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The National Football Foundation will present the Tuskegee Airmen and leading educator with its highest honor December 4 in recognition of his significant contributions to our country.

DALLAS, November 14, 2012-The National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame (NFF) announced today that Roscoe C. Brown Jr., a trail-blazing aviator and a public servant for more than six decades in education, the military and in government, has been named the 2012 recipient of the NFF Gold Medal.

“By any measure, Roscoe Brown is a giant,” said NFF President & CEO Steve Hatchell. “His sense of patriotism led him to serve in the military despite the racial obstacles that stood in his way, and he created a legacy of heroism during World War II that will inspire us for generations. But his courage and tenacity in combat was just the beginning. His commitment to excellence continued for more than 60 years as he became one of our nation’s leading educators and public servants. We are pleased to add his name to the impressive list of honorees who have claimed the NFF Gold Medal.”

The highest and most prestigious award bestowed by the National Football Foundation, the Gold Medal recognizes an outstanding American who has demonstrated integrity and honesty, achieved significant career success and has reflected the basic values of those who have excelled in amateur sport, particularly football. The award will be presented to Dr. Brown December 4 during the 55th NFF Annual Awards Dinner at the Waldorf=Astoria in New York City.

“College football produces so many amazing stories, but when one stops to ponder the true meaning of our sport and the impact that it can have on future generations, the Foundation has a unique role in holding out those college players who have truly gone on to do great things later in life,” said NFF Chairman Archie Manning. “Roscoe Brown is one of those college football players. For his heroic service to our country and his academic accomplishments, we are proud to recognize him with our highest award, rightfully placing him among the many titans who have claimed this highly prestigious award.”

Originally presented to U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower at the NFF Annual Awards Dinner in 1958, the Gold Medal boasts an impressive list of past recipients, including seven U.S. Presidents, four U.S. Generals, three U.S. Admirals, one U.S. Supreme Court Justice, 28 corporate  CEOs and chairmen, actor John Wayne and baseball immortal Jackie Robinson. Brown will become the 58th recipient of the NFF Gold Medal, and he follows Robert M. Gates, the former U.S. secretary of defense, who claimed the honor in 2011. (See below for the full list of past recipients.)

After growing up in a segregated Washington, D.C., during the 1920s and 1930s, Brown attended Springfield College (Mass.), an integrated school with 16 African-Americans among approximately 650 students. He served as treasurer of his class and graduated in 1943 as valedictorian at the school.

Brown lettered in football all four of his years at Springfield, playing both offensive and defensive end. During his first two seasons he was coached by Paul Stagg, the son of College Football Hall of Fame coach and playerAmos Alonzo Stagg. His final two years he played the same position under Coach Manny Manfield.  Brown also suited up for the school’s lacrosse team three seasons and was the manager for the school’s basketball team.

"I played end," Brown said in a recent interview with the NFF. "It was before they had split ends. I played at the end of the line and my job was to block the tackle who was trying to break in and to run out and catch a few passes. At that time, if you caught two or three passes a game, that was a lot.” 

Upon graduation in March of 1943 and with World War II raging, Brown responded to the call for military service. He headed South, eventually to Tuskegee, Alabama, where the U.S. military had spent $1 million to build a separate air base in 1941 to train African-American pilots. They later would become known as the Tuskegee Airmen.  After several months of training, Brown started flying combat missions in August 1944.

By the end of the war, he commanded the 100th Fighter Squadron of the 332 Fighter Group, which consisted of African-American pilots flying P-51 Mustangs. His unit escorted white bomber pilots in B-24 Liberators and B-17 Flying Fortresses while also conducting low altitude strafing missions over enemy airfields and rail yards in some of the most heavily defended targets inside Germany and the Third Reich. They painted the tails of their planes red to differentiate themselves from their white counterparts who they protected.

During one of his 68 missions, Brown famously became the first pilot to shoot down a newer, faster German Messerschmitt Me-262 jet, which could fly as much as 100 miles per hour faster than the propeller-driven P-51. The encounter occurred over Berlin during a 1,600 mile mission to attack a massively fortified Daimler-Benz tank factory.  That action is depicted in Red Tails, a 2012 release by George Lucas that also reflects the struggles of the Tuskegee Airmen against racism and segregation inside the U.S. military.

“It is all about competition," Brown said in connecting his experiences from the gridiron with those he utilized as a fighter pilot. "Do the best you can and do it under pressure. Because when you are playing a game, you are playing under pressure and it gives you an opportunity to excel and do the best you can. So when you are flying that fighter plane you are not worried about failing or getting shot down, you are worried about doing the best you can to protect the pilots or shoot down the planes."

For his bravery in combat, Brown claimed the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with Eight Oak Leaf Clusters, and his group earned the Presidential Unit Citation, the highest honor bestowed upon a combat unit. The Tuskegee Airmen produced a stellar record of escorting and protecting American bombers, and their accomplishments played a major role in defeating the racial stereotypes that African-Americans were not capable of being pilots and a subsequent decision by President Harry S. Truman to integrate the U.S. military in 1948.

After World War II and obtaining the rank of captain, Brown taught physical education at West Virginia State College. He also coached football, basketball and baseball at the school during the 1946-47 and 1947-48 seasons. He served as offensive coordinator for the football team and was an assistant coach in basketball. Among the football players he coached was Joe Gilliam Sr., father of Joe Gilliam Jr., who played quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers.  And among the basketball players he coached was Earl Lloyd, the first African-American to play in the NBA.

He then headed to New York City, receiving masters and doctorate degrees at New York University in 1949 and 1951, respectively. After becoming a full professor at the school during the course of 25 years, he became the founding director of the Institute of Afro-American Affairs at NYU.  From 1977-93, he served as president of Bronx Community College, and in 1993, he created the Center for Urban Education Policy at the Graduate School and University Center at the City University of New York (CUNY). He still serves as the center’s director today.

Brown has served as a director or chair of more than 25 organizations, including the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, the Arthur Ashe Athletic Association, Metropolitan YMCA, Libraries for the Future and the Jackie Robinson Foundation. He has served on New York State’s Governor’s Advisory Committee for Black Affairs, the Human Rights Advisory Council, and the Attorney General’s Ethical Standards Committee, among others. An avid runner, he completed the New York City marathon nine times.

He has hosted several television programs, including the Emmy award-winning program, “Black Arts” on WCBS-TV in New York City.  An accomplished author, he has written extensively on education, exercise and African-American issues. Brown has received numerous honors, including the NAACP Freedom Award, the Congressional Award for Service to the African American Community and Who’s Who in America.  In 2007, President George W. Bush presented Brown and the Tuskegee Airmen the prestigious Congressional Gold Medal in the Capitol Rotunda.

The 90-year-old Brown is the third African-American to win the NFF’s coveted Gold Medal after comedian Bill Cosby (in 2010) and Robinson (in 1997, posthumously). Cosby was the first African-American to co-star in a dramatic television series in 1967.  Twenty years previous to that, Robinson broke the color barrier in major league baseball with the Brooklyn Dodgers.  And during that era, Brown played his role in the civil rights movement by performing heroic service with the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II.

Brown joins the other 2012 NFF Major Award winners:  ESPN’s George Bodenheimer, who will claim the NFF Distinguished American Award; Alabama Athletics Director Mal Moore, who will accept the NFF John L. Toner Award for superior abilities in athletics administration; and the state of Oklahoma’s Bob Barry, posthumously, as the recipient of the NFF Chris Schenkel Award for excellence in broadcasting.

The NFF Major Award winners, along with the 2012 College Football Hall of Fame inductees and the NFF National Scholar-Athlete class, presented by Fidelity Investments, will be honored  at the 55th NFF Annual Awards Dinner on Dec. 4 at the Waldorf=Astoria in New York City. For ticket information, please contact NFF Director of External Relations Will Rudd at 800.486.1865 or  [email protected].

This year’s Hall of Fame Class includes: Charles Alexander (LSU), Otis Armstrong (Purdue), Steve Bartkowski (California), Hal Bedsole (Southern California), Dave Casper (Notre Dame), Ty Detmer (BYU), Tommy Kramer (Rice), Art Monk (Syracuse), Greg Myers (Colorado State), Jonathan Ogden (UCLA), Gabe Rivera (Texas Tech), Mark Simoneau (Kansas State), Scott Thomas (Air Force), John Wooten (Colorado), coach Phillip Fulmer (Tennessee), coach Jimmy Johnson (Oklahoma State and Miami, Fla.) and coach  R.C. Slocum (Texas A&M). The 2012 NFF National Scholar-Athlete Class was announced on Oct. 24.

Past Recipients of the NFF Gold Medal include (Click for further information):


2011 - Robert M. Gates
2010 - Bill Cosby
2009 - Bill Bowerman
2009 - Phil Knight
2008 - John Glenn
2007 - Pete Dawkins
2007 - Roger Staubach
2006 - Bobby Bowden
2006 - Joe Paterno
2005 - Jon F. Hanson
2004 - William V. Campbell
2003 - Tommy R. Franks
2002 - George Steinbrenner III
2001 - Billy Joe "Red" McCombs
2000 - F.M. Kirby
1999 - Keith Jackson
1998 - John H. McConnell
1997 - Jackie Robinson
1996 - Eugene F. Corrigan
1995 - Harold Alfond
1994 - Thomas S. Murphy
1993 - Norman Schwarzkopf
1992 - Donald R. Keough
1991 - George H. Bush
1990 - Thomas H. Moorer
1989 - Paul Brown
1988 - Clinton E. Frank
1987 - Charles R. Meyer
1986 - William H. Morton
1985 - William I. Spencer
1984 - John F. McGillicuddy
1983 - Jack Kemp
1982 - Silver Anniversary - All Past Recipients Honored
1981 - Justin W. Dart
1980 - Walter J. Zable
1979 - William P. Lawrence
1978 - Vincent dePaul Draddy
1977 - Louis H. Wilson
1976 - Edgar B. Speer
1975 - David Packard
1974 - Gerald B. Zornow
1973 - John Wayne
1972 - Gerald R. Ford
1971 - Ronald W. Reagan
1970 - Thomas J. Hamilton
1969 - Richard M. Nixon
1968 - Chester J. LaRoche
1967 - Frederick L. Hovde
1966 - Earl H. "Red" Blaik
1965 - Juan T. Trippe
1964 - Donold B. Lourie
1963 - Roger M. Blough
1962 - Byron "Whizzer" White
1961 - John F. Kennedy
1960 - Herbert C. Hoover
1960 - Amos Alonzo Stagg
1959 - Douglas A. MacArthur
1958 - Dwight D. Eisenhower


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