By Mark F. Gray, Special to the AFRO, [email protected]
Two former high school stars who participated in the Super Bowl, a Major League Baseball legend, and one of the youngest athletes in the history of USA Track and Field to win a gold medal were honored for their impact of interscholastic athletics in Washington, D.C. during the 2019 District of Columbia State Athletic Association (DCSAA) Hall of Fame banquet June 6.
Pro football hall of famer Willie Wood, who was a part of the NFL dynasty with the Green Bay Packers, was honored after first making his mark at Armstrong High, now Friendship Collegiate Academy. Wood was the first Black quarterback in the history of the Pacific Coast (now Pac-12) Conference at USC, but signed as a free agent with the Packers and moved to free safety. He helped the Packers and win five NFL titles with victories in Super Bowls I & II.
“He was extremely proud of his high school life at Armstrong and how it impacted him,” his son Willie Wood, Jr. told the AFRO since his father now deals with the effects of dementia.
Esther Stroy Harper was honored for her exploits as a track performer at National Cathedral School for Girls and Howard University. She was the youngest member of the U.S. Olympic team at the 1968 Mexico City Games, where she ran in the 400-meter dash at 15 years old. Harper won a gold medal in the 4×100-meter relay and a bronze in the 200-meter dash in the 1971 Pan American Games.
Maury Wills was a three-sport athlete at Cardozo High before a 13-year Major League Baseball career. A seven time all-star, Wills played on three World Series championship teams with the Los Angeles Dodgers and was the 1962 National League MVP. Also, Wills led the Negro League in stolen bases for six consecutive seasons and was a two-time Gold Glove winning shortstop and later became a broadcaster for NBC’s Saturday Game of the Week.
“I often reflect on the days growing up in D.C., but I remember people in my community talking about [me],” Wills said in a video statement. “I can’t say when I remember when I realized I would be a star. This is a tremendous honor.”
Larry Hill was also honored as a football and basketball star at Armstrong but later made his mark as a football official. He presided over ACC, Big East and MEAC football and basketball games before advancing to the NFL. In 2004 he was the replay official for Super Bowl XXXVIII.
“Working the Super Bowl in Houston was off the charts,” said Hill. “I got into officiating because I thought it was a great way to get into games free.”
Willie Stewart has been a key figure in D.C high school football for more than three decades. After playing at Dunbar then Elizabeth City State, he coached between Eastern and Anacostia high schools and won 214 games with 13 DCIAA title game appearances and seven Turkey Bowl victories.
“So many people helped me so I just thought it was my responsibility to give something back,” said Stewart.
Jim Howell was a All-Met basketball player at Carroll High and collegiately at American University and became the first Black to referee an NCAA championship game in 1973. He spent 31 years DC in Public Schools, including 14 as principal of Taft Junior High.
This year’s class also included: Dick Myers, who spent the last 29 of his 34 seasons as a boys basketball coach at Gonzaga; Lonnie Perrin, who played for Washington in Super Bowl VII during his NFL career and worked with D.C. Parks and Recreation; Marie Williams, who built a successful a girls basketball dynasty at St. John’s; Otto Jordan, who was a DCPS Supervising Director of Athletics, where he led expansion of athletic programs and implementing Title IX; and 100-year-old swimmer John Tatum, Sr.