Johnny Bright

Johnny Bright

Original Name John Dee Bright
Birth
Fort Wayne, Allen County, Indiana, USA
Death 14 Dec 1983 (aged 53)
Edmonton, Edmonton Census Division, Alberta, Canada
Burial Edmonton, Edmonton Census Division, Alberta, Canada
Plot 7 42 R 3
Memorial ID 6504 · View Source
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Professional Football Player. He received notoriety for his achievements as a professional football player by being a Member of the College Football Hall of Fame, the Edmonton Sports Hall of Fame, the Canadian Football Hall of Fame and the Edmonton Eskimo Football Club Wall of Honor. As a football player at Drake University, a private college in Des Moines, Iowa, he became the first sophomore in history to lead the nation in total offense and did so again as a junior. In the fall of 1951, he was ahead of his previous year's record pace and a leading contender for the Heisman Trophy in the team's fullback position. A controversial first quarter play in a game against Oklahoma A&M University on October 20, 1951 resulted in a white player hitting Bright with such force that it broke his jaw. This injury impeded his quest for the Heisman Trophy as he could not play in several games. The Oklahoma Cowboys won the game 27 to 14. Since Oklahoma A&M did not discipline the aggressor, Drake University withdrew from the Missouri Valley Conference in protest of the injustice in this incident. With pre-game rumors saying harm may happen to Bright during this game, the actions made by a white player was considered a premeditated and racially motivated assault. This incident was documented on film in a series of six photographs, which prove Bright did not have the ball at the time of the hit in the face. This became known as the "Johnny Bright Incident." The photograph of this incident called the “Johnny Bright's Slugging” earned the 1952 Pulitzer Prize for Photography for John Robinson and Don Ultang, photo-journalists for the “Des Moines Register.” A first-round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles in 1952, Bright became the first such draftee to decline a National Football League offer in favor of the Canadian Football League. He would have been the first African American player on the Eagles' team. In 1964 Bright retired from the CFL's as the all-time leading rusher. With a rushing average of 5.5 yards per carry, he topped NFL player, Jim Brown with his 5.2 yard per carry. Graduating from Drake University with a degree in education in 1952, he was successful as a coach, educator, school administrator and community servant. He died of a cardiac arrest during anesthesia for elective knee surgery. He is the subject of Dr. Warrick Barnett's biography, "Johnny Bright, Champion." Since Oklahoma A&M is now part of the State University System as Oklahoma State University, the president of Oklahoma State University sent a letter of a formal apology for the “Johnny Bright Incident” to the president of Drake University on September 28, 2005.

Bio by: Linda Davis


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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Added: 30 Sep 1999
  • Find a Grave Memorial 6504
  • Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Johnny Bright (11 Jun 1930–14 Dec 1983), Find a Grave Memorial no. 6504, citing Holy Cross Cemetery, Edmonton, Edmonton Census Division, Alberta, Canada ; Maintained by Find A Grave .