Trice captured the hearts of yesterday’s students

Tracy Deutmeyer

Editor’s note: In light of February’s Black History Month activities, the Daily will run four Monday profiles of noted African-Americans with ISU connections. The following profile is on Jack Trice, Iowa State’s first African-American athlete. ISU President Martin Jischke will announce today whether he will recommend changing the name of the football stadium to honor Trice.

“When I saw him I said, ‘Hello Darling.’ He looked at me, but never spoke. I remember hearing the Campanile chime 3 o’clock. That was Oct. 8, 1923, and he was gone.”

On Aug. 3, 1988, Cora Mae Trice Greene wrote those words to Iowa State faculty member Dr. David Lendt, after Iowa State dedicated a statue to her late husband and former ISU football player Jack Trice.

Today ISU waits for President Martin Jischke to decide if he will recommend to the state Board of Regents that Cyclone Stadium/Jack Trice Field be renamed in Trice’s honor. Almost 22 years ago, ISU students and faculty began the first push to name the stadium after Trice.

It isn’t likely that the regents would act contrary to Jischke’s recommendation.

The move to rename the stadium began when a plaque honoring Trice was rediscovered outside of State Gym in 1973. The plaque was placed there the day of Trice’s funeral in 1923.

Records show that in 1974 the first committee to rename the stadium after Trice was formed, a year before the stadium opened.

According to a Feb. 6, 1974 article in the Iowa State Daily, the ISU Government of the Student Body unanimously passed a resolution calling on the university to name the stadium after Trice. Representatives of the Jack Trice Stadium Committee had gathered 3,226 signatures to present to Virgil Lagomarcino, chairman of the Advisory Committee on the Naming of Buildings and Streets.

But an ISU ad hoc committee voted to recommend to then President Robert Parks in 1976 that the stadium be named Cyclone Stadium.

It was not until 1984, more than 10 years after students became involved in the movement to honor Trice, that the regents approved the stadium’s current name.

In 1987, a statute was dedicated to Trice and placed between Beardshear and Carver halls. The statue was removed this year, on Jan. 21, to undergo renovations.

In her letter to Lendt in 1988, Trice’s wife said, “I wish to thank the students who raised the $22,000 to erect the statue. He [Trice] was my first love and I have many beautiful memories of him and our short life together.”

Mrs. Trice died in the early 1990s.

The early days

Trice, often called “Johnny” by his friends and family, was born in 1902 in the Hiram township in Ohio, the son of Green and Anna Trice, and the grandson of four former slaves.

According to Hiram Township Historical Society records, Green Trice had no formal education when he moved to Hiram, but he “started in the first grade even though he was probably 20- or 25-years old at the time.”

Green Trice died when his son was very young.

As a youngster in Hiram, Jack Trice was involved in Boy Scouts and Sunday school. A classmate of Trice’s in the eighth grade, Dr. Gaylord Bates, wrote about him after his death.

“He was a happy-go-lucky kid of barely average scholarship but with a hearty good humor that made him indistinguishable from his schoolmates at work, play or in social affairs. He was always a part of our school parties in various homes, with never a thought of any difference of color of skin,” Bates wrote.

Trice stayed in Hiram until the eighth grade. According to Bates, Trice’s mother sent him to Cleveland to live with his uncle because he had “lived too sheltered a life in Hiram.”

Bates said Trice’s mother made the decision “to get him among people of his own kind, to meet the problems that a Negro boy would have to face sometime” because Hiram was a predominantly white community.

Bates said Trice made a brilliant career in football under Sam Williamson at East Tech High School and then followed Williamson to his coaching job at Iowa State. Bates said Trice went with the “ultimate idea of being trained in agriculture and then going down south to train his own people.”

In 1922, Trice enrolled at Iowa State College — the university’s former name — as the school’s first African-American athlete. He majored in animal husbandry and worked part-time to pay for his education because there were no athletic scholarships.

The summer following his freshman year, Trice married Cora Mae Starland, and the couple returned to Ames to begin their lives together. Mrs. Trice entered ISC as a student in home economics and also worked to help pay for the couple’s education.

Trice began his sophomore year of football facing racial opposition from other schools in the conference. According to a 1975 Daily article, “some schools on ISC’s schedule expressed their wish not to play against a black. His ISC teammates defended Trice’s right to play.”

In October of 1923, the team traveled to Minneapolis to play the University of Minnesota.

The night before the game, the team ate dinner in a hotel dining hall in Minneapolis, “insisting that Trice be admitted with them to the traditionally segregated dining room.” However, according to Jet Magazine, Trice had to stay at the less-classy Curtiss Hotel while the rest of the team stayed at the Radisson.

Trice’s last game

The night before the Saturday game, while sitting in his hotel room, Trice wrote a letter to his friends, family and Iowa State. The note was found in his jacket pocket on the day of his funeral.

He wrote, “My thoughts just before the first real college game of my life. The honor of my race, family and self is at stake. Everyone is expecting me to do big things. I will.”

Trice’s determination was shown in the game the following day. He broke his collar bone on one of the first plays of the game. He kept playing.

Later, according to a 1923 Daily article, Trice threw himself in front of several Minnesota blockers, trying to execute a “roll block.” He landed on his back and was trampled on by three Minnesota players.

Trice wanted to stay in the game, but coaches walked him off the field while Minnesota fans chanted, “We’re sorry Ames.”

Trice was taken to a Minneapolis hospital, but doctors deemed him fit to travel.

Trice traveled on a straw mattress back to Ames with the team. He was taken to the Iowa State College Hospital on Sunday. The following afternoon, at 3 p.m., Trice died from hemorrhaged lungs and generalized internal bleeding.

On Tuesday Oct. 9, 1923, ISC’s classes were canceled at 3 p.m. About 3,000 students gathered around the Campanile to honor Trice as his casket was draped in a cardinal and gold blanket. The casket was carried by Trice’s teammates to a wooden stand, from where then ISC President Richard Pearson spoke.

Trice’s body was taken back to Hiram after the funeral. He was buried next to his father.

According to an article in the Minnesota Alumni Weekly on Oct. 18, 1923, “When the whistle sounded at the Ames-Minnesota game a week ago, and Jack Trice was carried off the field, the contest passed into the hands of another referee.

“He died fighting. There is no greater claim to heroism.”