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Lane Tech football ground to be renamed in honor of Black Hall of Famer Fritz Pollard

Crusader Staff Report

Frederick Douglass “Fritz” Pollard, the late Chicago Black Football Hall of Famer who, along with his wife, broke racial barriers as the first black residents of Rogers Park on the North Side, will be honored with the next fall at his alma mater, Lane Tech College Prep.

The legendary North Side High School will rename its football field after Pollard, 36 years after his death.

With nearly 4,400 students, Lane Tech is the largest school in the Chicago public school system. During its fall homecoming festivities, the school will hold a special ceremony to dedicate its football field to Pollard.

“We are thrilled to finally recognize this pioneer in sport, education and racial equity,” Edwina Thompson, director of Lane Tech, said in a statement. “Although this moment is long overdue, we are confident that Fritz Pollard’s legacy will continue to inspire generations to strive for greatness.”

Momentum to honor Pollard reportedly gained momentum on social media in 2019, where alumni shared posts about Pollard.

Pollard is one of many distinguished alumni of Lane Tech. He graduated in 1912, four years after the school opened. At Lane Tech, he was a tri-sport athlete who played football, baseball, and track and field.

After graduating, Pollard enrolled at Brown University, where he majored in chemistry. He became the first black football player at the Ivy League School.

In 1916, Brown played in the annual Rose Bowl game against Washington, which won 14-0. Although the team lost, Pollard’s future was bright.

After college, he enlisted in the United States Army during World War I. In 1919 he joined the Akron (Ohio) Pros, which became part of the American Professional Football Association. That season, with Pollard leading, the Pros went undefeated (8-0-3) to win the league’s first crown.

Reports indicate that Pollard was an exciting and elusive running back who was the most feared in the league.

During his professional football career, Pollard became the NFL’s first black coach. He coached the Pros/Indians, Milwaukee (Wisconsin) Badgers, Hammond (Indiana) Pros and Providence (Rhode Island) Steam Rollers.

Between 1923 and 1924, Pollard played for the Gilberton Cadamounts professional team in the “Coal League” of Pennsylvania. This organization was eventually renamed the National Football League.

In 1954 Pollard was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. In 2005, Pollard was posthumously inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame, 19 years after his death in 1986 at age 91.

Pollard was also the founder of the African-American football teams Chicago Black Hawks and Harlem Brown Bombers.

He published The New York Independent News, one of the first black-owned tabloids. He founded and managed a talent agency, a music production company, and public relations, tax advisory and investment firms.

Pollard was born in 1894 to John and Catherine Pollard. By then, the couple had moved to Chicago from Mexico City, Missouri. John Pollard was a barber and Catherine was a seamstress at the Marshall Field department store.

Along with Frederick Douglass “Fritz” Pollard, the couple raised eight children in their two-story home at 1928 W. Lunt Ave. at Rogers Park. Fritz Pollard’s sister, Naomi Pollard, became the first black woman to graduate from Northwestern University. Fritz’s brother, Luther Pollard, was one of the first black directors and producers of silent films. Another brother, Hughes Pollard, became a world famous jazz musician.

Fritz’s son, Frederick Douglass “Fritz” Pollard, Jr., followed in his father’s footsteps to Brown and won the bronze medal at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, where track and field star Jesse Owens is became the first black man to win four gold medals.

The Pollards owned Lunt’s family home until Luther’s death in 1977. The home is now owned by Kevin McGurn and April Mink, who along with the Roger’s Park/West Ridge Historical Society are leading a campaign to rename Christian Paschen Park to side of their house in honor of the Pollards.

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