September 30, 2023

October 31, 1893:

On this date William H. Lewis became the first Black person to be named a collegiate All-American. He also had a life of many firsts.

William Henry Lewis (November 28, 1868 – January 1, 1949) was a Black pioneer in athletics, law and politics. Born in Virginia to freedmen, he graduated from Amherst College in Massachusetts, where he also became one of the first Black college football players. After going to Harvard Law School and continuing to play football, Lewis was the first African American in the sport to be selected as an All-American. In 1903 he was the first Black person to be appointed as an Assistant United States Attorney; in 1910 he was the first to be appointed as one of the five United States Assistant Attorneys General, despite opposition by the Southern Democratic block. In 1911 he was among the first Black people to be admitted to the American Bar  Association. Following the election of President Woodrow Wilson, a Democrat, in 1912, Lewis built a successful private practice. He earned a reputation as an outstanding trial lawyer and became one of the first black attorneys to join the legal team of the newly created National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).  Lewis joined Sigma Pi Phi fraternity and continued to practice law until his retirement. He died in 1949 in Boston at the age of 81.

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