Subject: Today's pic: March 13, 1918 ~Born on this date, Wilmeth Sidat-Singh, forgotten African-American star athlete who earned a full-ride basketball scholarship to Syracuse University, only to be recruited to Varsity football for his skilled agility on the gridiron. But soon after, his athletic aspirations were limited by severe racial prejudice of the day. After earning his degrees, briefly became a policeman ...
...but after start of WWII he was in advanced flight training as a Tuskegee Airman, when he was killed by faulty aircraft.
African-American basketball and football player who was subject to segregation in college and professional sports in the 1930s. His parents were both African-American. After the death of his father, Elias Webb (a pharmacist), his mother, Pauline, married Samuel Sidat-Singh, a medical student from India who adopted Wilmeth, giving him his family name. After his graduation from Howard University, Dr. Sidat-Singh moved the family to Harlem and set up a family medical practice.
...Wilmeth showed great talent as an athlete and became a basketball star, leading DeWitt Clinton High School to the New York Public High School Athletic League championship in 1934. He received an offer of a basketball scholarship from Syracuse University and enrolled in 1935.
...While playing an intramural football game, an assistant football coach noticed his talent and asked him to join the football team.
Sidat-Singh starred for Syracuse, playing a position equivalent to modern-day quarterback and starring for the basketball team as well.
Syracuse University and nearby Cornell University were among the first collegiate football teams to include African-American players as starting backfield players. In that era, when games were played in Southern segregation states, African-American players from Northern schools were banned from the field. Because of his light complexion and name, Sidat-Singh was sometimes assumed to be a "Hindu" (as people from India were often called by Americans during this time). However. shortly before a game against the University of Maryland, a black sportswriter, Sam Lacy wrote an article in the Baltimore Afro-American, revealing Sidat-Singh's true racial identity. Wilmeth Sidat-Singh was held out of the game and Syracuse lost that game 0-13. In a rematch the following year at Syracuse, Sidat-Singh led the Orange to a lopsided victory (53-0) over Maryland.
With unofficial bans on black players enacted in both the National Basketball League (NBL) and National Football League (NFL) Sidat-Singh played briefly for a professional barnstorming basketball team in Syracuse and then joined the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia. After U.S. entry into World War II, he applied and was accepted as a member of the Tuskegee Airmen, the only African-American unit in the U.S. Army Air Force, and won his wings as a pilot. Sidat-Singh died in 1943 during a training mission when the engine of his airplane failed. "He died on a training flight when his stricken plane went down in Saginaw Bay, his parachute tangled in the fuselage." He drowned in Lake Huron.
In 2005, Syracuse University honored Wilmeth Sidat-Singh by retiring his
number and hanging his basketball jersey in the rafters of the Carrier Dome.
On Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013, the University of Maryland publicly apologized to surviving
relatives from the Webb family at a ceremony during a football game with Syracuse University. ...