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Todd M. Mealy, Ph.D.  

Website of HISTORIAN and EDUCATOR, Todd M. Mealy


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REMEMBERING GEORGE CHAUMP: A Legacy that Endures Through a Fruitful Coaching Tree

Posted by [email protected] on May 20, 2019 at 7:55 PM Comments comments ()

(Visit the link to read this article with images.)

I attended the viewing for legendary Trinity Girls’ basketball coach Harry DeFrank in 2007. I waited in line for over two hours with friends and admirers to share my sympathies with Coach DeFrank’s family. I asked a few people, including my brother, Tommy, who were standing with me if there was a local coach who had impacted as many people, bearing witness to a funeral as compelling as DeFrank’s. Someone said, “George Chaump might be the only person.

Coaches exist as cultural archetypes of our society's values. According to NCAA reports, of the 8 million high school athletes, less than 500,000 play at collegiate level. In reality, then, about one percent of those that play youth sports will end up in a profession that has anything to do with athletics. Therefore, lessons learned from coaches during formative high school years have lasting power that goes beyond the athletic arena.

This is a notion I learned from George Chaump, the famed coach in Central Pennsylvania who passed away early this morning at the age of 83. I found out about his death by a text message sent to me by my brother.

In my 2014 book Legendary Locals of Harrisburg, I called Chaump the “patriarch of a [football] coaching tree that runs deep” in our Commonwealth. Chaump is known most for taking underachieving football programs at Harrisburg, Ohio State, the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Marshall University, Navy, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Central Dauphin, and Harrisburg again only to turn them into championship contenders. But his biggest influence in this world has been his ability to mold a legion of coaches that strive to match his own successes on the gridiron.

Chaump is originally from Scranton. But due to a career ending knee injury at Bloomsburg State Teachers’ College (present-day Bloomsburg University), he ended up in the City of Harrisburg in 1958 when his high school coach, Tom Dean, offered him an assistant coaching position at William Penn High School. He left the Capital City briefly in 1961 to serve as the head coach at Shamokin Area High School. In his first and only season leading the team from Coal Township to a 5-6 record, Chaump accepted the head coaching job at John Harris High School in July 1962. That fall he led the Pioneers to an 11-0 season. One sportswriter from the Hazleton Standard said Chaump “is probably counting his lucky stars.” He was certainly fortunate, as one senior that season, Charles Appleberry, a 6’0” 171 pound offensive guard, was selected to play in the Big 33 game.

The intimation, however, that Chaump’s coaching career flourished because he had Central Pennsylvania's most talented players at John Harris, as the writer for the Hazleton Standard suggested, is simply flawed and begrudging. One of his running backs, Harold Dunbar, told reporters in 1967, “his great stress on preparation and mental attitude,” is why his teams were so good. “He spends twice as much time on football as any other coach. He’s an organizer . . . He doesn’t tolerate any foolishness, and no dissipation. He’s tough, but if you mean like Bear Bryant, he’s not like that.” In short, Dunbar said the thing that separated Chaump from everyone else was that he excelled at player development. This point was reinforced by many of his players along with the editor of the publication Harrisonian, who wrote that Chaump’s success was due to “preparing the boys to win as many games as we could, because the American philosophy is a winning one,” and “starting with a group of boys and making them better people after they are finished.”

Chaump worked as the head coach at John Harris High School from 1962-67. His overall record was 58-4, which included a stretch of 35 straight wins between 1965-67. His teams astonishingly won the Central Penn League every season he was their coach.

Apart from Wilson West Lawn’s dominance in the Lancaster-Lebanon League from 2008-2016, no public school had established a dynasty quite like Chaump’s Pioneers. Although Wilson won nine straight Lancaster-Lebanon League Section-1 titles, the grandeur of athletes and aspiration of coaches doesn’t compare to those who played and worked for Chaump in the 1960s. In addition to Appleberry and Dunbar, his star players included Jan White, Jimmy Jones, Dennis Green, Ed Beverly, and Art “Buster” Ray. His assistants at John Harris were legends in their own right: Howard “Mickey” Minnich, James Deibler, Donald Miller, Harry Chapman III, and, among others, his equipment manager, John Grove.

Chaump left John Harris in the spring of 1968 to become the quarterback coach at Ohio State University under Woody Hayes. The Buckeyes won the national title Chaump’s first year in Columbus. David Jones of called that season “The year George Chaump saved Woody Hayes’ job.” After 11 years at Ohio State, Chaump toggled back and forth between the National Football League and the National Collegiate Athletics Association before returning to Central Pennsylvania in 1997. His coaching stints during that period included time spent as the running backs coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 1979-1981. He then became the head coach at Indiana University of Pennsylvania (1982-1985), where his teams earned two PSAC Western Division titles. He then worked as the head coach at Marshall University (1986-1989). Several years after the tragic plane crash that killed nearly every player and coach on Marshall’s football team, Chaump’s Thundering Herd won the Southern Conference and later lost to Southeast Louisiana by one point in the 1987 1AA national championship game. He accumulated a 33-16-1 record at Marshall. He ended his tenure as a college coach at the Naval Academy (1990-1994). His overall record as a college head coach was 71-73-2.

His return to Harrisburg came in 1997 when he accepted the head coaching job at Central Dauphin. His Rams won the PIAA 4-A District-3 title his first season. In 2003, Chaump returned to Severance Field to coach the Harrisburg Cougars. As an onlooker, it seemed and felt right. George Chaump, by then a Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Famer, was to become the first PIAA Quad-A District-3 coach to lead a city school to a district championship in 2007.

Chaump ended his career and relationship with the capital city after Harrisburg’s District-3 quarterfinal loss to Daniel Boone in 2010. I remember this game all too well. The week before, his Cougars walloped my team 75-28. The handshake between Chaump and me appeared on the front page of the Patriot-News sports page the day after the game.

That game made me think deeply about Chaump. For one, he has a history of beating up on Lancaster-Lebanon League teams; just ask those who followed Chaump’s games against McCaskey in the mid-‘60s.

But his legacy extends far beyond titles. Which is why I thought most importantly about Chaump’s coaching tree. Among others, my brother and I have benefitted from Chaump’s legacy in a way only our family knows: Tommy and I played for Four Chapman, who was the son of Harry Chapman III, who assisted Chaump before becoming the legendary head coach at Cumberland Valley. Indeed, many head and assistant coaches around our age are part of the Chaump coaching tree--too many, in fact, that I am afraid to miss someone if I start listing them.

I visited with Coach Chaump several times since 2015 as I was working on an unfinished project about his famed quarterback Jimmy Jones, who shined as the quarterback at the University of Southern California (1969-72) and in the Canadian Football League before returning to Harrisburg. Though not a nostalgic individual, Chaump understood the value of historical record keeping and accordingly left me several of his scrapbooks. Coach and I were members of different generations and because of that we shared different perspectives of the world. And yet as we sometimes drank iced tea, ate sandwiches, and talk about our families on his back patio, he helped me make sense of the saga of football’s evolution. (My trips to his home were convenient, as he lived just a few houses away from my parents.)

My studies of the gridiron game extend back to the career of Glenn Killinger, another Harrisburg native who became an All-American at Penn State in 1921 and later legendary football and baseball coach at West Chester during the Golden Age of Sports. Chaump was a football player at Bloomsburg who competed against Killinger-coached West Chester teams in the 1950s. To me, Chaump was the puzzle piece that connected football during the Golden Age with the present era. In one sense, onlookers can see how offenses and defenses evolved from an age when iron man football reigned supreme, as players in the ‘10s, ‘20s, ‘30s, and ‘40s were barred from leaving the field. But now we have the wide-open offensive scheme and one-way player platoon system utilized by most coaches. Chaump’s use of Jimmy Jones, Jan White and other student-athletes at John Harris, and later Ohio State, opened up offensive formations, which placed such a strain on defenses that coaches like Killinger in the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s posed the question, “Should defenses be allowed to use a twelfth player?”

Looking through his files during the last few hours have left me with this final thought: Coach Chaump's legacy lives on in the coaches of today. Coach Chaump’s memory will endure for decades on the sidelines each Friday night and Saturday afternoon as his progenies continue to work with high school student-athletes, many of which will become coaches themselves.

The former high school and college coach, who had a Hall of Fame career and attained several championships at various levels, was beloved by his players, coaching peers, and fans in each phase of his life. He has passed on to a better place, but the gift of how to develop student-athletes into young men remains to inspire us all. He has been, and will remain, one of the Commonwealth’s most revered sports figures. My family sends its warmest sympathies to Connie, his wife of more than five decades, his daughters, and all of his grandchildren.

Todd M. Mealy, Ph.D.

May 19, 2019

Eric Foner's "Gateway to Freedom" wonderfully uncovers everything about the Underground Railroad in New York except one of that city's greatest African American antislavery products-William Howard Day

Posted by [email protected] on February 4, 2015 at 11:45 AM Comments comments ()

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Motivated by the discovery of the previously unknown journal kept by New York abolitionist and newspaper editor Sydney Howard Gay, Eric Foner has composed the foremost work about the Underground Railroad. In his recent book, Gateway to Freedom: The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad, published by W. W. Norton in January 2015, Foner tells tales about Gay, David Ruggles, Arthur and Lewis Tappan, Charles Reason, and many more in an effort to reconstruct the bold risks taken by New York City abolitionists in the decades leading up to the Civil War.

Of late, many leading scholars like Fergus Bordewich have tackled the subject of the Underground Railroad. But certainly Foner, an award winning professor and author, is the individual who should take the lead in rewriting its history.

Over a decade ago, revisionists began the effort to prove that the Underground Railroad was the work of northern abolitionists who countered the epidemic of man stealing by raising money and forming vigilance committees to protect free blacks from being kidnapping by slave catchers. The position is contrary to the previously popular theory that the underground has always been a story about the flight of freedom seekers.

The digital age has enabled historians to redefine the Underground Railroad. Today’s scholars have the benefit of digitized newspapers and census data. The “Find” function makes it easy for researchers to sift through innumerable articles that would otherwise take weeks of mind-numbing work looking through microfilm at libraries and historical societies. In the intervening time, previously unknown journals and fugitive records have been discovered by traditional research methods and, in some cases, luck.

Foner and his contemporaries have finally reconstructed a profound narrative that pays less attention to legends about codes and cubbyholes, instead casting a spotlight on black and white, but mostly black, abolitionists who risked their own freedom to protect both free blacks and runaway slaves living in northern cities.

At the center of Foner’s Gateway to Freedom is the effort of New Yorkers who formed antislavery societies. He begins with the formation the New York City Anti-Slavery Society in 1833, followed two years later by the biracial Committee of Vigilance for the Protection of People of Color. Brothers Lewis and Arthur Tappan were the leading figures in the former; David Ruggles was the founder of the latter.

Generated by a New York statute finally abolishing slaveholding in 1827, the two abolition societies taken together, Foner argues, influenced abolitionism elsewhere, and ultimately ignited the Civil War by agitating Southerners into secession.

Dickinson College historian Matthew Pinsker calls Gateway to Freedom the “capstone” of Underground Railroad literature. Well, it is true that Foner’s book will definitely serve as the go-to source on the topic. However, for those who have already lunged deep into this history of the Underground Railroad may not agree with Pinsker’s appraisal; rather, Foner’s book is just a beginning. There are still many unexplored stories and documents that deserve necessary attention. And regardless of how deep Foner dug into the history of New York abolitionism, his work is no exception.

There is one particular unheralded hero from New York City that comes to mind.

Born October 25, 1825, William Howard Day grew up on Leonard Street in Lower Manhattan on the eve of the state’s emancipation. His mother, Eliza, was a runaway. She was an acquaintance of Sojourner Truth and was one of the earliest members of the A.M.E. Zion Church. His father, John, whose childhood status is unknown, died tragically in a shipping accident when Day was three years old. The New York shipyard where John died is described in Foner’s first chapter as a work haven for the city’s black citizens.

Those were tense days as the reality of being kidnapped was inescapable for any African American in Manhattan. Day had three brothers born free. At least one of them was kidnapped; only to be purchased and set free by his employer.

During the 1830s, Foner tells us, New York abolitionists were besieged by mob violence initiated by rivals of the American Colonization Society, a group with efforts directed at removing free blacks from the United States. At an antislavery meeting held at the Chatham Street Chapel on July 4, 1834, Day and his mother hid underneath the church’s pews as a vicious mob stormed through the doors. When police arrived, Eliza wrapped her eight-year-old son in her arms and slipped away unharmed.

Two nights later, the Tappan brothers set up a patrol assigned to protect the homes of black citizens like the Days. Messengers kept residents informed about approaching mobs. Black owned households were made to look similar to white owned homes.

For 10 days the Days hid in their home. They moved their household items to the home of a white neighbor a few blocks away. Tappans friends kept watch, William recollected in a speech given in 1897, “to warn us of the mob’s doings, so that we might escape in the rear.” He recalled, “We had our home barricaded against a mob which threatened to destroy it and kill us.” Thankfully with the help of the Tappans, William said, “We were spared of any attack.”

A few years earlier, William was enrolled in the New York Manumission Society’s African Free School, another organization detailed so eloquently in Foner’s book. The school’s principal was Levi Folsom, who taught William to read from the Bible. One of Day’s tutors at the school was 16-year old Charles Lenox Reason, the “travel companion” to Sydney Howard Gay that Foner praises in Gateway for his abolitionist activity. Others involved in the school were Henry Highland Garnet and David Ruggles.

Together, the four young men represented the quartet of young African American activists. In the 1830s, they worked together in a civically minded club called the Garrison Literary and Benevolent Association. Foner describes the Garrisonian league as a motivated group of African Americans of various ages working to defeat racial stereotypes by concentrating on improving the intellectual capacity of black New Yorkers. He doesn’t, however, mention William’s important role as the Association’s librarian.

At the age of 12, the Tappan brothers, originally from Massachusetts, looked to their Northampton roots to help the Day family. As William grew older, Lewis Tappan recognized that Eliza was agonizing over her son’s safety. Tappan saw his potential, and in 1837, encouraged one of William’s teachers, Rev. Frederick Jones, to reach out to white sympathizers in Northampton. In a letter addressed to John Payson Williston, a button manufacturer and newspaper publisher, Rev. Jones described William as a promising young pupil with an aptitude for literary skills, especially writing and debating. Mr. Williston was intrigued, and thought about the possibility of having the young boy come live with him for secondary schooling.

At the end of the school year, Williston and Tappan explained to Eliza that William “showed great promise” and that they wanted him “to have an education.” Williston asked if he could “be allowed to take him to Northampton, Mass., and adopt him as almost his son.” The decision weighed heavily on her. Late in his life, William remembered that his mother gave him up because she “recognized this as a call from God.” With tears and a hint of reluctance, “Yes,” Eliza told Williston. She explained to her son, “Education was the only way to keep poppa’s sails soaring.”

William was confused as to why he was forced to move in with a white family. He knew it was for the better, but he questioned why it had to be in Northampton. Eliza, on the contrary, saw it as a way to remove her son from the hub of man-stealing, as Foner describes antebellum New York. Two weeks into the summer of 1838, she transported her son as far as Hartford, Connecticut, where William was to given to the Williston family. There, she grabbed William’s hand, gave him one last hug and kiss. She struggled to let him go. But with great courage, she certainly did. It was Eliza’s shining moment.

But for William, it was just the beginning.

William Howard Day remained in Northampton until 1843. The leafy river village that Foner describes as a comfortable community filled with sympathetic philanthropists was welcoming for Day as there were a few familiar faces. His mother’s friend and famous antislavery lecturer Sojourner Truth was living there. Another associate from New York who ended up living in Northampton was David Ruggles. Ruggles’s health was fading. Foner spent several pages detailing Ruggles’s uneasy departure from the antislavery movement in New York and subsequent arrival to Northampton in 1842 to treat his developing ailments at a water therapy facility.

Before Day went off to college at Oberlin, he and Ruggles were able to build upon their friendship. Ruggles, and in truth, the environs of New York City, certainly had a lasting influence on Day.

William Howard Day endured through three eras of the nineteenth century—slavery, war, and freedom. He went on to lead Underground Railroad operations in Oberlin, Cleveland, and Chatham, Ontario. He worked on the refugee slave settlements in Canada. He debated Frederick Douglass several times over how to educate free black citizens. Months before the Harper’s Ferry raid, the radical abolitionist John Brown paid Day to print his provisional constitution of a slave free United States. Day served as an itinerant preacher for the A.M.E. Zion Church. He published nine different newspapers during his lifetime. Day became the foremost orator for the Underground Railroad’s successive organization known as the Equal Rights League. The role afforded him the opportunity to speak along side J.W.C. Pennington of New York. Day also became a leading activist in the New York and Pennsylvania public school systems.

It is a peculiar scenario; if one picks up virtually any book about the subject written before 1913, Day is included in the story along side Ruggles, Douglass, William Still, and Harriet Tubman. It was in that year when William Henry Ferris claimed that Day “had eclipsed Frederick Douglass and every other colored speaker.” Even W.E.B Du Bois suggested in 1950, “It is our duty as men and women living in this new day to understand and understand thoroughly what has taken place since the death of William Howard Day.”

It is unfortunate that existing scholars have not unearthed Day’s contributions to the freedom struggle. Especially since his nineteenth century contemporaries spoke so much about him. Daniel Biddle and Murray Dubin’s 2010 book, Tasting Freedom, about Octavius Catto, the slain Philadelphia civil rights leader, doesn’t give Day a single mention. It is an unfortunate omission considering Day was just feet away from Catto when he was shot, and that Day helped carry Catto’s body to the police station for medical assistance. The oversight does not end there. Only a few John Brown, Frederick Douglass, and Harriet Tubman biographers include Day in their stories. Yet still, Day gets a paragraph, maybe two, in those accounts.

For a really long time, Dr. Foner’s Gateway to Freedom will be the first book people look to learn about the Underground Railroad. But with some unfortunate holes, it certainly is no “capstone.” How could he include everything?

Foner claimed in his introduction, “the story of the underground railroad in New York is like a jigsaw puzzle many of whose pieces have been irretrievably lost.” How sad? Because if you go through life and never learn about William Howard Day, then you will miss out on one of the greatest stories of courage that American history has to offer.

Oberlin Heritage Center docent writes about Wm. Howard Day

Posted by [email protected] on December 23, 2014 at 11:10 PM Comments comments ()

Ron Gorman, docent for the Oberlin Heritage Center, wrote a blog about the marriage between William Howard Day and Lucie Stanton.  Read the entry here.

This complicated relationship is covered in multiple chapters of my biography about Wm. H. Day,  "Aliened American".  They were both students at Oberlin College, located in the Western Reserve of northeast Ohio.  William, originally from NYC, graduated in 1847, Lucie, from Cleveland, received her degree in 1850. She is the first African American woman to graduate with a literature degree. They both gave commencement addresses at their respective graduations.  

After their graduations, William lived and worked in Cleveland while Lucie worked as a principal in Columbus. The two maintained their relationship until William proposed to Lucie in 1852. They married that year and settled in Cleveland.  It was there in Cleveland, 1853, where William began publishing the "Aliened American". Lucie wrote a column in her husband's newspaper. 

Their marriage was always troubled. The two suffered the loss of two children after childbirth. In 1856, they suffered financially when William spent much of their money in a lawsuit against the owner of a steamship who refused to sell him tickets to a cabin while crossing Lake Erie on a return trip from Canada. He and Lucie chose to move to Canada West (present-day Ontario) to work on refugee slave settlements.  In Canada, William and Lucie had their first healthy child, a daughter that they named Florence Nightengale.  In 1859, he made the bold choice to leave his wife and daughter to embark on a fundraising tour of Great Britain with the owner of the Buxton Mission, Rev. William King. William's departure in December 1859 was the last (documented) time that he saw his wife and daughter. He returned to the United States in 1864, after President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation but before the end of the Civil War.

He and Lucie divorced in 1872. In 1873, William remarried Georgiana "Georgie" F. Bell of Wilmington, DE.  Lucie eventually married Levi Sessions of Mississippi.  Lucie, Levi, and Florence later settled in Los Angeles, CA.  

Read Gorman's article to learn more about the relationship.

Op Ed. Harrisburg Patriot-News, Feb. 26, 2011

Posted by [email protected] on December 23, 2014 at 11:05 PM Comments comments ()

During Black History Month 2011, I wrote an opinion piece advocating for schools to invest time teaching about William Howard Day. The article appeared in the Patriot-News (Harrisburg) and Lancaster Sunday News. Here is the article.