1934 October 20

University of Michigan Wins Game, Loses Integrity; Gerald Ford Embarrassed


Georgia Tech refused to play its scheduled football game against the University of Michigan if Willis Ward, an African-American on the Michigan team, was allowed to play. The Michigan coach caved in and did not let Ward play. Star player and future President Gerald Ford was anguished about the decision, but he followed his father’s advice to play in the game. Michigan won the game on this day, 9–2 (the weather was very bad), but lost its integrity. It was a home game in Ann Arbor, and Michigan could have insisted that Ward play and let Georgia Tech forfeit the game. The next day, the student paper, The Michigan Daily, editorialized “that everyone who touched (the Ward affair) did so only to lose in respect and esteem.”

Ward went on to become a successful lawyer, was appointed to several public positions, and was inducted into the University of Michigan Athletic Hall of Honor in 1981.

Read Ford’s Account: Gerald Ford, A Time to Heal: The Autobiography of Gerald R. Ford (1979)

Learn more about Ward and the shameful incident: http://www.mgoblue.com/sports/m-footbl/spec-rel/101912aaa.html

Watch the trailer the film, Black and Blue: The Story of Gerald Ford, Willis Ward, and the 1934 Michigan-Georgia Tech Football Game (2011): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VAxx5UzKqPA

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