Today is a great day to honor the memory of Hugh White who continues to rest in peace. Hugh White died on this day 1936 at fifty-nine years of age. He was born on November 7, 1876 in Lapeer, Michigan. White finished his high school education in 1898 and headed to Ann Arbor to continue his education and play some Wolverine football.
(Note – Captain Hugh White is shown above with the 1901 National Champion Michigan Wolverines. He is seated in the middle row – third man from the left and holding the football. Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library at The University of Michigan. Notice that the score on the ball is 501-0. Actually, this picture was taken after the regular season ended, but before Michigan defeated Stanford 49-0 in the first Rose Bowl. Yes, Michigan ended the season with a scoring margin of 550-0 in Yost’s first season in Ann Arbor – wow!)
As a freshman, Hugh White impressed Coach Gustave Ferbert with his athleticism and his toughness. He earned six starts at left tackle on the first Michigan team to win a Western Conference Championship in 1898.
Interestingly, White started one game at right end in 1899, but he is not listed as a letter winner by the Michigan Athletic Department. He did show up in the team photo that year which was always reserved for letter winners only. I really don’t know what is going on with that part of his story.
Hugh White returned for a new season in 1900 and a new coach. Coach Ferbert left Ann Arbor to go dig for gold in Alaska. So, Langdon “Bif” Lea, a Princeton man, was Michigan’s new football coach. Hugh White started all ten game in 1900 (7 at left tackle and 3 at right tackle). He played well and so did the Wolverines. Michigan ended the season with an overall record of 7-2-1 and went 3-2-0 in the Western Conference.
Bif Lea returned to Princeton in 1901. So, Athletic Director Charles Baird went looking for a new football coach. As luck would have it, a young guy named Fielding H. Yost had just lost his job at Stanford because they wanted to go with alumni coaches for their athletic teams. Yost, a West Virginian alum, was looking for work. Baird found out that Yost was available and reached out to the vagabond coach. Fortunately, Mr. Baird made one of the best decisions of his life and the rest, as they say, is history.
Fielding Yost did not choose Hugh White to be his first captain. Instead, the returning members of the 1900 football team did. However, I am sure that Mr. Yost thought highly of his first on-the-field leader. Hugh White started every game in Michigan’s perfect (11-0-0) season in 1901. The Wolverines won the Western Conference Championship and were also named National champions. They finished the season with a scoring margin of 550-0 points. It was the most dominating season in the history of college football – period!
Hugh White played a lot of outstanding football for the Michigan Wolverines from 1898 to 1901. He is one of those “Pigskin Pioneers” who set the stage for the greatness of the Wolverine Football program. White started 28 games for the Maize and Blue and the teams he played on finished with an overall record of 36-4-1, two Western Conference championships and one national championship.
So, on the eighty-fourth anniversary of his passing, let us remember Hugh White and his contributions to the great history of Michigan Football. Yes, Mr. White was an excellent player on some outstanding Michigan teams. Please take a moment today to honor his memory and celebrate his accomplishments. May Hugh White always rest in eternal peace. Go Blue!
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