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In the Mississippi Valley,
In the Crescent Bend
Stands our loved and noble Xavier,
Far her praises send.
Wave her colors bear them onward
Gold and white so true
Hail to thee, all hail, dear Xavier
Hail, all hail, X.U.!
Xavier, ever be our guide
And lead us on the way,
Through life's journey, onward, upward
To the eternal day. (Refrain)
July 29, 1940
Xavier's Jimmie McDaniel played Grand Slam winner Don Budge
in what has been called the first important interracial tennis match
July 31, 1948
Xavier alumnus Herb Douglas long-jumped 24 feet, 9 inches
in London to win bronze and become Xavier's only Olympic medalist
McDaniel, Douglas made July memorable for XU athletics
July 29, 2010
1940 ATA final
at Wilberforce, Ohio — part of a dominating run in which McDaniel won 38 of 43 tournaments from 1939 through 1941. But ATA events primarily were
for African-Americans. The more publicized United States Lawn Tennis Association (now USTA)
did not conduct desegregated tournaments until the early 1950s, after McDaniel's prime.
NEW ORLEANS — Nearly 70 years ago "at a neatly
arranged and deliciously prepared lawn supper," wrote the campus newspaper,
Xavier University of Louisiana paid tribute to its own Jimmie McDaniel.
He was well on his way to establishing himself as the greatest black player of the
pre-war (World War II) era, which is what the United States Tennis Association calls
McDaniel on its Web site.
Herb Douglas does not remember that gathering,
which occurred Sept. 1, 1940, on the XU quadrangle and was attended by McDaniel, approximately
30 other Xavier athletes and the coaching staff. But in the fall of '40
Douglas was at Xavier too, attending classes as a first-semester freshman and
preparing to compete for the Gold Rush in track and field. Eventually the paths
of McDaniel and Douglas crossed.
"We weren't friends," Douglas said. "We were acquaintances.
We knew each other a little. But Jimmie was very quiet and not outgoing."
McDaniel and Douglas remain connected in Xavier
athletics history by late-July events which happened decades ago and eight years apart.
The events are among XU's most memorable.
On July 29, 1940 — nearly seven years before
Jackie Robinson became the first African-American player in the modern era of
Major League Baseball — McDaniel played Grand Slam winner Don Budge
in New York City in what has been called the first important interracial tennis match.
Budge won the exhibition, played before approximately 2,000 spectators
at Harlem's Cosmopolitan Tennis Club, 6-1, 6-2 but praised McDaniel's skills afterward.
Then on July 31, 1948, Douglas long-jumped 24 feet,
9 inches in London to win bronze and
become Xavier's only Olympic medalist.
Those were just a few of the heady times for an athletics department
at a relatively young (opened 1925) and ambitious university — the only black
Catholic college in the Western Hemisphere. That campus paper,
the Xavier Herald, called XU "the Notre Dame of the South" more than
once during the '40s. Dr. Norman Francis, XU's president since 1968, recalls
his alma mater described as "the black Notre Dame."
Xavier hired Ralph Metcalfe as men's track coach immediately
after he won gold and silver sprint medals at the 1936 Summer Olympics, and he jump-started a
program which would win 14 Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference outdoor
championships in 21 years (1938-58).
Another McDaniel-Douglas connection: Metcalfe recruited
both for track. McDaniel came to Xavier on a track scholarship, but "my parents
paid for me to go to Xavier because they wanted to make sure I went to school," Douglas said.
At Xavier McDaniel gave up track for tennis, which
he had played since elementary school, and achieved greatness. A left-hander, McDaniel won men's singles
championships in the American Tennis Association in 1939, 1940, 1941 and 1946.
He rallied to defeat Xavier teammate Dick Cohen 10-12, 5-7, 7-5, 6-3, 6-1 in the
artwork from the October 1940 Xavier Herald newspaper
The United States Tennis Association Web site calls
Jimmie McDaniel the greatest black player of the
pre-war (World War II) era.
photo courtesy of the University of Pittsburgh
Herb Douglas, 88 years old and living in Philadelphia,
hopes to attend the 2012 Olympics in London. He long-jumped to a bronze medal in London in 1948.
Xavier's McDaniel, Cohen, Louis Graves and Robert Ryland were part of the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum's
exhibit at the 2007 U.S. Open to honor black tennis pioneers. The display is now part of the hall's traveling exhibits program and available for rental by outside organizations.
McDaniel was an alumnus of Manual Arts High School in Los Angeles.
He returned to California after his time at XU, got married and had five children. He worked in an aircraft plant
and taught and played tennis after retirement. In the late 1970s he earned tennis rankings in his age group.
"He would talk about the way the game was being played and the players on the way up,
some of whom were African-American. What was even more striking about McDaniel was that, like tennis legend Jack Kramer,
he was comfortable with who he was and what he had done in the game," said Mark Winters, the longtime
publicist for USTA Southern California. "He never talked about what he had won and his status — his place
in the sport's history.
"Having been around tennis and written about it for many years, I have met few players who were McDaniel good,
yet so humble. He rarely called attention to himself, but he had a wonderfully subtle sense of humor."
Dee Williams Horne, a USTA National Public Parks champion in the 1980s and 1990s,
had similar praise for McDaniel. "Jimmie McDaniel was one of the nicest men in the world," she said.
"He was very smooth and helped me technically. He was a very impressive and honorable man."
McDaniel is deceased, but still alive and kicking is Douglas, a graduate of Pittsburgh's
Taylor Allderdice High School and now a resident of Philadelphia. Douglas, who turned 88 in March,
left Xavier after two years to return home and work in his father's business during
World War II. He continued to train at home and competed occasionally before winning the 1945
AAU national championship in the long jump. He also won AAU indoor championships in 1947 and 1949,
and in 1941 he set an SIAC championship-meet record in the outdoor long jump. A 1956 edition of the
Xavier Herald reported that Douglas still was the record-holder.
"Someone told me I held the conference record for 30 years," Douglas said,
"but I don't know for sure."
Like McDaniel, Douglas also broke a color barrier. In 1942 Douglas, William Morton, Clarence Doak and Howard Mitchell
ran the 440-yard relay in 41.7 seconds to make Xavier the first HBCU (historically black college or university) to win a relay race at
the Penn Relays. In April the Penn Relays honored that relay team and Metcalfe, who died in 1978, on the centennial of his birth.
Douglas returned to college in his hometown at the University of Pittsburgh.
He was a football walk-on but eventually earned a scholarship. After graduating from Pitt,
Douglas worked for Pabst Brewing Co., then for wine and spirits importer Schieffelin & Somerset Co., where he
ascended to vice-president in the late 1960s.
At the 1948 U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in Evanston, Ill.,
Douglas earned a spot on the team after long-jumping 25-3. In London Douglas was hoping for a 1-2-3 U.S.
finish in the event, which had not happened since 1904. But Australia's Theodore Bruce
spoiled the sweep, out-jumping Douglas by a quarter-inch at Wembley Stadium to win the silver medal.
"That medal is part of you the rest of your life,"
Douglas said. "My mom used to wear all the time a bronze medallion similar to the medal I won.
They gave us medallions at the Olympics along with the medals. My mom would go across the
street and greet you wearing that medallion. When she died I let her be buried with
"And I still wear the ring the U.S. Olympic Committee gave us."
The Olympics will return to London in 2012, and Douglas plans
to be there — "I'll be 90 and I won't be walking as fast," he said — but he has plenty
to keep him busy until then.
Douglas is on a committee planning a dinner for next May 10 as a centennial salute to
African-American athletes at the University of Pittsburgh. Douglas is keeping under wraps a
more grandiose sports project unrelated to Pitt. "It's still in the development stage, but
it looks promising," Douglas said.
At the 1940 dinner honoring McDaniel, the tennis standout "spoke a few words in
appreciation of what Xavier has done for him," according to the Xavier Herald. Douglas,
despite only two years there, still has plenty to say about XU.
"I never have an interview where I don't mention I went to Xavier,"
Douglas said. "I met my friends there. But I had to leave because my father was
blind and needed help running his business during the war. I wish I had been able to
stay at Xavier. I still hold Xavier in the highest regard."