NFL's First Black Lineman Receives Posthumous Hall Of Fame Induction

Pro Football Hall Of Fame

Photo: Getty Images

This past weekend, many NFL fans tuned in to see Tom Brady introduce Peyton Manning at his Pro Football Hall Of Fame induction ceremony. However, Manning was not the only one making history this weekend. In fact, much of the public attention could have been shifted toward Duke Slater, the NFL first's Black lineman who was posthumously inducted into the Pro Football Hall Of Fame this past weekend.

“We thought he was already in,” Sandra Wilkins, the niece of the all-pro lineman, told USA Today.

“Until recently, the family wasn’t aware of the significance of this. He was an amazing man. I’m so grateful that he is going to be remembered.”

Slater is an Illinois native, who got his start in high-level football at the University of Iowa. After becoming an All-American, Slater got a shot to play for the NFL's Milwaukee Badgers in 1922. For the next ten seasons, Slater played for the Rock Island Independents and Chicago Cardinals while being selected for the league's all-pro team six times. Primarily known for his durability, Slater played both offense and defense while starting 96 of 99 games. In fact, he played every minute of every game during his four-year stint with the Rock Island Independents. Moreover, he only missed one game in his NFL career and it was not because of his unwillingness to participate. A law in the state of Missouri denied Black players the right to play alongside their white teammates.

After his NFL career, Slater was also inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. Beyond football, he served on the Cook County Municipal Court in Illinois during the 1940s and 1950s.

“He was very dedicated to the Black community,” Wilkins added.

“He got a lot of criticism for some of the things he did in favor of Black people. In my readings, I felt he did those things because he felt it was judicial and fair. I think he was very aware of the discrimination that existed during his lifetime."

Slater passed away in 1966 after a bout with stomach cancer.

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