Home The Core Story and Stadium Renaming Proposal Appendix #7: Excerpts from Sources
Appendix #7: Excerpts from Sources E-mail
Tuesday, 03 April 2012 21:42

For those who are still reading this far into this work; I now wrap up my report on the BC/ Lou Montgomery affair with the texts of some of the sources I have used in performing my research.

BENCHING JIM CROW: THE RISE AND FALL OF THE COLOR LINE IN SOUTHERN COLLEGE SPORTS, 1890 - 1980 Charles H Martin.  University of Illinois Press, 2010

p. 42. In discussing the late 1930s status of the Gentlemens' Agreement: "The guarded optimism that greeted the abandonment of the Gentlemens' Agreement by such southern universities as the University of North Carolina and Southern Methodist University was offset at the end of the 1930s by the continued racial exclusion practiced by several major northern and western colleges. Boston College, New York University, UCLA, and the University of California all tarnished their reputations by refusing to defend their African American players. BC's flagrant mistreatment of halfback Lou Montgomery on six occasions when playing southern teams was especially egregious, as the school withheld him from more games than any other football player in the annals of the Sport. An outstanding multi-sport athlete at Brockton (MA) High School, Montgomery joined a group of other local stars who decided as a group to compete for BC. The first black football player at the school, Montgomery started on the 1937 freshman team, but saw only limited action in his first varsity season the following year, under outgoing coach Gil Dobie. In 1939 new coach Frank Leahy............... installed a new, wide-open offense ................which was perfectly suited to exploit the talents of the 5'7", 150 lb Montgomery and passing quarterback Charlie O'Rourke

Boston College hired Leahy to oversee its drive to big time status in college footbal1. As part of the campaign, the college sought to further upgrade its schedule by adding games against prominent opponents. In anticipation of larger crowds, BC moved more of its important matches from the school's small Alumni Field to the more spacious Fenway Park, home of the Red Sox. But when elite eastern squads declined to play the upstarts from Chestnut Hill, BC turned to southern teams, many of which were eager for national exposure.

The implications of this decision for Lou Montgomery did not become apparent until the third game of the 1939 season, at home against the University of Florida. Fully aware of Montgomery's presence on the Eagles' roster, University of Florida officials demanded that he be benched or they would refuse to play, citing a clause in the game contract allowing the Gators to cancel the match without financial penalty in order to avoid competing against an African American. After BC officials failed to convince Florida to change its position, they told Montgomery that he could not play. Several of his teammates threatened to sit out the game, but Montgomery, acting as a loyal team member, and a "good negro" urged them to carry on. Perhaps because of the furor, the heavily favored Eagles played sluggishly, and Florida pulled off a 7 - 0 upset.

Montgomery briefly considered quitting because of the incident, but since no one imagined this was going to be a regular thing, he decided to remain on the team . In response to local criticism over their actions, BC officials announced that they would not sign any more racially restrictive game contracts. However, they cleverly neglected to mention whether they had previously signed any other such agreements .

Three weeks later the duplicity of BC administrators became obvious, when the powerful Auburn University squad arrived in town for a Nov. 4 contest. Local newspapers soon reported that the southerners' game contract also included a provision that barred BC from using black players. Once more embarrassed by the exposure of a secret agreement, and fearful of the financial consequences of a game cancellation, BC representatives begged Auburn officials to allow the Tiger football players to vote on whether to waive the clause, but Auburn refused to do so. Consequently, the Eagle squad once more took the field without Montgomery, but this time BC ground out a 13 - 7 win.

Gaining confidence each week, BC ripped through the rest of its schedule and finished with a 9 - 1 record. Montgomery played extensively in these contests, but never returned to the starting lineup, despite making several long touchdown runs and compiling a phenomenal rushing average of almost ten yards per carry.

In recognition of BC's new status, the Cotton Bowl extended to the school an invitation to play in its Jan. 1, 1940 classic against Clemson in Dallas. This honor constituted a major milestone for Boston College, since it marked the first time that the Eagles had ever been invited to a postseason game.

Since the Cotton Bowl did not permit African Americans to compete in its game, Lou Montgomery was banished to the sidelines for third time that season ........................ BC officials never considered declining the Cotton Bowl invitation because of Montgomery's exclusion. As a result, some Boston sportswriters and black critics, again condemned BC for displaying out and out cowardice. One newspaper lamented that the college had been influenced more by dollars and cents than by the democratic ideals for which the institution is supposed to stand. Montgomery remained in Boston and eventually released a public letter in which he expressed the hope that future intersectional games would be contested under northern standards ............ After Clemson won the game game by a narrow 6 - 3 margin, BC coaches and players sent their missing teammate a telegram reading 'We missed you, Lou'.

The 1940 season brought even greater public glory and private shame to Boston College football. The Eagles enjoyed their best season ever, overwhelming all ten of their opponents ........................ After Montgomery scored a touchdown in the season-opening win over Centre College, his chances of becoming a starter looked good. Unfortunately, two subsequent games against deep south teams revealed that school administrators would continue to sacrifice him to expediency. In the second week of the season, BC traveled to New Orleans and handily defeated the Tulane Green Wave, 27 - 7. School officials viewed the game as an audition for the Sugar Bowl, and the Eagles clearly impressed their hosts. Montgomery accompanied the team to New Orleans and sat in the press box during the game. But because of segregated housing he stayed separately from his teammates with the head coach of Xavier University, a black Catholic institution. This one case of exclusion in the deep south did not overly worry Montgomery, since school officials had previously assured him that he would play in all home games.

A few weeks later, however, Auburn returned to Boston for a rematch, and again insisted that Montgomery be benched. BC officials privately suggested to Auburn coach Jack Meagher the possibility of each team with­holding one player from the game. Meagher seriously considered the un­usual compromise, but ultimately rejected it. Montgomery watched from the sidelines as the Eagles soundly whipped the Tigers, 33 - 7. Since BC officials had known Auburn's position concerning Montgomery for more than a year, their decision not to renegotiate the exclusion clause or drop Auburn from the schedule indicated that they were determined to achieve national prominence in football, regardless of the cost.

BC's undefeated season earned the school a second straight postseason bid, this time to the Jan. 1, 1941 Sugar Bowl in New Orleans. The invitation did not include Lou Montgomery, of course Although he missed the two games against Tulane and Auburn, the talented halfback still had scored six touchdowns and passed for a seventh in the other eight games. Yet his excellent performance proved irrelevant to postseason action. 'By that time I was really fed up' Montgomery later recalled, and he made plans again to stay home. But school officials persuaded him to accompany the team to New Orleans in the name of team harmony. As Montgomery watched from the press box, BC drove the length of the field late in the game to score the winning touchdown and claim an exciting 19 - 13 victory over previously undefeated Tennessee.

Like other black players involved in similar situations, Montgomery had swallowed his pride and acted as a 'good sport', thereby helping BC partially to conceal its callous sacrifice of principle, a decision he later came to regret. Sympathetic African Americans viewed Montgomery as a heroic victim and a symbolic representative of their race. As one journalist explained, 'when he suffered, the entire negro race suffered. For when he was barred, the entire race was barred' . Wendell Smith of the Pittsburgh Courier took a more critical position, and chastised Montgomery for passively accepting his benching, rather than challenging such discrimination, and for remaining enrolled at the college that had treated him so shabbily".

BENCHING JIM CROW, p.295 "During the 1930s and 1940s northern students increasingly defended the rights of African Americans on their school teams and demanded that they be permitted to participate in all home games against southern teams. A few southern universities responded by taking a more legalistic approach . In signing game contracts with northern universities, some southern administrators now added "No Negroes" exclusion clauses, making official and legal what had previously been informal and unstated (the so-called Gentlemens' Agreement). Despite their efforts, this new resolve by northern colleges gradually forced many ambitious southern schools to modify the Gentlemens' Agreement and accept an occasional integrated contest in the north as the cost of seeking national recognition in big-time college sports.

University trustees and political leaders in the south in effect granted southern colleges a special dispensation for these violations of Jim Crow etiquette, revealing the social importance and privileged status that successful athletic teams enjoyed in Dixie. However, southern schools stood firm in their refusal to accept mixed athletic competition at home. Furthermore, the establishment of several postseason football bowl games in the south during the 1930s gave white southerners new leverage over ambitious northern universities. Several such schools, most notably Boston College, callously placed the benefits and prestige of securing a bowl invitation ahead of the rights of their African American athletes. When an integrated northern team agreed to play a regular-season or especially a post-season game in the south, the black member of the team was expected to play the role of the 'Good Negro' and follow an informal script whereby he would graciously sacrifice his individual desire to participate for the greater good of his team. Black athletes suffered deep emotional wounds from such exclusion, and, to make matters worse, unsympathetic black critics sometimes questioned their masculinity for not quitting their teams in protest".

www.pigskinhistory.blogsoot.coml2009 05 01 archive.html

"On November 16, 1940 two undefeated teams met at Fenway Park before a crowd of more than 20,000 expectant observers. Boston College and Georgetown both sat at 8 - 0 and were ranked 8th and 9th respectively in the AP poll. Grantland Rice and Amos Alonzo Stagg were among the spectators and both commented on the innovative offenses showcased in the new T-formation. In addition to shifty and dynamic backfields the Jesuit rivals possessed possibly the two strongest lines in the country, including BC's bruising 250 lb All American center Chet Gladchuck. Jack Haggerty's Georgetown program was steadily improving, and BC's head coach Frank Leahy had led the Eagles to their first bowl in his rookie year. Both schools hoped to challenge Notre Dame as the nation's top Catholic football school.

A thrilling game finished in a 19 - 18 win after the Eagles took an intentional safety on an end-zone punt in the dying minutes, leaving Georgetown insufficient time to reach field goal range. An exciting game shifted in momentum several times. The Hoyas jumped out to a 10 - 0 first quarter lead before BC posted sixteen unanswered in reply. Huge runs and an unusually large number of down-field passing plays allowed a Boston College backfield that was gaining national recognition to shine.

Eagle greats quarterback "Chuckin' Charlie O'Rourke, and fullback (later head coach) Mike Holovak led the lineup, but many felt the Eagles' best player in Leahy's squads was a little 5'7" halfback named Lou Montgomery. With time expiring in the second quarter and BC on the Hoyas' twenty-two yard line Leahy outmaneuvered Haggerty and seized momentum with a trick play. O'Rourke threw a backfield lateral to Montgomery, as BC often did to get their runner into open space, but the halfback rolled out to his right, drawing defenders up, and threw a touchdown pass to tight end Woronicz. Despite a fourth quarter Georgetown surge, that touchdown effectively gave the Eagles control of the game's momentum.

BC's official roster did not list 'Lightning Lou' as a starter, despite his significant playing time in three varsity seasons from 1938 to 1940. The 160 lb slashing back was a famed open field runner and drew much attention from scouts of future opponents. He suffered no serious injury problems, always had the right attitude, and never faced a defense that bested him. Despite all that, Montgomery spent several crucial games watching from the sidelines and did not participate in the 1940 Cotton Bowl or the 1941 Sugar Bowl. Montgomery lost so much playing time and was never allowed to fulfill his true potential as a college athlete because he was black.

Boston College football stood at a crossroads in the late 1930s. BC had played varsity football since 1893 but had never attained national significance. Before World War I the Ivy League dominated East Coast football and Knute Rockne's Notre Dame stood without rival or peer above all Catholic colleges But as the 1920s gave way to the 1930s Ivy League schools began to de-emphasize football, fearing the sport was eclipsing academic priorities, and Notre Dame suffered declining fortunes during the post-Rockne era. After decades of struggling to earn respect as an Eastern independent, athletic administrators at BC saw an opportunity to increase the prestige of their institution in football.

College President Father William Murphy and Graduate Director of Athletics John Curley hitched the program's fortunes to the young Frank Leahy in 1938 . Leahy felt that BC needed to improve the caliber of its opponents if they were to command national attention. Murphy and Curley saw that step as vital to increasing lucrative ticket revenues. Games against St Anselm, Providence, McDaniel College (MD), New Hampshire and the like carried little weight with wire service pollsters. For BC to gain the attention of bowl selection committees, they needed to play intersectional games, and especially against teams from areas that hosted bowls. Since trips to the west coast were out of the question in 1940, this meant southern schools.

From 1938 to 1940, series with Florida, Auburn and Tulane put the Eagles on the southern football map and earned Cotton and Sugar Bowl bids. Ticket sales at Fenway Park rocketed; BC claimed a share of the 1940 national title; and Frank Leahy lost only one regular season game in two years. This record lifted him to the top of the candidate list for the head coaching job at his alma mater - Notre Dame.

The change in scheduling philosophy did not work well for Lou Montgomery. In the 1940s southern schools still retained 'Jim Crow' clauses with the NCAA that prohibited black athletes from taking part in any event involving their teams, regardless of venue. BC traveled to New Orleans to face Tulane in September 1939, but all four games against Auburn and Florida during his playing career took place in Boston. Lightning Lou sat every minute of every one of those games out He also suffered a loss of playing time in the preceding weeks, as Leahy tested formations without him in the lineup in preparation. The Eagles needed the work as Leahy's offense clearly lost a step without Montgomery. The team's only loss in 1939 came against an uninspiring Florida team that went on to finish 5-5-1. BC generated very few yards against the Gators and lost by the pitiful score of 7 - O. Boston newspapers howled that Lightning Lou would surely have proved the difference

When the Eagles headed south for Dallas on December 26, 1939, Montgomery stood on the train car with the team and received personal applause from the large crowd They knew he would not be going along. Before the train pulled off, he stepped off the train and watched as the Eagles went to face Clemson without him.

BC lost a narrow contest, 6 - 3. Sportswriters noted the strong line play on both sides, and the shortage of vertical running yards. O'Rourke's passing attracted attention as he threw both down-field and laterally. But dropped passes and lack of speed hurt the Eagles. BC penetrated Clemson's twenty yard line several times, but even a first and goal with three minutes to play proved useless. The Tigers ground O'Rourke's drive to a halt .

When the team returned to Boston, another large crowd met them at the station. Lou Montgomery rejoined his team and as he offered his encouragement and expressed pride in their effort, someone shouted that BC would have won had he been allowed to play. He only shook his head with sadness and humility, saying: 'No, no . I don't think so' .

But privately, doubts were stronger. That same day at the train station Leahy commented quietly to his little halfback: 'Louis, if they had let us bring you along, we wouldn't have lost'. Montgomery accepted the praise, replying: 'I'm always going to believe that , Coach.'

Leahy never treated Montgomery poorly or expressed any personal racism . He was happy to have black athletes on his team, and probably did believe Montgomery would have made a difference in Dallas. He may also have had good reasons for feeling that he could not change the racial climate. But it is certain that the coach did not feel inclined to push the limits of inclusion and make personal, professional, or financial sacrifices on behalf of his mistreated player

A 2002 article in the BC student newspaper THE HEIGHTS, entitled 'Ahead of their Time', recounts the history of the university's first black athletes. The article takes a positive tone (as student newspapers probably should) and praises Boston College for never having excluded black athletes. This pride is at least partially valid . Montgomery always said that his teammates treated him well, and even initially opposed the idea of benching him for southern racism. But they soon gave way, especially when he urged them not to sacrifice the greater good of the team on his count. But it seems unlikely that he would not have gladly accepted their support had the team stood firm.

A 2005 Boston College M.A. Thesis by Kevin Gregg is less optimistic than THE HEIGHTS . Gregg concludes that the administration sacrificed fundamental Jesuit principles of brotherhood, equality and poverty for money and prestige. Gregg also found that while Boston's black news­ papers launched scathing attacks on the administration's cowardice and hypocrisy, the city's white press only seemed to care when the Eagles lost a game because of Lou's absence.

This sad disparity became quite clear in 1940 when 'the team of destiny' put together an 11 - 0 season and claimed a share of BC football's only ever national title. After a strong showing in 1939, Leahy was able to strengthen his team. The 1940 Eagles were bigger, stronger, and faster And they could win without Montgomery, thus removing any cause for protest from The Boston Globe.

Lightning Lou missed the team's coming out voyage to New Orleans in September, when Leahy's men knocked off southern power Tulane at home. Montgomery did accompany the team to New Orleans for the 1941 Sugar Bowl. While his teammates prepared for their toughest test in Robert Neyland's Tennessee Volunteers, he played for cash in a black college all-star game. The BC team stayed sixty miles outside of the city, away from distractions. Montgomery roomed in the heart of the city and took full advantage of the nightlife. But there is no doubt that he would rather have been with the Eagles, going against the Vols as a fully included representative of Boston College. Lightning Lou had been a Massachusetts all-academic prep star in 1936 He chose to represent his home state at Boston College, even though several other significant schools including UCLA offered him a scholarship The greatest indicator of Lou's true feelings during his BC years is that in his later life he openly stated in interviews that he would not make the same choice if given a second chance. This must be the one thing no college football fan ever wants to hear from an alumnus of his beloved program.

It is, of course, impossible to know whether BC could have broken the color line in the Cotton or Sugar Bowl in the early 1940s. What is certain is that Penn State and Wallace Triplett succeeded in desegregating the Dallas game in 1948 . The Pitt Panthers and Bobby Greer accomplished the same for New Orleans in 1956 These dates preceded the general integration of southern college football by many years . Neither of these landmarks occurred because people at SMU or Georgia Tech were happy to play against integrated opponents. Indeed, in December, 1955, Georgia Governor Marvin Griffin attempted to stop the 1956 Sugar Bowl game between Georgia Tech and the integrated University of Pittsburgh, from proceeding and pointed in desperation at civil unrest surrounding a month-old bus boycott in nearby Montgomery, Alabama.

SMU accepted Wally Triplett because they and the Cotton Bowl wanted the best available opponent, and Penn State had already taken a stand against the Jim Crow clause They (the Cotton Bowl Committee) could either back down or find SMU a lesser foe, sacrificing prestige and revenue The 1955 Pitt Panthers likewise refused to accept a bowl invitation without the inclusion of Greer. Georgia Tech students marched on the state capitol and burned Griffin in effigy, not because they wanted general desegregation and loved black people, but because they wanted to see their Yellow Jackets play the best team available.

Perhaps similar resolve from Boston College in 1940 would have achieved such success. Perhaps four bloody years of fighting European fascism were necessary before Americans in the south could stomach such changes, even at the cost of losing a good football game. We will never know. We can only say for certain that the story of Lou Montgomery is not a bright chapter in the history of either college football or Boston College."

"Integrating New Years Day : The Racial Politics of College Football Games in the American South" . Charles H. Martin. Journal of Sport History. Vol. 24. no _3. Fall 1997 " The 1940 Cotton Bowl and the 1941 Sugar Bowl revealed the fierce determination of white southerners to maintain the color line in college football, and the willingness of ambitious northern universities to abandon their black players in pursuit of athletic success and financial rewards. Unlike intersectional games during the regular season, when northern teams possessed some leverage, bowl games in Dixie were controlled by white southerners who defined the 'rules of engagement' to exclude blacks. Since the Cotton Bowl did not yet have an automatic contract with the Southwest Conference champion in 1940, the classic that year featured Clemson against Boston College. An emerging powerhouse in the northeast, BC aggressively pursued its first ever bowl bid, even though the team's starting lineup included black halfback Lou Montgomery. In preliminary discussions, Cotton Bowl officials made it clear that southern custom precluded Montgomery's participation. Although coach Frank Leahy publicly grumbled about the exclusion, BC nonetheless quickly accepted the invitation. In reality, benching Montgomery presented no great moral dilemma for the Jesuit-run institution, since the school had already done so twice during the 1939 regular season for home games against Auburn and the University of Florida. The following year BC enjoyed even greater gridiron success, going undefeated and earning a bid to the 1941 Sugar Bowl, but once again, school administrators ignored criticism from a few sportswriters and students, and cravenly agreed to withhold Montgomery from postseason play. As a small concession, New Orleans officials did permit him to accompany the team and watch the game from the press box.


Patrick Miller and David K. Wiggins. Routledge NY & London. 2004 " (1939) The Cotton Bowl Committee denied Lou Montgomery, the black star running back for Boston College, the right to play in the Bowl game in Dallas against Clemson. BC, Clemson University, and the Cotton Bowl Committee honored the Jim Crow tradition in collegiate sports against having an interracial game if one of the parties involved objected. In this case, the Cotton Bowl Committee and Clemson University raised said objection. BC consented, leaving Montgomery at home when the team ventured to Dallas."

THE COFFIN CORNER: VoL 11 . no . 4, 1989. Thomas G. Smith. (Re. The 1940 Cotton Bowl): "BC administrators asked Montgomery to accompany the team to Dallas, but required him to sit out the game. He could sit with his teammates on the bench,but could not participate in pre or post-game ceremonies, stay in the same hotel, or eat in the same restaurants. Montgomery refused to make the trip under those conditions. The black and white press denounced the cruel snub. The Pittsburgh Courier criticized BC for abandoning its democratic and Christian ideals. Jack Miley of the New York Daily News scored BC for one of the most 'spineless, mealy-mouthed, weak-kneed, craven bits of business in the whole history of college football. College authorities should have rejected the Cotton Bowl bid, rather than submit to race prejudice. Miley went on to point out that even Adolph Hitler, an admitted admirer of the south's Jim Crow system, did not try to prevent Jesse Owens from participating in the Berlin Olympic Games of 1936.

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