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February 23, 2018 – Rest in Peace Belford V. Lawson

Posted on February 23, 2018 by Barry Gallagher

Today is a great day to honor the memory of Belford V. Lawson who continues to rest in peace. According to the Wikipedia article linked below, Belford Vance Lawson, Jr. died on this day in 1985 at the age of eighty-three. Lawson was born in Roanoke, Virginia on July 9, 1901.

Part I. Wolverine of the Day – Belford V. Lawson 

Belford V. Lawson was the first, and only, African American football player at Michigan during the Yost Era. (Note-He was the second African-American to play at Michigan with George Jewett (1890) being the first.)

Lawson’s name first showed up on a Michigan Football Roster in 1921. He was listed as a reserve for both the 1921 and 1922 seasons. In 1923, he was listed as Fullback in the Class of 1924. Belford Lawson did not earn any starts or playing time at Michigan according to the Bentley Historical Library records I reviewed.

Interestingly, he was not the only man in that boat. Fielding Yost was famous for only playing the best possible players – all the time. Unfortunately, as the Ann Arbor Observer article points out, Mr. Yost, the son of a Confederate soldier, may have had some issues with African-Americans.

I would think that if Lawson, was indeed good enough, he may have played for Yost. Mr. Yost was all about winning, but it is only speculation on my part. If you look at the numbers, the 1923 Michigan Football Roster team had one hundred and forty-five names (145) on it. Thirty-one (31) of those men had a number assigned to their name which meant that they probably dressed for games. Of the thirty-one “players” only twenty (20) earned a letter from Fielding Yost for the 1923 season. Like I have said before, it was an accomplishment just to earn a letter from Mr. Yost. It probably would have been a super-human achievement for Belford Lawson to earn a varsity letter from Yost, but I certainly give the man great credit for trying!

Belford M. Lawson Michigan Football | bigbluefootballhistory.com

Belford V. Lawson played three years of football at Michigan but never played in a game. He became an All-American advocate for Civil Rights after he left Michigan. Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library at The University of Michigan.

Here are some interesting facts about Belford V. Lawson’s Michigan  and Michigan Football:

Interestingly, Belford Lawson’s greatest achievements took place off the field, after he left Michigan.

  • He was the first African-American to win a case before the Supreme Court (1950).
  • Again, according to the Wikipedia article linked below, Lawson was also the first African-American to become president of the YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association).

So, on the thirty-third anniversary of his passing, let us remember another distinguished Michigan Man. Belford V. Lawson was on three Fielding Yost teams, but like about one-hundred of his teammates, he never played a down. His football “role” at Michigan was acted out on the practice field. I am certain that it was difficult for Mr. Lawson, but he obviously made the best of his time at Michigan and went on to do great things for his people and for the advancement of racial justice in America. Unfortunately, there is still much more work to be done!

Today, let us honor the memory of Belford V. Lawson, Jr. and celebrate his accomplishments. Thank you, Mr. Lawson for your achievements at Michigan and in a lifetime of civil rights activism. May Belford V. Lawson always rest in peace. Go Blue!

Check out the great Wikipedia articles below for more on the life and career of Belford V. Lawson, Jr.




Part II. Trivia Question of the Day – February 22, 2018

Who was the first quarterback to earn All-American honors at Michigan?

Part II. Trivia Question Answer for February 22, 2018 –  Benny Friedman

Benjamin “Benny” Friedman played one year for George Little (1924) and two years for Fielding Yost (1925 and 1926). Friedman didn’t play much for Coach Little, but he came into his own under Coach Yost. Benny Friedman could really throw the ball and a guy named Bennie Oosterbaan could really catch it. So, they formed a powerful duo. In fact, both men earned All-Americans honors in 1925.

Benny Friedman Michigan Football | bigbluefootballhistory.com

Benny Friedman was a two-time All-American quarterback at Michigan. Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library at The University of Michigan.

The “Benny to Bennie” combination continued to be a dangerous duo in 1926. Once again, both men continued to play at a very high level. They earned All-American honors again in 1926. So, Bennie Friedman was the first Michigan quarterback to earn All-American honors and he was the first to do it twice. No other Michigan quarterback has ever earned two All-American selections since. Yes, Benny Friedman may be the greatest Wolverine quarterback in Michigan Football History, − “just sayin!”

Part III. Trivia Question of the Day – February 23, 2018

Who was the first Michigan Football coach to win 10 games in one season?


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