Yearbook photo of David Showell from Lafayette College
October 14, 1924|
Prospect Park, Pennsylvania, United States
|Died||December 25, 1955(aged 31)|
|Known for||1949 Sun Bowl controversy, Tuskegee Airmen|
David Showell (October 14, 1924 – December 25, 1955), an African American, was a fighter pilot during the Second World War in one of the all-black Tuskegee Airmen squadrons. After the war he was a prominent player for Lafayette College during the 1948 and 1949 football seasons. The Sun Bowl Committee's decision to exclude Showell from the game due to his race led to Lafayette's rejection of its Sun Bowl invitation and the subsequent student protests at the college.
David Showell was born on October 14, 1924. Showell and his six siblings spent their childhood at 816 Madison Avenue in Prospect Park, Pennsylvania. During his childhood and adolescent years, Showell attended Lincoln Elementary School, Washington Junior High, and Prospect Park High where he played baseball and football. As a high school senior he excelled in football, and he was the top scorer in Delaware County, Pennsylvania with 135 points during the 1942 season. In the same season, he led his team to three championships: the Suburban Class A and B and the Chester Pike Conference. He was awarded many accolades for his athletic talent and was honored at Ridley Township's annual football banquet when they presented him with a cup for being its most outstanding opponent that season. Showell was also chosen for the All-Delco, All-Scholastic, and All-Suburban teams. The Prospect Park yearbook named him "one of the greatest backs ever to play for Prospect Park High."
Second World War service
After graduating from Prospect Park High in 1943, Showell joined the U.S. Army. During his time in the Army, he attended flight school where he became a member of the Tuskegee Airmen, a unit of black Army Air Corps pilots during World War II. Showell first experienced significant racial discrimination when he joined the military, where he and his fellow airmen were rarely called into action because of the color of their skin. Showell was discharged from the U.S. Army in October 1945.
College and later life
In 1947, Showell began his freshman year at Lafayette College, a small liberal arts college in Easton, Pennsylvania, where he played on the Lafayette Leopards football team for four years. At the end of the Fall 1948 season, Showell was excluded from an invitation the team received to play in the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas on January 1, 1949. This discriminatory event sparked much controversy, not only within Lafayette College, but across the country. Lafayette decided not to send its team to the Sun Bowl in response to the Sun Bowl Committee's decision to exclude Showell from the game due to the segregation laws in Texas, which led to large student protests at the college against racial discrimination. In 1951, Showell graduated from Lafayette College and earned his Bachelor’s degree in business. After his undergraduate years, Showell attended the University of Wisconsin Law School. He was killed in a car accident on December 25, 1955, at the age of 31.