
teams with black players” policy in order to play a game with UCLA in L.A.
The Aggies won, and remained in contention for a second successive
“mythical” national championship.
The Harvard University Corporation publicly announced a new guideline that
explicitly stated that the University would not tolerate any racial discrimination
involving its athletic teams.

Last Updated on Friday, 13 April 2012 10:30

The Stadium


Football Stadium for Lou Montgomery


Login | 2012 | Lou Montgomery Legacy | Powered by Boston Web Group.