The Crusader Newspaper Group

Lane Tech Football Field to be renamed after Black Hall of Famer Fritz Pollard

Crusader Staff Report

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

The storied high school on the North Side 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 homecoming festivities in the fall, the school will hold a special ceremony to dedicate its football field to Pollard.

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

Momentum to honor Pollard reportedly picked up steam on social media in 2019, where alumni shared posts about Pollard.

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

After he graduated, 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 competed in the annual Rose Bowl game against Washington, which won 14-0. Though the team lost, Pollard’s future was bright.

After college, he enlisted in the U.S. 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 charge, the Pros went undefeated (8-0-3) to win the league’s first crown.

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

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

Between 1923 and 1924, Pollard played for the Gilberton Cadamounts professional team in the Pennsylvania “Coal League.” That 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 he died in 1986 at the age of 91.

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

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

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

Along with Frederick Douglass “Fritz” Pollard, the couple raised eight children at their two-story home at 1928 W. Lunt Ave. in 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 sibling, 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 became the first Black man to win four gold medals.

The Pollards owned the family home on Lunt until after 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 is spearheading a campaign to rename Christian Paschen Park next to their home in the Pollard’s honor.

Recent News

Scroll to Top