Ray Kemp

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Ray Kemp
1933 of Ray Kemp of the Pittsburgh Steelers.jpg
Date of birth: April 7, 1907
Place of birth: Cecil, Pennsylvania,
United States
Date of death: March 26, 2002(2002-03-26) (aged 94)
Place of death: Ashtabula, Ohio, United States
Career information
Position(s): Tackle
Height: 6 ft 1 in (185 cm)
Weight: 215 lb (98 kg)
College: Duquesne
High school: Cecil High School
Organizations
As coach:
1932
1934
1935-1942, 1944
Duquesne (assistant)
Bluefield
Lincoln
As player:
1932
1932
1933
J.P. Rooneys
Erie Pros
Pittsburgh Pirates
Career highlights and awards
  • Pittsburgh Steelers first black player
Career stats
Playing stats at DatabaseFootball.com

Raymond Howard Kemp (April 7, 1907 – March 26, 2002) was an American football player and a charter member of the Pittsburgh Pirates football team (now called the Pittsburgh Steelers). He was also the first African-American player in the team's history. In fact in 1933, he was the only African-American on the team and only one of two black players in the entire National Football League.

Early life[edit]

Kemp graduated from Cecil High School in 1926. After graduation, he worked in the coal mines around Cecil, Pennsylvania for one year before enrolling at Duquesne University.[1]

Duquesne Dukes[edit]

At Duquesne, Kemp was coached by Elmer Layden, a former member of Notre Dame's Four Horsemen. Kemp became a starter for the Dukes during his sophomore year and by the end of his senior season, he received an honorable mention on some All-American lists. After graduation, Future Pirates owner, Art Rooney told Kemp that he would like for him to play for his "J.P. Rooney semi-pro team". In 1932 he did play for both the J.P. Rooneys and the semi-pro Erie Pros in his spare time. He remained at Duquesne that season, and served as the line coach for Layden.[2]

Pittsburgh Pirates[edit]

The following year, the J.P. Rooneys were reorganized and became the NFL's Pittsburgh Pirates. Kemp joined the team and became one of only two black players in the league, the other being Joe Lillard of the Chicago Cardinals. Kemp played in the Pirates' first three games against, the New York Giants, Chicago Cardinals and Boston Redskins. After the Redskins game, Kemp was cut by the team. He appealed the cut to Art Rooney, but Rooney refused to go over the head of the coach, Jap Douds, who as a player-coach, also played Kemp's position. However a Pittsburgh Courier story on November 14, 1933 claimed that Kemp was placed on the reserve list and quit, although fans had rated him highly. Art Rooney stated that he was limited to having only 22 players on the roster and preferred to keep the more experienced players.[1]

Kemp then went back to his job in the steel mill and the Pirates went 2-5 over the next seven games. He was named to the starting lineup after only two days of practice and played the entire game at tackle against the New York Giants, who would defeat the Pirates 27-3 at the Polo Grounds. However the Friday before the Pirates' game in New York, Kemp was asked to leave the hotel housing the Pirates' players. Walter Francis White of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, suggested he file a discrimination suit. However Kemp refused, fearing the backlash that would occur to Art Rooney, who had given him a chance at an NFL career. That game against the Giants was the final game of Kemp's brief career in the NFL. The next season he was hired as the head football coach at Bluefield State College.[1]

With the exits of Kemp and Lillard, the NFL would not have any black players until 1946.[2]

Post career[edit]

One of the highlights of Ray Kemp's post-football career came when he stood on the Steelers' sideline before a game at Three Rivers Stadium in 1982. The Steelers were celebrating their 50th anniversary and Kemp was a member of their first team in 1933.[3]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Carroll, Bob (1983). "Ray kemp Blazed an Important Trail". Coffin Corner (Professional Football Researchers Association) 5 (12): 1–8. 
  2. ^ a b .Gems, Gerald R. (1988). "Shooting Stars". Coffin Corner (Professional Football Researchers Association) 10 (Annual): 5–7. 
  3. ^ Bouchette, Ed (March 29, 2002). "Obituaries: Ray Kemp". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. p. B-7.