Frederick Douglass “Fritz” Pollard
Resilient athlete, visionary pioneer and entrepreneur
(January 27, 1894 – May 11, 1986)
First African American to Coach NFL ,
First African American To Establish Black Tabloid,
First African American to Establish a Black Investment Firm.
Frederick was born on January 27, 1894, He and his brother was raised in the north side of Chicago a suburb called Rogers Park a predominately German populated area. His father was a champion boxer from the Civil War era. His farther trade was a barber. His mother was 100 percent Native American. That’s where he got the nickname Fritz.
He attended Lane Tech High School. He joined his high school football team. He was not as husky as the other males around him he was small. He was great at sports and was a three-time county track champion, a gifted baseball player. He was given the chance to play on the football team due to the fact of his brother posing the question to the head of the team why not my brother he is right there as they were choosing players. He led the team into unsurpassed victories and became the first African-American selected to the Cook County All-Star team, which earned him the chance to attend Brown University of the Ivy League. He entered Brown University and played on the football team his position on the team was half-back.
Frederick was the first African-American to be selected to the Walter Camp All-America team in 1915. That season, Brown went 5-3-1, but was chosen to play Washington State in the Rose Bowl after Syracuse bowed out. Frederick was the first African-American to play in the Rose Bowl, but the trip was not without challenges.
He was refused service by the porters of the Pullman train car which carried his teammates across country. The hotel the team was staying at in California even refused to give a room to Pollard. It wasn’t until an assistant coach threatened to remove the entire Brown team that the hotel acquiesced and let him stay.
He completed his education at Brown University. He went later on and studied to be a dentist at the University of Pennsylvania for a brief period of time and decided to enter in the army during World War I before he was recruited to play football professionally. The teams he played with such as the following Universities, Brown, Yale and Harvard might not be college football powers today, but they were the USC, Alabama and Florida in that time period.
He joined the Akron Pros in 1920 in the American Professional Football League which later become the National Football League. He encountered major racism due to the fact of his color, and physical body type.
He achieved his dream the following year when the Pros selected him to run the team. He would coach four teams (some of them only occasionally): the Pros/Indians (1920 to 21, 1925 to 26), the Milwaukee Badgers (1922), the Hammond Pros (1923, 1925), and the Providence Steam Roller (1925). There also is his previously mentioned stint in the “Coal League” of Pennsylvania.
When asked how he felt about his days in the 1900’s playing his remarks were:
“I’d look at them and grin,” Pollard told NFL Films. “I didn’t get mad at them and want to fight them. I would just look at them and grin, and in the next minute run for an 80-yard touchdown.”
It’s not bragging or boasting if you can back it up. Pollard often did. The Pros went 8-0-3 to win the league’s first title in 1920. But there was something bigger that loomed on the horizon for Pollard.
“I wanted the honor of being the first black coach more than anything else,”
Frederick Pollard founded and coached the Chicago Black Hawks in 1928. They were an all African-American team from the Windy City, but often went barnstorming through the West Coast. His team became one of the most popular, especially once the Great Depression forced many teams of that era to fold.
He left playing professional football. His business ventures after were the following:
He was the first to create a black tabloid in Chicago and the first to establish a black investment firm in the United States after all his ventures he entered into the music industry as a manager.
He has stated: “I am a very fortunate man and I am still able to get around and have my picture taken”.
A true pioneer and visionary that broke all barriers.