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Coach from Illinois blazed a football trail
by Ashley Rueff in Marshall, where his team won the Black the Negro National Baseball League in 1920.
College Football Championship four times. Two years after graduating from Millikin,
DECATUR, Ill. – Millikin University recently He also coached at Prairie View A&M Long played professional baseball for the
uncovered even more reason to be proud of University in Prairie View, Texas College in Detroit Stars during the league’s first season.
1918 alumnus Fred Long, the school’s first Tyler and Paul Quinn College in Dallas. He also spent 1921 and 1926 with the Lions
African American graduate. “In his contemporary time, people recog- and 1925 with the Indianapolis ABCs.
During Millikin’s Black History Month nized him as a legendary coach,” Rudat said. “He’s constantly breaking down barriers
closing ceremonies, the Black Student Union According to the NCAA, he was a part of that he recognizes as a young man, and sets
will share with the rest of campus the newly the first recorded contest between two college about trying to bring about that change,”
found accomplishments of Long's historic life. coaches with 200 victories each. His Wiley Rudat said.
The discovery started in November, when team defeated a Southern University team While at Millikin, Long played football and
Millikin's archive and research associate, Todd coached by Arnett Mumford on Nov. 11, 1961. baseball and was a shot putter for the track
Rudat, stumbled upon an announcement from “That was sort of a historical moment,” team. According to Long’s obituary from the
the American Football Coaches Association. Rudat said, pointing to one of many instances Herald & Review, Millikin's 1916 football
Forty-three years after his death, the organ- when Long set the bar for those who would team was the first to go undefeated and the
ization bestowed Long with the 2009 come after him. first to be called Big Blue, with the help of the
Trailblazers Award, an honor given once a Through his research, Rudat was able to 6-foot-2 Long playing center.
year to the early leaders in football coaching at connect Long to those who were legends In additional to being a star athlete, Long
historically Black colleges and universities. themselves, like Grambling football coach was a commerce and finance student who
Long’s coaching career spanned five Eddie Robinson and poet and educator Melvin earned a bachelor’s degree after writing a the-
decades at four Texas colleges from 1921 until B. Tolson. Tolson was a professor at Wiley sis that took a sociological survey of the Black
he suffered a heart attack in 1965. A second who was portrayed by Denzel Washington in population in his hometown, Decatur.
heart attack took his life in 1966. the 2007 film, The Great Debaters. In his paper, he linked the idea of racial prej-
By then, he had become a national icon in Millikin’s history always has included udice to a person’s level of education.
the Black community, earning him obituaries Long’s coaching career, but as Rudat dug He wrote: “Race prejudice exists not only in
in national Black publications including the deeper into Long’s life, he discovered an the heart of the white man, but in the heart of
Chicago Defender and the Pittsburgh Courier. entirely different accomplishment that stands the Black man as well. It is due, on either side,
Long was a highly esteemed football coach on its own. to a misunderstanding of the other, and there is
who spent most of his career at Wiley College Long was one of the original members of only one reasonable and hopeful way to get rid
of this, and this is through education.”
Millikin’s effect on Long's development as a
leader in the fight for equality was apparent in
his life after college.
Long’s first experience in the South came
once he joined the Army after graduation.
While stationed at Camp Greenleaf in
Chickamaugua Park, Ga., he wrote to his
In this 1917 photo Fred Long, the
brother Harry, who still was a Millikin stu-
school's first African American graduate,
is shown. Long went on to become an
He explained how he almost stopped to join
esteemed football coach. His career
in with a group of white men playing football
spanned five decades at four Texas col-
but stopped when he realized he wouldn’t be
leges from 1921 until he suffered a heart
welcomed to join the game.
attack in 1965. A second heart attack
He asked his brother to give his regards to
took his life in 1966. A P Photo/Millikin
their white teammates still at Millikin who, he
said, “made me feel as though I was a real
man, and I’ll remember that part they all
learned a lot about Long while preparing for
played in my life.”
the closing ceremonies of Black History
Students accepted into Millikin’s Long-
Vanderberg scholar program, named after the
“I appreciate everything that he’s done
school's first male and female African
before, during and after his time at Millikin,”
American graduates, get a copy of that letter
she said. “He just leaves a legacy at Millikin
as part of their orientation each year.
for us to follow.”
“Millikin was progressive in many ways,”
Current Long-Vanderberg scholars have
said Latrina Denson, director of the Center for
been recruited to help look through microfilm
Multicultural Student Affairs. “And he saw
from articles about Long so the university can
build a more complete history of his life.
“Though I’m sure there was racism (at
“It’s important to me to feel that even back
Millikin), I’m sure there were people here who
then, Millikin had this family and welcoming
Millikin University archivist Todd Rudat, right, explains the history of 1918 alumnus were true supporters of Fred Long.”
atmosphere,” Benavides said. “Even he could
Fred Long to Black Student Union members Dennis Johnson and Long-Vanderburg Jasmin Benavides, a sophomore and presi-
feel welcome at a university that was predom-
scholar Alfred Burse. AP Photo/Herald & Review, Kelly J. Huff dent of Millikin’s Black Student Union, has
inantly white.” AP
Chicago Defender • • February 24-March 2, 2010
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