Essay published in THE ANNALS OF IOWA 69 (Fall 2010). © The State Historical Society of Iowa, 2010.
SPORTS enjoy an almost hallowed place in society. Americans celebrate great athletes and athletic achievements, and their legacies live on in institutional records as well as in our national consciousness and popular imagination. At Iowa State College in the 1920s, a young African American man left a different kind of legacy. As a 21-year-old football player in 1923, Jack Trice died of injuries suffered in a football game. Honored at the time of his death, Trice and his story then slipped from public view. It was rediscovered in 1973, however, and for the next 24 years Iowa State students, faculty, and other Iowans waged a sometimes sporadic but determined campaign to recognize Trice by naming Iowa State University’s football stadium in his honor.
In August 1997 their efforts were rewarded. In a brief ceremony before the school’s season-opening football game, Iowa State President Martin C. Jischke formally declared that Iowa State’s stadium would be renamed Jack Trice Stadium. President Jischke noted, “It is clear that Jack Trice, for a large majority of students and others associated with Iowa State University, exemplifies a number of heroic qualities, including determination, courage, enthusiasm, and giving one’s all to an important cause. He has become a hero, not so much for what he accomplished, because his life was cut short, but for what he represented.” With that dedication, Iowa State University became the only Division 1-A school in the nation to name its stadium after an African American athlete.
Jack Trice’s experience at Iowa State College and the struggle to rename the stadium in his honor played out against a backdrop of a changing American racial environment, changing social attitudes, and even a highly unpopular war. It is an interesting and significant story, one that ultimately involved a legacy greater than those confined to the gridiron.
THE YOUNG MAN who died two days after playing his second varsity football game was born in 1902, the only child of Green and Anna Trice. His parents named him John G. Trice, but apparently his nickname, Jack, was commonly used. His four grandparents had been slaves. Jack’s parents had settled in or near Hiram, Ohio, in extreme northeastern Ohio, sometime in the late nineteenth century. Green Trice first worked as a farmhand and eventually accumulated enough money to buy a small farm. Dr. Gaylord Bates, a boyhood friend of Jack’s, wrote in 1956 that although the Trice family was one of the few African American families in Hiram, Jack experienced little or no racial prejudice there. “He was as full of fun and practical jokes as anyone else. He could not be accused of any more devilry, and certainly no less, than the rest of us engaged in.” Bates added that Jack participated in Sunday School and Boy Scouts and that Jack “was always a part of our school parties in various homes, with never a thought of any difference of color of skin.”
If Bates’s depiction of Hiram as insulated from racial prejudice is accurate, the town was a highly unusual midwestern community. In his study of African Americans in Ohio between 1915 and 1930, William W. Giffin makes clear that a solid color line existed throughout the state. He explains that the color line encircled “all African Americans as one group, and all African Americans experienced manifestations of color prejudice,” adding that the color line was strongest in southern Ohio but “lessened” as one moved north. World War I had brought many black migrants to Ohio. As a result, “racial segregation and racial discrimination intensified in Ohio during and after the war.” Although African American newcomers experienced discrimination in many areas, it was “noticeably greater in housing, schools, public accommodations, law enforcement and press coverage.”
The Trice family’s experience needs to be seen in the context of Ohio’s race relations in general, but the family’s specific location is also significant. The Trices had settled in Hiram, a small town some 20 miles southeast of Cleveland. Giffin singles out Cleveland — located in northeastern Ohio, where the color line was less rigid — as an urban center that manifested less discrimination than other large urban areas in Ohio. He notes that city officials there made a greater effort to confront racial discrimination. Cleveland’s schools, moreover, were “probably” more integrated than those of any other urban area in the state. Because Hiram was located close to Cleveland (Trice would later attend school there) and because his home town was located in the part of Ohio least affected by the color line, Jack Trice probably benefited from his parents’ decision to locate there, regardless of disagreements about the degree of racial discrimination Jack might have experienced.
After Jack completed the eighth grade in Hiram, his mother, Anna (by that time his father was deceased), sent him to live with relatives in Cleveland. According to Bates, Jack’s mother believed that her son had been too sheltered and needed to be “among people of his kind to meet the problems that a Negro boy would have to face.” In Cleveland, Jack attended East Technical High School. The racial composition of the school is not known, but one piece of evidence has survived: a photo of Jack’s high school team in which Jack Trice is one of two black players.
Once enrolled at East Tech, Jack excelled in his studies and on the football field. Academically, Jack was described as having “a very high scholastic standing.” On the field, his high school team was depicted as a “powerhouse,” and Jack was described as having a “brilliant record.” In an interview for the Cleveland Plain Dealer in 1979, Jack’s former teammate Johnny Behm recalled that “no better tackle ever played high school ball in Cleveland. He had speed, strength and smartness.” Behm added that he and Jack shared a room on football trips, one to Seattle for a game billed as the national high school championship. On the train, Behm “knew exactly whom to sit with,” because “the waiters, who were black, always gave [Jack] double portions, and they’d give me extras, too.” During the summers, Jack “worked on the roads” outside of Hiram. After graduation, he went to work for a construction company.
In 1922 Iowa State College offered Jack’s high school coach in Cleveland, Sam Willaman, the job of head football coach. Willaman invited six of his former players — including Jack and two brothers, Johnny and Norty Behm — to come to Ames with him and play for Iowa State. When Willaman and his players arrived in Ames, only a small number of African Americans played collegiate football anywhere in the nation.
The sport had originated in the northeastern United States, with the first game being played between Princeton and Rutgers in 1869, and then spread quickly into the Midwest. The first official college game in the Midwest is believed to have been played in 1879 between the University of Michigan and Racine College of Wisconsin. Other midwestern schools soon organized football teams, including the University of Minnesota in 1882, Indiana University in 1887, and the University of Illinois in 1890. By the turn of the century, every major midwestern college sponsored a football team.
Iowa State College (ISC) fielded its first football team in 1892, but the sport did not have an auspicious beginning: when the first team took the field, few students or faculty “knew of or understood enough of the game to watch or play it with enthusiasm.” Three years later, ISC hired Glenn “Pop” Warner, a former star football player at Cornell University, as football coach, and the program began to attract some attention. In the fall of 1895, the ISC squad traveled to Northwestern University for that school’s season opener. With Northwestern the big favorite to win, Iowa State scored a major upset, winning the game by a score of 36–0. Not only did ISC win the game, but the school also acquired its nickname, the Cyclones. The Chicago Tribune, reporting on the game, carried the headline: “Struck by a Cyclone.” From then on, the ISC team was known as the Cyclones.
In its early years, football was “a violent endeavor.” “The equipment was still cloth padding, leather helmets did little to protect against head injuries and strategy formations invited mayhem.” By 1905, college football had become so “ferocious” that 18 players were killed in games and 159 players suffered serious injuries. For African American players, the game was especially dangerous. As Jessica Schultz has pointed out, black players were often targeted by opponents for “especially vicious hits”; sometimes the black players’ own teammates would not provide “adequate blocking or interference,” resulting in injury. According to James Watterson, “African Americans who played for predominantly white institutions faced extraordinary hazards and abuse.” Watterson adds that both on and off the field, black athletes led “a marginal existence, suffering from racial slurs, brutality and segregation.”
Black athletes faced other barriers as well. The so-called color line, the “practice of either excluding African Americans from selected public activities or segregating them into separate programs or facilities” still existed in most northern institutions of higher learning in 1900. As Charles Martin has pointed out, the very existence of a color line probably discouraged many black athletes from even considering playing college ball. But becoming a member of a collegiate team did not guarantee that the athlete would compete in conference games. The existence of an unwritten rule, a “gentlemen’s agreement,” meant that northern teams were expected to bench their black players when playing southern teams. According to Jessica Schultz, that rule “was widely accepted by northern teams in the early 1920s.” In fact, college teams usually had no more than one or two black players on a team, and most had no black players at all.
By 1922, at least seven African Americans, including Robert “Bobby” Marshall, who played for the University of Minnesota between 1902 and 1906, had already played football at other mid-western schools. Marshall, whom Arthur Ashe described as being “stellar” on the field, was named a Second Team All-American on two occasions. George A. Flippin was an even earlier pioneer black player when he joined the University of Nebraska team in 1891. Flippin, like other pioneer black football players, “encountered racial hostility from the stands and extra violence on the field.” In 1892 Nebraska was scheduled to play at the University of Missouri. When Missouri officials realized that Nebraska’s team included “star halfback” Flippin, they demanded that Flippin be left at home. When Nebraska refused, Missouri forfeited the game. Conference officials then adopted a new rule, imposing a $50 fine on teams forfeiting a match. In 1893 and 1894, Missouri “reluctantly” played Nebraska but at a neutral site in Kansas City.
The University of Iowa also played Missouri several times in the years before 1920. In 1895, when the African American Frank “Kinney” Holbrook played for Iowa, the game between the two schools was played “without protest,” with Missouri the victor. The second game, however, was a totally different affair. Missouri officials objected strenuously to Holbrook’s presence on the field, but Iowa officials stood their ground, insisting that he would play. The game, described as “a wild affair,” “extremely rough,” and resulting in many penalties, ended early. In the second half, the “disgusted” Missouri players walked off the field to protest an official’s decision, but not before a Missouri player had “slugged” a referee, an Iowa faculty member.
The two schools resumed their annual games in 1902, and for seven years they engaged in “relatively peaceful competition.” But in 1909 the Iowa team included the African American player Archie A. Alexander. This time when Missouri officials demanded that Alexander be benched, Iowa officials agreed. The following year when the two teams played, Alexander was again kept out of the game at Missouri’s insistence, but Iowa officials then canceled the Iowa-Missouri series. As Charles Martin points out, however, two changes had taken place since the early 1890s: by 1910, Missouri had “shifted” its policy from one of “hostile acceptance of limited interracial play” to one of complete racial exclusion; at the same time, Iowa had abandoned its policy of “opposition to the color line” and had accepted “racial exclusion,” both at home and away.
In 1922 both major barriers to African Americans’ participation in collegiate football remained in effect: the color line and the gentlemen’s agreement. But the gentlemen’s agreement caused little concern because midwestern teams had few black players, university administrators seemed indifferent to the issue, and there were few major interregional games. At the same time, by World War I, the intraregional resistance to African American players seemed “to have disappeared.” In Trice’s short career at ISC, however, it is unclear how opponents other than the University of Minnesota would have reacted to the presence of an African American on the Iowa State team.
WHEN JACK TRICE ARRIVED at Iowa State in the fall of 1922, he entered a world with few other African Americans. Just 20 or so black students were enrolled at ISC, a college of around 4,500 students. The city of Ames had 6,240 residents (not including ISC students), with a total of 34 African Americans. The entire state included just over 19,000 African Americans, less than one percent of the state’s total population. Trice also entered a world where blacks faced many restrictions. For example, African American students at ISC were not allowed to live in a school dormitory. From the school’s inception, ISC was open to all races, but housing was another matter. Although not formalized in writing, the school had an “unofficial policy that barred students of color from living with white students.” As President Raymond Pearson wrote in 1910, “Negro students are entirely welcome at this institution; they have no discourtesy shown them by fellow students or others.” On the other hand, he admitted, “It is not always easy for a Negro student to find rooming and boarding accommodations except where there are enough to room and board together, as is the case with Filipinos and with students of other nationalities.”
For Trice, employment would solve his housing problem. Once on campus, he had two jobs: working in State Gym and doing janitorial work at a local business. In a letter to the Ames Tribune in 1976, Harley C. Boeke, a contemporary of Jack’s, explained that Jack had been employed as a “custodian in one of the larger office buildings in downtown Ames.” Boeke added that this job provided living quarters for Jack.
Housing was not the only area of discrimination Jack Trice and other African Americans faced in Ames and other parts of the state. In the 1920s blacks and whites lived mostly separate lives. Legal barriers such as political disenfranchisement and exclusion of black children from public schools had been eliminated by 1900, but economic and social barriers remained. In a study of blacks in Iowa in 1918, four years before Jack Trice arrived in the state, Victor Cools noted the “strict separation” between the races on the “social level.” “There is no instance on record in which the whites and blacks have come together for social purposes. It is true that . . . when some distinguished. . . person of color is brought by some organization to Des Moines for the purpose of raising money for some project or other, [such functions] are attended by white persons who sympathize with the Negro, yet the number . . . is in reality negligible.” Cools then pointed out specific areas of discrimination against blacks, particularly in Des Moines: they were refused service in most restaurants, given “inferior seats” in theaters, and refused service in many hotels.
Throughout the state in the 1920s, there were other reminders of the separation between blacks and whites, resting on the wide-spread view that blacks were inferior to whites and were, therefore, second-class citizens. In Des Moines and Waterloo, for example, housing covenants prevented blacks from living in certain parts of the cities. Sunset laws (which forbade African Americans to remain in communities after sundown) existed in at least a few Iowa communities. In the 1920s, the Ku Klux Klan operated throughout the state; although Klan activities in Iowa were directed primarily against Catholics and foreigners, for blacks the very existence of the Klan must have caused great fear.
Blacks and whites were segregated in higher education, too. Hal Chase describes the years between 1868 and 1949 as a period when “tokenism” defined Iowans’ attitudes toward African Americans in higher education. Chase writes that a “widely held stereotype” was that African Americans were “intellectually inferior.” As a result, Iowa’s colleges and universities admitted only a few African Americans to their institutions.
Moreover, some Iowa institutions of higher learning admitted blacks more readily than others: Iowa State College admitted African Americans from its inception; Iowa Wesleyan College admitted its first black student in 1863 and Grinnell College in 1871. George Washington Carver attended Simpson College in 1890, enrolling as a “select preparatory student,” and then entered ISC, where he received B.S. and M.S. degrees. Even with success stories such as Carver’s, Chase concludes that “de facto segregation contaminated Iowa higher education until the end of World War 2.”
It is impossible to know Jack Trice’s expectations when he arrived in central Iowa in 1922. Even if it is true, as some contemporaries suggest, that he had been well accepted by whites in his home town of Hiram and at East Tech High School in Cleveland, he lived in a larger world defined by the color line, one where African Americans were defined as second-class citizens. Given his successful high school football career, however, he must have arrived on campus in great anticipation of his college football career.
Based on limited evidence, it seems that Trice got along well with his teammates, staff, and other students at Iowa State; at the same time, he seemed to be always circumspect in his relations with whites. One teammate recalled many years later that Jack had been cautious about his interactions with other students, holding back in social situations until others initiated conversation. One former teammate put it this way: “Jack appreciated his status. Generally, he spoke only when spoken to. As far as I know he was always a gentleman, like almost all of the athletes and students were.” Another former teammate recalled that Jack “didn’t speak out much. He kept his place.” Merl Ross, business manager for the ISC Athletic Department, also knew Jack personally and remembered that Jack had run errands for him. In 1989 he recalled, “Jack Trice was such a wonderful person. . . . He was an outstanding player and an outstanding gentleman. No one ever had any bad words to say about him. He was the best.” Ross added that Jack was “courteous. He’d never come in the office. He’d wait in the corridor unless you invited him. He was a shy fellow.” Other former teammates stated that Jack was accepted by all players and seemed to fit in well with the team. Bob Fisher, another teammate of Jack’s, recalled many years later that Jack had no racial problems at Iowa State. “As far as I know, he was just one of the fellows. There was no inkling of racism at school.” Perhaps the teammate who knew Jack best, Johnny Behm, recalled, “Although Trice was the only black on the team, I never heard anyone make any racial remarks about him.” Although these comments by Trice’s contemporaries reflect the prevailing racial attitudes of the day — such as “he knew his place” — they also reflect respect for Trice.
It is significant that Trice’s contemporaries perceived that he experienced a comfortable, accepting environment in Ames; nonetheless, no firsthand accounts by Trice survive to substantiate this view. No doubt, he interacted with other black students at ISC and possibly knew some of the town’s African Americans who were not students. The existence of other African Americans at ISC probably made his time there more comfortable, as they could provide friendship and advice. Athletics provided Jack a clearly defined niche within the school; he was not only an athlete but a very good athlete. Although we know little about Trice’s private thoughts, once in Iowa and surrounded almost entirely by white students and a culture dominated by European Americans, he likely felt a deep loneliness and isolation from his own friends and family members back in Ohio.
At ISC, Jack “struggled with his admission tests” but eventually managed to pass them. He selected animal husbandry as his major and planned to move south after graduation to work with black sharecroppers. He did well in his classes although he had to make up some deficiencies. One source indicates that during his freshman year, Jack’s grades averaged 90 percent. There were no college sports scholarships in the 1920s, so Jack worked during his freshman year, helping out in State Gym and doing janitorial work in a downtown office building. Coaches often helped players find part-time jobs, which probably accounted for Jack’s employment. At least for a while, his mother took a mill job in Ravenna, near Hiram, so she could contribute financially to Jack’s education.
Jack returned to Ohio for the summer following his first year in Ames. He lived with his mother in Ravenna and worked for the Ohio State Highway Department. Before beginning his sophomore year, he married Cora Mae Starland. She returned to Ames with him and enrolled in home economics courses. Cora Mae also worked to support the family. Once more, however, housing was a problem. According to one account, when Jack and Cora Mae were unable to find living quarters in Ames, they turned to a local Masonic group, which arranged for them to board in a room at their local temple.
After playing on the freshman team during his first year at ISC (freshmen did not play varsity football), Jack joined the varsity team as a sophomore. The ISC student paper reported that he was one of the team’s most outstanding performers. His contemporaries echoed that view. Former teammate Harry Schmidt believed that had Jack lived, “he would certainly have made all-conference his junior year, at least if not that sophomore year. He was very capable.” Johnny Behm remembered that in practice, Trice, an offensive lineman, would go “one on one” with George Hauser, the team’s line coach, and Jack “always held his own.” Hauser was so good, Behm related, that the line coach would travel to Chicago each Sunday to play with George Halas’s team, which eventually became the Chicago Bears. In another assessment of Trice’s ability, Jessica Schultz, who studied the careers of Trice and other black Iowa athletes, reminds us that “only the best African-American football players were allowed on predominantly white teams in the first half of the twentieth century — their presence justified by the fact they not only improved their team’s performance, but were believed to be capable of almost single-handedly securing victory.”
IOWA STATE’S FIRST OPPONENT for the 1923–24 season was Simpson College, a much smaller school than ISC and not regarded as a serious threat. The big game, however, the second one on ISC’s 1923–24 schedule, was at the University of Minnesota and was considered the first major college game of the season for the Iowa State squad.
In Minneapolis the Iowa State team stayed at the Curtis Hotel. Apparently Jack stayed in the same hotel with his teammates, although there is some confusion about where he ate his meals. The night before the game, Jack sat down to record his thoughts about the next day’s big event. He would be the only black player on the field. He was a big man for the time, described as six feet tall and weighing about 200 pounds, and he had four years of high school football and one year of freshman football behind him. But Minnesota was known as a powerful football team, far more successful than Iowa State. Given his situation, Jack must have been apprehensive about the game. That night he wrote,
To whom it may concern: My thoughts just before the first real college game of my life. The honor of my race, family, & self are at stake. Everyone is expecting me to do big things. I will! My whole body & and soul are to be thrown recklessly about on the field tomorrow. Every time the ball is snapped I will be trying to do more than my part. On all defensive plays I must break thru the opponents line and stop the play in their territory. Beware of mass interference, fight low with your eyes open and toward the play. Roll block the interference. Watch out for crossbucks and reverse end runs. Be on your toes every minute if you expect to make good.
During the hard-fought game, Jack suffered a shoulder injury in the first half but continued to play; it was later discovered that he had broken his collarbone. At half-time, the score was tied, 7–7. Teammates later indicated that midway through the third quarter, Jack implemented what was described as “a rolling block,” throwing himself in front of an oncoming rush of Minnesota players running “a crossbuck with heavy interference.” Jack ended up on his back, rather than on his stomach, which was the intended position. Apparently, the coach had discouraged this play because it was too dangerous, and in later years the play was outlawed. During the play, Jack was trampled by Minnesota players. He was helped from the field as Minnesota fans chanted, “We’re sorry Ames, we’re sorry.” Jack was immediately taken to a Minneapolis hospital, where doctors determined that he could make the trip back to Ames. Minnesota won the game, 20–17.
Arriving home on Sunday, Jack was admitted to the student hospital. College physicians believed that Jack was improving, but in late afternoon he began to experience “shallow and irregular” breathing. A Des Moines specialist, Dr. Oliver Fay, was called to Ames. According to the Ames Tribune, Dr. Fay was one of the “best known specialists in stomach troubles in the country.” Dr. Fay’s diagnosis: an operation was too risky, given Jack’s condition. At 3 p.m. on Monday, October 8, Jack died. A letter dated October 16, 1923, addressed to Coach Willaman, listed the cause of Jack’s death: “Traumatic Peritonitis, following injury to abdomen in football game, October 6, 1923. (Autopay [sic] showed severe contusion of intestines upper portion of abdomen. This caused stasis or paralysis of intestines followed by peritonitis.)” The letter was signed: “Dr. James F. Edwards, Professor [of] Hygiene.”
The following day, October 9, school officials suspended classes and several thousand students gathered on central campus to pay tribute to Jack Trice, the only ISC athlete ever to die of injuries suffered in a game. A gray casket, carried by teammates, was placed on a wooden platform. Among other speeches, college president Raymond Pearson read the letter that Jack had penned the night before the game, discovered in Jack’s coat pocket following his death. Jack’s teammates had set out five-gallon milk cans around campus and collected $2,259 to help pay for funeral experiences, including the cost of shipping Jack’s body back to Ohio. The Ames Chamber of Commerce and ISC’s Cardinal Guild also helped raise funds for funeral expenses.The money raised also helped Jack’s mother pay off a mortgage on her home, taken out to help pay for college expenses for Jack and Cora Mae.
Anna and Cora Mae Trice and Jack’s uncle, Lee Trice, accompanied the body back to Hiram along with freshman football coach William Thompson; Kenneth R. Marvin, assistant alumni secretary and member of the athletic department; and Harold I. Tutt, an African American student at ISC. The group was met in Hiram by Dr. W. H. Pew, formerly head of the animal husbandry division at ISC, then living in Ravenna (near Hiram). Dr. Pew notified Iowa State officials of the group’s arrival in Hiram, noting that “the mother and wife of the deceased athlete stood the trip well, but it has since been necessary to place the younger Mrs. Trice under the doctor’s care.” The Daily later reported that Jack’s widow had suffered a “nervous collapse.” In Hiram, Jack was buried beside his father. Jack’s mother later wrote to President Pearson about her feelings. She first thanked college officials for their kindnesses and then added, “If there is anything in the life of John Trice and his career that will be an inspiration to the colored students who come to Ames, he has not lived and died in vain. But Mr. President, while I am proud of his honors, he was all I had and I am old and alone. The future is dreary and lonesome.”
Some two weeks after Trice’s death, another tribute was paid to the late football star. The Ames Tribune reported that “the Negroes of Ames and the college” held a memorial service in the home of Mr. and Mrs. E. H. Gater. Harold L. Tutt, who had accompanied the body to Ohio, spoke about that experience. A quartet of African Americans presented several musical selections. Jack’s letter, written on the eve of the Minnesota–Iowa State football game, was read. The hostess then spoke about “gathering a Negro fund” to be paid to Anna and Cora Mae Trice. The Tribune claimed that every Negro in the city contributed to the fund.
Reports varied as to the actual conduct of the Minnesota players at the time of Jack’s injury. Some reports stated that Jack had been intentionally trampled. Some spectators reported that Jack had been “stomped on viciously, even bitten.” But others denied that Minnesota players had intentionally injured Jack. One Iowa State player on the field that day, Harry Schmidt, interviewed in 1973, described what happened on the field from his perspective as left guard (Trice played right tackle): “Well, [Minnesota] had a powerful offensive drive with good interference, and they had three blockers ahead of this runner. Jack had said in [his] letter . . . that he would throw himself before an interference. He did a roll block. And someone just happened to step on his stomach, as they went by.” Schmidt added that a close high school friend of his who was editor of the Daily Minnesotan, the University of Minnesota’s student newspaper, called Schmidt and asked if he felt that Trice had been intentionally hurt. “And I said, ‘Absolutely not.’ I said I was there. I was moving over toward the play and saw him throw that block in there and saw him get stepped on.”
Johnny Behm, another player on the field that day and a high school teammate of Jack’s in Cleveland, told the Cleveland Plain Dealer in a 1979 interview that on the disputed play, Trice had “possibly been wrestled to the ground instead of blocked.” He added that Trice ended up on his back “in the path of a line plunge.” Behm didn’t think there was anything intentional on the part of the Minnesota players: “It was a straight power play. I mean, I’m sure there was nothing intentional because there hadn’t been any remarks or incidents leading up to it.” Behm added, “Anyhow, the fullback, going through the hole, stepped on Jack’s stomach and maybe his groin. He was badly hurt and tried to get up and wanted to stay in. We saw he couldn’t stand and helped him off the field.”
Other accounts provide no clear consensus on the intent of the Minnesota players. Steven Jones, author of Football’s Fallen Hero: The Jack Trice Story, stated that while doing research for his book, he interviewed two people who had seen the play: “One person told me that nothing out of the ordinary happened. But another who saw it said it was murder.” The article appearing in the Des Moines Tribune the day of Trice’s death stated that Trice was injured “when most of the Minnesota team piled on top of him in an off-tackle play.” Merl Ross believed that the Minnesota players “wanted to knock Trice out of the game because he was black.” He added, “I’m sure that was their purpose. They wanted to get him out of there. And that’s what they did.”
The University of Minnesota’s president, L. D. Coffman, sent his condolences to President Pearson, adding that the play in which Jack was injured “took place directly in front of me. Of course, it is difficult to describe these things after they have once happened, but it seemed to me that he threw himself in front of the play on the opposite side of the line. There was no piling up.”
It does not appear from the extant letters, articles, and reports that there was an official inquiry into whether the Minnesota players had intentionally injured Jack Trice. Only one memo in the Trice Papers refers to a possible investigation of the incident. On October 9, John L. Griffith, Commissioner of Athletics for the Intercollegiate Conference, sent a message to ISC officials: “Associated Press Dispatch from Ames states that your boy died from injuries received when most of the Minnesota line piled on top of him in an off tackle play. Would you care to issue as to whether or not injuries were result of unfair plays?” An ISC official replied to Griffith the same day, stating, “Willaman and the men under him advised me that they did not discern any special massing on Jack Trice. He was an exceptional player and of course made trouble for the Minnesota team.”
Later that month professors L. H. Pammel and W. F. Coover along with football coach Sam Willaman issued a resolution on the part of the industrial science faculty. The resolution stated that Jack Trice was an exceptional athlete “who lost his life for Iowa State College” in the game with Minnesota. The resolutions, statements, and tributes for Jack were highly laudatory: that Jack Trice gave his life for the sake of his school and his team, that he had been heroic on the field, and that his death had been a great loss to his race and to Iowa State College. Perhaps the most straightforward comment came in a letter written by President Pearson to President Coffman at the University of Minnesota.
Thank you sincerely for sympathy on account of the death of Jack Trice. He was an exceptionally good student as well as a great athlete. His mother came to take away her boy’s body and we who saw her felt that we had never met a more refined colored woman. The more I know about Jack Trice the more I feel that the colored race has lost a man who would have become a great leader.
The next year, Jack’s teammates placed a plaque in State Gym in Jack’s memory. The plaque was inscribed with the letter Jack wrote on the eve of the Minnesota game, a letter that would be reprinted again and again over the next 70 years.
In 1988, some 65 years after Jack Trice’s death, Iowa State officials received a letter from Jack’s widow, Cora Mae Greene. In that year ISU students had commissioned a sculpture of Jack Trice; they sent Mrs. Greene a photo of the sculpture and copies of the dedication program. Mrs. Greene wrote back on August 3, 1988, to thank Iowa State officials for sending her the information. In large scrawling letters, her message poignantly described her memories of Jack and his death.
Jack’s passing was a great shock to me. He was my first love and I have many beautiful memories of him and our short life together.
The night that he was leaving for Minnesota with his coach, he came to tell me good bye, we kissed and hugged and he told me that he would come back to me as soon as he could.
The day of the game, I was [on campus], I heard it announced that he had been injured. I stood and bowed my head and then I heard that he walked from the field. I felt some what relieved. Monday noon I was in the cafeteria. His fraternity Bro Mr. Harold Tutt came to me and said that I was to go to the campus hospital. I did. 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. 8th, 1923, and he was gone.
Cora Mae Trice Greene
FOR MANY YEARS after Jack Trice’s death the one physical reminder of his time at Iowa State was the commemorative plaque his teammates had placed in State Gym in 1924. The plaque’s location seemed fitting: this was the gym where Jack worked as a student and where he worked out as an athlete. Apparently the plaque attracted little attention, however, and even a few years after his death, most Iowa State students probably knew nothing of the Trice story. But some three decades later, in 1957, an undergraduate at Iowa State discovered the plaque covered with dirt and grime. Tom Emmerson was intrigued. He later commented about his discovery: “I had never heard of [Jack Trice]. I talked to some people in the athletic department office and then I went to the library and wrote a piece about him.” Emmerson recalled that the story, which appeared in The Iowa State Scientist, stirred little, if any, student interest.
Sixteen years would pass between Emmerson’s discovery of the plaque in State Gym and the reawakening of student interest in the story of Jack Trice. In that 16-year period, the social and political climate in the country would undergo a vast change. After the Korean War ended in the early 1950s, the rest of the decade was relatively peaceful. In the 1950s, college students were described as passive and career oriented. They majored in traditional courses: engineering, agriculture, and science for young men and home economics for young women. Americans, in general, focused on domestic issues, and political activism of any kind seemed remote. As college students turned inward, it is not surprising that Emmerson’s article on Jack Trice went largely unnoticed.
Not until the 1960s and 1970s did student protests became visible on the Iowa State campus and in the city of Ames, first related to the needs of black students and later to the Vietnam War. The passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 focused national attention on the discrimination endured by African Americans, but even earlier, black students at Iowa State had spoken out against the mistreatment they faced in the Ames community. In 196l the Iowa State Daily reported that African American and foreign students experienced “rampant discrimination and extreme difficulties” in finding adequate housing in Ames. One black student reported that he had made “tentative agreements” with at least 15 landlords by phone, but when he started “making the rounds,” he found all the vacancies filled. On campus, black students made clear their resentment that the university had been unresponsive to their requests to recruit more black students and black professors.
In the late 1960s, Iowa State administrators did begin to respond to the black students’ needs. In 1968 ISU established a pilot program to increase minority enrollment; President W. Robert Parks then established a new position, Director of Minority Affairs. George Christensen, then Vice-President for Academic Affairs, recalled that ISU presented “career days” in inner-city areas — to recruit black students — and tried to make ISU “more hospitable for those who did come to Ames.” In 1969 members of the newly formed Black Student Organization asked university officials to create a center for black students on campus. With a grant of $2,000 from the VEISHEA Central Committee (a student group responsible for planning the annual spring celebration on campus known as VEISHEA) and assistance from the ISU administration, the Black Cultural Center was opened a year later. The center hosted many activities, including Sunday evening dinners and dance classes, and generally provided a “home away from home” for black students.
The following year, however, relations between black students and the community of Ames took a dramatic turn downward. In April 1970 two white students, Larry Munger and Chuck Jean, and a black student, Roosevelt Roby, were involved in a confrontation in a local tavern. All three men faced charges, but when police arrived to arrest Roby at his apartment, several other blacks prevented police from putting Roby in a squad car. The charges against Roby included assault and battery (for hitting Jean with a beer mug) and resisting execution of due process. The next day, an estimated crowd of 50 African Americans appeared in front of the Ames City Hall to “protest what they termed unfair policy treatment.”
The hearing and subsequent trial of Roby and Charles Knox (who was involved in resisting Roby’s earlier arrest) was marred by two episodes of violence. On the first day of Roby’s hearing, the presiding judge, John McKinney, discovered a bomb in his garage. Police later determined that it was an “incendiary device,” which was quickly disarmed. Police could not determine who had placed the device there, but Ames residents were “shaken.” Some three weeks later, the trial against Roby and Knox began; it lasted two days and both men were found not guilty. The morning after the verdict was announced, a loud explosion rocked downtown Ames. A bomb placed inside City Hall had exploded, injuring 13 people; a state trooper in the building lost sight in one eye. Again, police were not able to determine guilt, although many in Ames believed that African Americans were responsible for the violence.
By the following fall, tensions had lessened on the campus and in the community, but the earlier violence had undoubtedly strengthened the convictions of ISU officials that more needed to be done to respond to the concerns of black students. Recruitment efforts in cities such as Chicago continued. Christensen and other administrators met with black students to enlist their help in attracting more black students to campus and to discuss their concerns. Christensen also established the Affirmative Action Office at ISU in 1973. Another specific program was Project 400, described as a “program of university commitment to minority student recruitment and development”; the program was implemented in August 1973. As the name implied, ISU hoped to recruit a total of 400 undergraduate and graduate minority students by 1977–78. Recruitment would take place in cities in the Northeast but also in Iowa, particularly in Waterloo and Des Moines. Once on campus, minority students would receive counseling and tutoring, and advising would be made available to them.
By 1970, the year the bomb exploded in Ames City Hall, students at ISU were already speaking out against the Vietnam War. Protests at ISU were “smaller and less volatile” than at other universities but still represented a “contentious and dangerous issue” on the campus. ISU students burned their draft cards, held large protest rallies against the war, and tried to prevent buses carrying draftees from leaving Ames. In the spring of 1970, a major concern was the VEISHEA celebration, scheduled to take place only days after the shootings at Kent State. Amid strong feelings both for and against the war — on campus and in the Ames community — students held the annual event, but the traditional parade included two additional marches: an antiwar “March of Concern” and a “Patriots” march in support of the war.
ISU would survive the protests and remain open for the full 1970–71 school year. Some 200 other universities around the country would not, having ended the school term early. Still, the war issues and the extreme dichotomy they produced between supporters and opponents created a time of tension, anxiety, and mistrust of authority figures. It was a time when students increasingly challenged authority and defied institutional regulations and procedures. Given this backdrop, the time proved right for a renewed interest in Jack Trice’s life; before long, his story would once again become well known on the ISU campus.
Another development on the ISU campus at the same time added to the renewed interest in Jack Trice. In the fall of 1973, the university was in the midst of constructing a football stadium, a far larger and more complete facility than the existing stadium, Clyde Williams Field. The university was undoubtedly hoping that a major donor would come forward to help finance the facility, which carried an estimated cost of $7.6 million; in turn, the stadium would likely carry the donor’s name. By the fall of 1973, however, no major donor had appeared.
EVENTS ON AND OFF CAMPUS provided a context that supported a revival of student interest in Jack Trice, but individuals also played crucial roles. In 1973 Charles Sohn and Alan Beals both found themselves at Iowa State, Sohn as an instructor in the English Department and Beals as an Athletic Department tutor. According to Sohn, he and Beals had been “close friends from childhood, through our Eagle Scout days, on into college when circumstances eventually delivered us both to Iowa State.” As young, white men raised in Harlan, Iowa, in a state roughly 99 percent white, they seemed unlikely candidates to spark a renewed interest in a black athlete who died of injuries in an Iowa State football game 50 years earlier.
Beals first became aware of the Trice story in 1973, when he noticed the Trice plaque while working in State Gym. Beals promptly shared the story with Sohn, whose reaction was immediate and enthusiastic. Sohn later recalled that it was a “reaction to the pure human beauty of the Trice material.” Sohn remembered that he and Beals “talked long into the night.” Reflecting many years later on his part in the Jack Trice story, Sohn attributed his immediate reaction to “an ingrained liberalism (maybe as rebellion against my all-Caucasian high school) to an affinity for most manifestations of Black America from the 1950s on.” Sohn added that perhaps his interest in the Trice story also stemmed from guilt at not having taken part in earlier civil rights activities. Sohn’s “affinity for most manifestations of Black America” was revealed in other ways. At Iowa State, he served as a faculty adviser and contributor to the campus Black Cultural Center and frequently worked with black students in the English Department. The “Trice cause,” as Sohn called it, seemed a perfect fit, given his strong identification with African Americans and his commitment to racial equality.
Soon, Beals and Sohn began publicizing the Jack Trice story. The first step was an article in the Iowa State Daily on October 5, 1973. Written by Jim Smith, Daily sports editor, and Alan Beals, the story was apparently the first, or one of the first, articles on Trice to appear in campus publications since 1957. The authors laid out what was known of Trice’s time at Iowa State and his untimely death. They included the letter Trice had written before the Minnesota game.
But it was another project that would directly involve Sohn in the Trice project. In 1973–74 Sohn designed and taught a two-quarter freshman English class consisting of six black males, six white females, six white males, and six black females. The class was one of numerous deliberate efforts to provide African American students with “support, comfort, and integration into campus life.” Sohn shared the story of Jack Trice with his students, who immediately became interested in the topic. Sohn remembered that the class members “took on small research and writing projects relevant to Trice, early athletics, [and] institutional racism.” He also recalled that at one of the class’s small-group meetings, “a black woman from Chicago pushed the notion of a Jack Trice Stadium.” Sohn considered the suggestion “a natural — immediately getting us into lively banter about the extreme odds of such a name being picked by the old-white-boys establishment [at Iowa State]. And the challenge of it all . . . it caught fire.” To help get their project off the ground, the students formed the Jack Trice Memorial Stadium Committee, the first of many efforts to publicize the proposed stadium name. A short time later, ISU’s Government of the Student Body (GSB) voted unanimously to recommend the renaming of the stadium.
Although Sohn’s class ended in March 1974, the students’ commitment to commemorating Jack Trice continued as the class carried out one more project. Pam Dee (now Pam Geringer) recalled that in the spring of 1974 class members set up a booth at VEISHEA to gather signatures to name the stadium for Trice. Then, with signatures in hand, four students, including Dee, met with an administration official. Apparently the administrator showed little interest in the students’ effort. Dee recalled her strong sense of disappointment at the lack of a positive response. She had been raised on a farm near the small eastern Iowa town of Springville, a community she described as all-white. Like so many Iowa young people of her generation and before, she had had almost no contact with minorities. Upon first hearing the story of Jack Trice, she thought the project to study Trice’s life was something she and the other students should do to be informed citizens and possibly make a difference at ISU. According to the Daily, Dee had done much of the research and collecting of Trice material, which resulted in a substantial scrapbook; she and other class members even wrote letters to residents in Ravenna and Hiram, Ohio, inquiring about Jack’s early life there.
Over the next 15 years, from 1973 to 1988, Charles Sohn played a crucial role in keeping the Jack Trice campaign alive and moving ahead. He remembered that he and Beals “produced most of the early printed matter of the ‘Trice movement.’” Sohn served on the Jack Trice Memorial Committee — sometimes composed of just one or two students plus Sohn — dedicated to promoting “specific Trice memorials.” The committee worked to expand knowledge about Trice’s life and time at ISC by locating archival records and doing interviews with his contemporaries. The committee also raised money for scholarship funds, memorial events, and the commissioning of a bronze sculpture (completed in 1988). In general, the committee worked to keep the stadium renaming issue before students, administrators, and the public.
As for Sohn himself, his sustained commitment to promoting the “Trice cause” stemmed from deep convictions about long-time injustices in American society as well as deep empathy for Trice’s story. Arriving at ISU as a freshman in the 1960s, Sohn shared the views of many students that American society was rampant with injustices such as “racism, sexism [and] warlike colonialism.” Sohn added his own abiding anger at what he viewed as an entrenched old order within the ISU administration, an administration he referred to as “the establishment.” Sohn explained that for himself and some other students, there was a “definite feel of ‘them vs. us’ in the Trice movement.” At the same time, he viewed Jack Trice as a mythic figure whose tragic story had a “pure human beauty” and “great warmth.” The story of this young black man whose life had ended so abruptly touched Sohn and his students deeply.
Motivation aside, the effort to rename the ISU stadium resulted in a lengthy campaign. Sohn recognized that to keep the cause moving along, it needed a guiding hand that would occasionally “stir the pot” of student interest. From the beginning, Sohn worked to exert influence through two platforms: the student paper, the Iowa State Daily, and the GSB. He “gained the ear” of the Daily’s editors, who, for the most part, from 1973 to 1988, supported the Trice campaign. Tom Emmerson, who as a student in 1957 had written a story about Jack Trice that stirred little interest, now served as faculty adviser for the student paper; Emmerson totally supported the renaming project as did many other faculty in the Journalism Department, the Daily’s home department. In the 1970s the GSB selected Sohn as its faculty adviser, giving him a close working relationship with members of the student government. And, as Sohn pointed out, in terms of the student population-at-large, it required only a handful of passionately vocal students in each generation to keep the issue alive.
THE INITIAL EFFORTS by Alan Beals, Charles Sohn, and the 1973–74 freshman English classes laid the groundwork for the 24-year campaign that would follow. Throughout the mid-seventies, numerous articles on Trice’s career at Iowa State appeared in the Iowa State Daily, the Ames Tribune, and the Des Moines Register. On February 15, 1975, an article in the Daily reported that when the stadium was finished, the University Advisory Committee on the Naming of Buildings and Streets would consider naming the stadium. Committee members stated that Jack Trice Stadium would be considered along with other suggestions. Student input, they announced, would be important.
At the same time, a columnist for the Des Moines Register, Donald Kaul, also became intrigued with the Trice story and wrote periodically about the renaming issue. From the start, Kaul supported naming the stadium for Trice. Referring to the stadium as “no name stadium,” Kaul, often with caustic humor, lambasted university officials for their refusal to act on the name change. Certainly Kaul’s columns broadened public attention to the issue, but his efforts were not always appreciated by supporters such as Charles Sohn, who believed that Kaul’s attitude was sometimes demeaning toward Trice.
Other Iowa State groups commemorated Trice in different ways. In October 1975, for example, the Black Cultural Center, with Sohn as its adviser, named its library the Jack Trice Resource Center.
Throughout the long student campaign, polls indicated that a majority of ISU students supported naming the stadium for Jack Trice. In October 1975, the Daily reported that the November 5 ballot for GSB officers would also poll students as to their preference for a stadium name. Seven choices appeared, including Jack Trice Memorial Stadium, Cyclone Stadium, and Clyde Williams Memorial Stadium. Sohn stated that he wanted the poll carried out “to send [a message to] the Board of Regents which makes the final decision of what to name the stadium.” A majority of students voted for Jack Trice Memorial Stadium. The GSB followed with a resolution recommending the name change. At the same time, students took umbrage to university officials referring to the stadium as Cyclone Stadium when that name had not been officially adopted. Meanwhile, in a telephone survey of 200 ISU students, 71 percent favored naming the stadium after Jack Trice.
The Trice campaign produced some success in March of the following year, when President W. Robert Parks created a special ad hoc committee to name the new stadium. The committee consisted of two students, two faculty members, two staff members, and two alumni. The university’s Faculty Council, composed mostly of ISU faculty, had also requested the action. Parks made it clear that stadium ownership was with the ISU Foundation and would remain there until the stadium was debt free, but he hoped that the recommendation to name the stadium would be “forthcoming before the end of the school year.” Parks said he would “seek permission from the Foundation Board of Governors to recommend a name for the stadium . . . [before] the stadium is turned over to the University.” That did not happen, however; instead, the Board of Regents voted to defer the name change until the transfer of ownership from the ISU Foundation to Iowa State University took place. That decision meant that the renaming process would be delayed for another three or four years. The reason for the regents’ decision is not clear. ISU professor William Kunerth thought the decision was “ridiculous.” “It didn’t make any sense at all. Here they’ve got this legend laid out in front of them and it was perfectly fine and logical and [the administration] just hemmed and hawed and stalled.” Tom Emmerson agreed, adding, “In all probability that was just another ploy. They could have named it, in my opinion, anytime they wanted to.”
For the next few years, the Iowa State Daily periodically carried articles, editorials, and letters to the editor promoting the renaming of the new stadium. In May 1977 student Mike Seemuth wrote that even after the regents had delayed the naming process, the issue “had not dried up and blown away.” At the same time, the Jack Trice Memorial Foundation had been revived, funded by the GSB. One of its first activities was to sponsor a Jack Trice Week the following fall. Seemuth explained that the Foundation’s purpose was clear: “Sustain student support for Jack Trice Stadium until the University becomes the official owner of the stadium — at which time the Regents will reconsider the stadium-name issue.” A few months later, a Daily column, “Point of View,” suggested that the university’s purpose in delaying the name change was evident: hold off on renaming the stadium until the present group of students graduates and then younger students will be unaware of the Jack Trice story. Then the stadium can be named “‘Cyclone’ or ‘Alumni’ or something else.”
That prediction would not play out, however. The Jack Trice story was kept alive, sometimes by student activity, sometimes by letters written by Charles Sohn, and sometimes by those outside the university. In 1979, in one of his Des Moines Register sports columns, Maury White quoted from an article published earlier in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. That newspaper’s sports editor, Hal Lebovitz, upon hearing the story of Jack Trice, had tracked down Trice’s teammate Johnny Behm for his memories of Trice and the memorable Minnesota football game. White’s article helped keep the Trice campaign alive.
In the 1980s the pattern continued as the Daily and the Des Moines Register carried articles on Trice, and the GSB continued to show support for renaming the stadium. In the fall of 1980, the Daily announced that the on-again, off-again, Jack Trice Memorial Foundation was once again back in business, again promoting the cause of Jack Trice Stadium and distributing newsletters. Sohn, serving as consultant for the foundation, said the purpose was to “give people an avenue to communicate their opinions to the state Board of Regents.” Shortly thereafter, the GSB Senate appropriated $500 for publicity to promote the Jack Trice proposal. The money was used to buy advertisements on three area radio stations and one in the Daily and to hire a pilot to fly over the stadium during a football game trailing a banner proclaiming, “Welcome to Jack Trice Stadium.”
Publicity efforts continued the following year. During the summer several Iowa State students rented a billboard that read: “Welcome to Ames, Home of Jack Trice Memorial Stadium.” Steve de Prosse, a political science major, and Rick Yoder, mechanical engineering, believed that the billboard would have more effect — being up for a month — than the flying banner had the previous year. De Prosse reiterated the students’ belief that the administration “hopes students will forget about it [naming the stadium after Trice], especially if the decision is put off long enough.” Efforts to solicit support from state officials for the renaming were rewarded in December, when Governor Robert Ray, through a spokesman, stated, “Gov. Ray’s feeling was that he [Trice] was an excellent player and established that it would be a fitting memorial to Jack Trice. The governor thinks it would be an appropriate name [for the stadium].”
In 1983 ISU students achieved at least partial success. In December President W. Robert Parks, according to an article in Newsweek, “cut the baby in half” by naming the stadium Cyclone Stadium and the playing surface Jack Trice Field. The dedication came in 1984. Reporting on the action, the Daily noted, “following a lengthy and sometimes heated debate, the university recommended and the State Board of Regents approved naming the facility, Cyclone Stadium/Jack Trice Field.” If President Parks’s action was intended to placate the students campaigning for the name change or supporters such as Charles Sohn, it did not have the desired effect. In fact, Parks’ action seemed only to strengthen the students’ resolve as they determined to honor the fallen football hero in yet another way: by commissioning a sculpture. According to former GSB president Julianne Marley, the idea stemmed from the disappointment some students felt after the decision to name only the playing field after Jack Trice. Mike Reilly, another former GSB president, explained that the GSB applied for funding for the sculpture from the Iowa Arts Council, the senior class, and the Alumni Association. All of the groups turned them down for a variety of reasons but “predominantly because people thought it was too political. So at the last meeting of the year [the GSB] allocated money for the statue and it was unanimous.” ISU students raised $22,000 for the work and commissioned an artist, Chris Bennett of Fairfield, Iowa. Bennett emphasized Trice’s student role, presenting him in a sweater and casual slacks rather than in a football uniform. Once more, Charles Sohn’s influence was evident. Bennett, to acknowledge Sohn’s promotional role in commissioning the sculpture, included Sohn’s name “subtly as the ‘author’ of one of Jack’s bronze textbooks” included in the sculpture. The sculpture was unveiled on the ISU campus, between Carver and Beardshear halls, on May 7, 1988. Several of Trice’s cousins from Ohio were present for the ceremony.
While momentum for the Jack Trice renaming campaign continued among student groups and others, by the mid-1990s one more major campus development affected the Trice campaign. In 1995 ISU honored nationally known graduate Carrie Chapman Catt by renaming Botany Hall Carrie Chapman Catt Hall. Campus officials probably believed that it was a long overdue recognition for Catt, who had graduated from the school in 1880 and was widely recognized as a leading figure in the fight for woman suffrage. Not long after the renaming ceremony, however, a group of students calling themselves the September 29th Movement charged that in her writings Catt had made disparaging remarks about African Americans and immigrants. Because of her statements, they demanded that the university change the name of Catt Hall.
The September 29th Movement, led by graduate students Milton McGriff and Allan Nosworthy, carried on a highly visible campaign to rename Catt Hall, a campaign that extended over three years. Supporters conducted a sustained letter-writing campaign, held candlelight vigils, and organized campus marches. Nosworthy held a hunger strike that resulted in his hospitalization. In November 1996 university administrators filed charges of misconduct against four protesters after they held a gathering in Beardshear Hall without registering the event as required by school policy.
Although ISU administrators did not bow to the demands to rename Catt Hall, the September 29th Movement, with its fairly broad campus support, probably did cause President Jischke and his staff to rethink another issue related to race, naming the stadium for Jack Trice. Jessica Lynn Schultz maintains that there is “an arguable connection” between the Trice naming campaign and the naming of Catt Hall. She argues convincingly that the decision to name the stadium for Trice “was a conciliatory gesture [by ISU administrators] designed to placate those offended by the memorial for Carrie Chapman Catt.”
Regardless of the reasons, in 1997 the campaign to rename the stadium finally succeeded. In addition to the impact of the September 29th campaign, something new had been added. Earlier, on October 15, 1996, the ISU Advisory Committee for the Naming of Buildings and Streets had recommended the change; the decision set in motion other changes, including a combined effort on the part of the students, the GSB, faculty, and the administration. Earlier, the committee had held a campus forum that indicated continued widespread support for the new name. The committee also sought input from a wide variety of groups, including the Academic Council, the Faculty Senate, the Alumni Association, the ISU Foundation, and the GSB. GSB President Adam Gold commented, “I personally felt strongly about [the name change] when I ran for this job [as GSB president]. I made it more of an issue than to just write a resolution.” In February 1997 President Martin Jischke agreed to recommend to the Board of Regents that the new name for the ISU football stadium be Jack Trice Stadium.
In his announcement, Jischke told the Daily that, along with considering both the GSB proposal and the recommendation from the Advisory Committee for the Naming of Buildings and Streets, he had done his own research on Trice. He noted that Trice had “brought an enthusiasm and a promise to the university. That is exemplary. I believe it is appropriate to recognize those qualities by naming the stadium for him.” Some two weeks later, Jischke presented the request to the regents with “an emotional tribute” to Trice; he also read the letter Trice had written in 1923. Jischke informed the regents that there was widespread support among ISU students for the name change as well as 85 percent support from student athletes. The regents approved the change by a vote of seven to two. At the same time, the GSB voted to move the Trice sculpture from campus to a location near the football stadium.
Donald Kaul, whose columns in the Des Moines Register had often supported the renaming of the stadium, reacted to ISU’s decision with his usual sarcastic humor. Believing that the decision was long overdue, he wrote, “You people have rocket scientists at Iowa State. You think you’d have figured it out long before now. It’s nice to see it happen.”
REGARDLESS OF OPINIONS, one thing was clear: ISU students had shown great tenacity in their support for the name change. For almost two-and-a-half decades, hundreds of ISU students had found the Jack Trice story inspirational and had believed strongly that his life should receive greater recognition than the placement of a single plaque in State Gym. Class after class of students, some of whom were GSB members, and some Daily staffers had kept the “Trice cause” alive, regardless of resistance by ISU administrators. Tom Emmerson, who first called attention to the State Gym plaque in 1957, gave primary credit to the students. “They were the ones who made this happen and they never let go.” Charles Sohn, who himself had labored long and hard for public recognition of Trice, observed about ISU students: “There is something about the low key but tough idealism in small town Iowa that was touched by Trice.” But, Sohn added, “In my final judgement, Jack Trice was the only person who caused the stadium to be named ‘Jack Trice.’ All these others and I were just groupies wanting to hang out with him.”
Many aspects of Jack Trice’s life will never be known, but several things are clear: His own actions show that his is a story of courage, determination, and commitment, a story made all the more significant given that he lived at a time when major racial barriers stood in his way. In addition, as recalled by his contemporaries, he was an intelligent, sensitive, gracious young man, committed to doing well in his course work as well as being a highly gifted and committed athlete. Today, Jack Trice Stadium stands as testimony to this exceptional young man and his life at Iowa State and to a later generation of students who believed so strongly that his life deserved public recognition.