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March 4, 2019 Rest in Peace Jim Pace!

Posted on March 3, 2019 by Barry Gallagher

Today is a great day to remember a Wolverine All-American named Jim Pace as he continues to rest in peace. James Edward “Jim” Pace left his family and friends on this day in 1983 at the age of forty-seven. According to the Wikipedia article linked below, he was working as a school administrator in California when he passed away. Jim Pace was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, but grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan where he became an outstanding high school athlete. He starred in football and track and came to Michigan to do the same.

(Note – Jim Pace (#43) is shown here with the 1957 Michigan Football team. He is seated in the first row – second man on the left. Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library at The University of Michigan.)

Part I. Wolverine of the Day: Jim Pace

Pace’s name first appeared on a Michigan Football Roster in 1954. He was listed as a “Freshman halfback from Little Rock, Arkansas.” Jim Pace spent the 1954 season learning the Bennie Oosterbaan “football system” and getting knocked around in practice by the upper classmen. At least by those who could catch him! The varsity went 6-3-0 that year so they needed some help, but only if you were good! Jim pace also ran track that first year to work on his speed and stamina.

Jim Pace running in 1957 | bigbluefootballhistory.com

Jim Pace became the first running back in Michigan football history to rush for 164 yards against Ohio state in 1957. Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library.

From Letterman to Starter in 1955 and 1956

Jim Pace did not start any games as a sophomore, but he played well enough to average 5.4 yards per carry in 1955. He also scored two rushing touchdowns and got a lot of touches on special teams as a punt and kickoff returner. So, Jim Pace was off to a solid start at Michigan. The Wolverines also had a strong season in 1955. Bennie Oosterbaan’s footballers won 7 games and lost 2. They finished third in the Big Ten Conference with a record of 5-2-0.

Things continued to go well for Michigan and Jim Pace in 1956. The Wolverines posted another record of 7 wins and 2 losses and finished second in the Big Ten at 5-2-0. Jim Pace started seven games at left halfback and led the team in rushing with 498 yards. He scored two more touchdowns that year and continued his strong play on special teams.

Jim Pace Shines in His Final Season – 1957

Bennie Oosterbaan’s Wolverines came close to a Big Ten title in 1956, but the championship drought continued for one more year. In 1957, it appeared that Michigan could contend for the league title that had eluded them since 1950.  However, an early loss to Michigan State in game three put them behind in the conference race. Michigan won two straight conference games (Northwestern and Minnesota), but a tie against Iowa set them back again. All chances for a championship vanished after a one point loss at Illinois (19-20). The Wolverines lost at home to Ohio State to finished the season with an overall record of 5 wins, 3 losses and 1 tie. They finished the conference season in sixth place with a record of 3-3-1. It was a disappointing season in Ann Arbor.

One of the few bright spots in the 1957 season was the stellar play of James Edward Pace. The talented Pace was on the field a lot. He started all nine games and rushed for 664 yards on 123 carries which averaged out to 5.4 yards per carry. He logged the best game of his career in the season finale against Ohio State. He rushed for 164 yards against the Buckeyes and averaged 7.5 yards per carry! Pace also rushed for seven touchdowns in 1957. Jim Pace also caught 11 passes for 122 yards and two touchdowns as a senior. He returned 5 kickoffs for 114 yards and 8 punts for another 98 yards. Jim Pace  gained a total of 998 yards for the season with his rushing, receiving and special team exploits.

Pace was named Michigan’s MVP for the 1957 season. He was also the Big Ten MVP and an All-Conference player in that special year. Jim Pace also became the first African-American running back at Michigan to earn All-American honors in 1957.

Jim pace Michgian All-American | bigbluefootballhistory.com

Jim Pace became the first African-American running back in Michigan football history to earn All-American honors in 1957. Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library.

Michigan Football Firsts and Jim Pace

James Edward Pace had a strong career at Michigan. He was an offensive machine who could carry the rock, throw it, catch passes, return kickoffs and run back punts. In three years, he totaled 2,343 yards with his outstanding play. He did a lot for the Wolverine football program and was the “first” to do some very important things at Michigan:

·         Jim Pace led Michigan in rushing from 1956 to 1957.

·         Pace was first in Big Ten scoring in 1957 with 60 points (10 touchdowns).

·         Jim was the first Wolverine to ever rush for 164 yards against Ohio State in 1957.

·         Pace was the first African-American running back at Michigan to ever earn Big Ten MVP and All-American honors in 1957.

·         Jim Pace was the first Michigan football player to win Michigan MVP, Big Ten MVP, All-American honors and win the Big Ten 60-yard dash indoor championship in one academic year

Yes,  today is a great day to honor the memory of Jim Pace and appreciate his contributions to the great history of Michigan Football. May James Pace always rest in peace. Go Blue!

To read more about Jim Pace please check out the links below:




Part II. March 4, 2019 – National Day Calendar Notes


  • john hocking says:

    I was fortunate to see Jim Pace play multiple times in person even though i was only 6-8 yrs old. I distinctly remember how graceful and fast he was on punt returns as he wove his way through would-be tacklers. I probably saw his TD return as it is such a vivid memory. One of my favorite Michigan players. But sad to think of him passing away so young.

    john hocking

    • Hi John,
      Thanks for the note. Yes, Jim Pace was a very good player in his time. He definitely left his family and friends, way too soon.
      Thanks for reading. Tomorrow is my 600th straight post and Jim Mandich will be my Wolverine of the Day. Go Blue!

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