William Henry Lewis, born to slaves, became a pioneer in many fields.
Born on November 28, 1868 to former slaves in Virginia, at age 15 he enrolled at the all Black college of Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute (now Virginia State University). He later transferred to Amherst where he played football for three seasons, integrating college football for the first time, and was voted team captain. He also was the class orator.
He enrolled at Harvard Law School where he played as a center for two years. He was also center on the All American team, honored as All American, and named as captain—again, a first. As a center, he was light, weighing 175 pounds. Due to this, he revolutionized the way centers play.
Following law school, he served as a Harvard University football coach for 12 years from 1895-1906. On the value of playing football, he commented, “There is no game like football. ... If it hadn't been for football there is no telling what I would be today. ... It gives you a general hardening and training which stands a man in good use in later life."
From 1899 to 1902, he served on the Cambridge City Council. In 1903, he served in the Massachusetts Legislature and was appointed by President Theodore Roosevelt as an Assistant U.S. Attorney on March 26, 1911. He died January 1, 1949.
William Henry Lewis was the first African American college football player, first to be selected All American college player, first to become a member of the American Bar Association, and first to be appointed assistant attorney general of the United States.
Compiled from Wikipedia and http://btwsociety.org/library/articles/8.php.