Iowa History Daily: October 8 - The Life & Death of Jack Trice

Iowa History Daily: On October 8, 1923, Iowa State University’s first African-American athlete John G. (Jack) Trice died of injuries sustained while playing football for the Cyclones against University of Minnesota two days prior. Immortalized through Jack Trice Stadium in Ames, the barrier-braking Cyclone’s story embodies triumph and tragedy.

Born to a former ‘Buffalo Soldier,’ Trice grew up in Ohio before his talents on the gridiron brought him to Ames in 1922. Studying animal husbandry and competing in track and football, Trice debuted for the Cyclones during the 1923 season.

On the evening prior to a October 6 tilt with Minnesota, Trice stayed in a separate hotel from the rest of the team due to the color of his skin. He penned a letter recording the experience: “My thoughts just before the first real college game of my life: The honors of my race, family, and self is at stake. Everyone is expecting me to do great things. I will. My whole body and soul are to be thrown recklessly about the field tomorrow. Every time the ball is snapped, I will be trying to do more than my part.”

Trice broke his collarbone during the second play of the game, but returned to the action only to later suffer catastrophic injuries when three Minnesota players trampled him during a roll block. He died of his injuries two days later. Over 4,000 students and faculty members attended Trice’s funeral on Central Campus at Iowa State on October 16. Iowa State did not play Minnesota in football for 66 years following the death of Jack Trice.

When the new ‘Cyclone Stadium’ rose over Ames in the early 1970s, the Iowa State student body voted unanimously and over 3,000 Cyclone fans signed a petition in favor of naming the stadium to honor Jack Trice. However, an ad hoc committee at the university advised President Robert Parks toward naming the new facility ‘Cyclone Stadium.’

Unsatisfied, efforts continued and resulted in renaming the playing field ‘Jack Trice Field’ in 1984, and a statue of Trice followed in 1987. Persistence finally paid off over 20 years after the initial drive to name the facility in honor of the barrier-breaking Cyclone in 1997 when the university finally approved a name change to Jack Trice Stadium. #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar


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