Courtney Avery - George Jewett Kinship

Submitted by Everyone Murders on October 5th, 2012 at 9:06 AM

Angelique Chengelis has an article in today's Detroit News regarding the kinship of Courtney Avery and Michigan legend George Jewett.  Link:|topnews|text|Sports

I'd been ignorant of Jewett's legacy until I saw an article in March's Michigan Today.  The article ( is well worth your time to read, as Jewett's legacy is impressive.  Michigan would not have another african-american player until the legendary Willis Ward. I cannot recommend the article highly enough if you're unaware of Jewett's story.

Jewett - 1892

Jewett's father was an Ann Arbor blacksmith.  Not only was Jewett Michigan's (and the B1G's) first african-american player (1890!), but he was a renaissance man and powerful business presence in Ann Arbor after graduation.  He was also Ann Arbor High School's 1889 valedictorian.  He played for the Wolverines in 1890 and 1892, later transferring to Northwestern to become their first african-american player too.  (The transfer was motivated, according to Wikipedia, due to a dispute with Michigan's Medical School dean.)

Per Chengelis, Avery did not know of his relationship to Jewett until he arrived on campus.  It's a wonderful bit of history, and with all the talk of "Legacy" jerseys I doubt Avery would trade his legacy for any teammate's.

Michigan football players in a team photo from 1890


Everyone Murders

October 5th, 2012 at 9:32 AM ^

Just whack the meter on the side and it will be working again.  It's plain to me that Marvin was just being a smartass (not a bad thing, in my book).  FWIW, I was tempted to insert a note "third row, second from left" but was afrain people would miss my point in doing so - i.e., it's a goddamned shame that it's so easy to pick him out.

I also can't figure out why the ball says '91, as I read he skipped the '91 season.  A bit of an anomaly there.

BTW, as a Neutral Milk Hotel fan, I've also been a fan of your avatar!  Good on you.


October 5th, 2012 at 9:42 AM ^

Michael Jewett, the Operations Manager at WEMU and the host of their afternoon jazz program, is actually George's grandson. Jewett Street in Ann Arbor is named for George as well, so there is definitely a great legacy there and the family still maintains a presence in the Ann Arbor area.

This is a great story about Avery's connection to Michigan's past. Thanks for sharing!

Johnny Blood

October 5th, 2012 at 10:19 AM ^

Does anyone know how he learned he was related?  Just curious, but seems like it would be an interesting story.

Also, sometimes when you look at the accomplishments of people in the past, doesn't it just seem like they were so much more well-rounded -- valedictorian, fluent in four languages, multi-sport athlete.  We're becoming a society of specialists at a very young age, which I'm not so sure is a good thing.

Johnny Blood

October 5th, 2012 at 2:10 PM ^

I have young boys as well and you're right.  The pressure to get them locked into one sport year-round is unbelievable.  When we lived in Texas, if you weren't playing baseball year-round when you were 7 then unless you were some amazing late-blooming prodigy, you were done.  Not much different here in Georgia for baseball and football.  And in both places, people place a much much higher value on athletics over academics in general.

I don't know if this is just me seeing something that isn't there or not, but I feel like there is a shift in society with a greater emphasis of athletics-over-academics, accompanied by the pressure to focus on just one sport at a very early age, which I think is unfortunate.  Anyone else notice this?  Maybe it is just down here in the south. 


October 5th, 2012 at 11:16 AM ^

Well, Courtney Avery is doing a pretty decent job of making us proud on and off the field.

But part of the specialzation we see today, I suspect, is that back in the day there were just flat out less people who had the opportunity for college and all things beyond.  So there were as a matter of course less people you were competing with for first place on the Dean's list, for roster spots, etc.  Unless you're a demigod, it's almost not possible to be the best of the best in multiple endeavours - if you're trying to be top of the class in astromony and the starting linebacker, you're at a disadvantage against both the other guy who has unlimited time to study linebacker film and the other guy who has time to um... scan nebulae in the observatory.


October 5th, 2012 at 2:11 PM ^

The other thing to remember is that we're reading about George Jewett and his accomplishments one hundred years after the fact; the kind of historical figures that will warrant articles in the twenty-second century will be the same type of truly exceptional people.

On that note, I wonder how many comments will be posted on the MGoThread about the new bestseller, "Zoltan: A Century of Space" in October 2112.


October 5th, 2012 at 2:24 PM ^

I don't know his level of fluency, but then again I don't know Jewett's, either.

Also, Myron Rolle might only speak one language (I honestly don't know) but his story is as impressive, so far, as the type of people we're talking about.

Edit: Didn't see the American-born part. Zoltan doesn't count for that, then.

Johnny Blood

October 5th, 2012 at 2:30 PM ^

I was obviously being extreme and there are many well-rounded people out there, but it just seems fewer and and further between.  And the part that I'm really noticing is that it is almost like we're encouraging that by having kids specialize at a very young age.

Right, I thought of Zoltan as well.  He is a true gem.  Just not seeing as many American born kids like that though.


October 5th, 2012 at 11:04 AM ^

Everything I read about Yost is embarassing - yes I understand product of his time and not judging historical figure by modern standards historiography blh blah blah but much like Woodrow WIlson whom histories now rightly identify as a morally compromised figure in terms of racial attitutes, is it not now time to stop glorifying Yost and what he stood for as a man - white supremacy and keeping the catholics out of the Big 10 - and remove his name from the UM hagiography?

Everyone Murders

October 5th, 2012 at 12:21 PM ^

Until your reply post I'd never heard of Belford Lawson.  I'm not sure that the story on his team membership is clear - it sounds from the story you linked that he may have been a de facto practice squad player for a year.  The Tobin article you cite underscores that Lawson himself was a bit unreliable (stretching the truth as to Lawson's football exploits in ways that are easy to disprove - all laid out in the Tobin article).

Text form Coach Weiman's letter (cited in the article you linked) seems consistent with this view:

At one time we did have a backfield man who, had he been white, would probably have been on the squad as a second or third substitute. In a case like that we decided that it was not worth the friction that would result to have him on the squad.

So I'm not sure that I'd say Lawson was "on" the 1923 team, but he certainly seems to have played a role with the team. And it appears that but for his race he would have made the team.  And he appears to have been an exceptional and successful individual post-football.

Thanks for sharing this!


October 5th, 2012 at 5:08 PM ^

He is listed on Bentley Library's all time roster as being on the team in 1923 and he is in the team photo that was published in the programs that year.  The October 1, 1923 Detroit Free Press reported that nine players were cut to reduce the roster down to 39; Lawson was listed as one of the remaining 39.  The season opened on Oct 6 v Case.  (No link to that Freep article, I found that on microfilm).  He also appeared in Freep reports of team scrimmages in late Sept 1923.  I think it was pretty clear that he was on the team that year, but may never have gotten into any games.  Substitution was limited in those days.  If a player came out  of the game, he could not return until the next quarter.

The 1921 and 1922 rosters on Bentley Library showed him as reserve letter winner.  The reserve team was like a junior varsity and did not include any seniors.  So, if he was on the team in 1923, it wouldn't have been on the reserve team.  He did not earn a letter with the varsity.

I am a work colleague of Lawson's son, learned about Lawson from his son, did some research myself and then contacted Tobin ( a friend of mine) and told him that I thought it would make an interesting article. 

Horace Prettyman

October 5th, 2012 at 4:43 PM ^

I have fond memories of engaging Georgie in sport. I blocked for him as the center on '90 squad. A tremendous runner Georgie was, and he had more moxie than any other man on the Grid, with the exception of perhaps my good friend George Holden.