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Entrance to the old Central High School, which formerly stood at Capital and Forster Streets.Football player Andrew Green, circa 1930.

 Football History

Harrisburg
High School

First Black Quarterback  |  Memories  |  Severance Field

 

Several readers have sent inquiries about the history of the football program at Harrisburg High School and its ancestor schools, John Harris and William Penn, which now represent separate campuses of the school.  Those schools, built in 1926, replaced the old Central and Technical High Schools.  The Technical High School building still stands as Old City Hall Apartments, taking its current name from its post educational use for many years as Harrisburg's city hall, until the city moved City Hall to the King City Government Center on Second Street.  The Central H.S. building, originally at Capitol and Forster Streets,  no longer exists.  We welcome letters, reminiscences, feedback and general comments regarding the topic.  Send your comments to george.nagle@gmail.com.

 First Black Quarterback

"Mrs. RMS" writes

Do you have anything on a football player named Raphael George Clark, aka "Nugget?"  Played for William Penn, he was Class of "54."  First black quarterback? I love this site!

Renee Slaughter of Harrisburg writes

I stumbled across this web-site the other day and I haven't been able to stop reading it. A little while ago I was researching some information regarding the "Old" Harrisburg School system. Back when it was Harrisburg William Penn Tigers and Harrisburg John Harris Pioneers, I was trying to find out who indeed was the first black Quarterback. I thought it was a Raphael George Clark, aka "Nugget" or "Skillet," Class of William Penn 1954. Do you have any information or facts on this?

If he wasn't first, then do you have an old roster or know who was?

We put the question to Harrisburg historian Calobe Jackson, Jr, who supplied the answer:

Hello to all. I remember Raphael Clark and will check on him when I get to the library. Peter Dickey, class of 1951 (football 1950) was the first black quarterback under the T formation at William Penn. With Dickey passing and Willie Mims at end, they were co-champions of the league. Before 1950, Penn ran from the single wing formation and the quarterback was primarily a blocking back. Donald Spradley, Crawford Huff and other blacks played this position in the 1940's and before.

As for passing from the single wing, Ralph Simpson of the William Penn 1932 State championship team that beat Altoona was black. He later starred with the Trojans. On the hill and in Steelton we have another story, too long to tell here.
(for some of the Steelton story, click here--editor)

By the way, the field at John Harris has been rebuilt with new grandstands and a field house on one end.  I think the name may be changed from Severance. I will post the dedication date when it is announced.

I will enjoy looking up Clark; this random sampling is how God leads me to find something I don't expect to find.

Best Regards
Calobe

Lindsay C. Depew III writes:

My name is Lindsay C. Depew III.   My grandfather played quarterback at Edison in the thirties.  He was coached by Shorty Miller.  He is also an Iwo Jima survivor and was in the West Shore Drum and Bugle Corps.  Lindsay jr. played with East Pennsboro on the 1959 undefeated and unscored-upon team.


Severance Field

George, below are my remarks on the brief history of Severance Field, made at the dedication of the new Severance Field and Field House, September 14, 2005. Senator Piccola, Mayor Reed, Superintendent Kohn and Principal Kimber also made brief remarks. The new field will seat 6,500. The recording of the entire dedication program will appear on channel 20 in a few weeks.

I would be glad to hear from anyone who has the information and/or pictures on any events that took place on Severance Field or Fager Field. For instance, Bill Lockhart upset Ed Temple in three track events on Fager Field in 1947. Carlos Corbin upset Tom Menneker in the mile run on Severance Field in 1957.  William Penn upset John Harris 7 to 6, in the last game of their series, played on Fager Field (1946).  Penn scored on the famous "Statue of Liberty Play." In this play, the passer holds the football high in the air, like a torch, then hands it off to a speedy running back. 
Calobe Jackson

Remarks delivered at the dedication of Severance Field and Field House, September 14, 2005

Dr. Walter E. Severance, a graduate of Harvard, was the last principal of old Harrisburg Central High School and the first principal of John Harris High School.

John Harris and William Penn both opened in 1926 and played all home football games on Island Field.  In March of 1936 the football field on the island was destroyed by the flood.  In the fall of 1936 and enclosed field at William Penn was dedicated as Fager Field.  It was named for Dr. Charles Fager, who was the first principal at William Penn.  Both Penn and Harris shared this field until 1939, when the field here was dedicated as John Harris Field.  The school board named the field for the founder of Harrisburg, rejecting the name Severance Field at this time.

LLater, in 1959, the field was renamed Severance to honor Dr. Severance.  This field served as home field for Edison Jr. High School and John Harris Sr. High School until the William Penn and John Harris high schools were merged into Harrisburg High in 1971.

Many great athletes, both male and female, have competed in a variety of sporting events here.  Severance Field remains one of the most picturesque stadiums in the area, and with this dedication, the tradition continues.

Go to Page 2


sources

Correspondence, "MrsRMS" to Barbara Barksdale, 4 August 2005. 

Correspondence, Renee Slaughter to Afrolumens, 5 August 2005.  

Correspondence, Calobe Jackson, Jr. to Afrolumens, 5 August 2005.

Barton, Michael and Jessica Dorman, Harrisburg's Old Eighth Ward (Charleston, SC, 2002) p. 52.

Beers, Paul B., Profiles from the Susquehanna Valley (Harrisburg, 1973), p. 86-87.

notes

Afrolumens extends its sincere thanks to Renee Slaughter and Calobe Jackson, Jr. for their permission to reproduce their letters.

for more information

For more football material, see our photographs and memories from Sheila Green-Stevenson.

Also, see our second page of Harrisburg High School memories.

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This page was updated October 18, 2005.