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Sat, 04.02.1870

George Jewett Jr., Collegiate Letterman, and Doctor born

George Jewett Jr. (1890)

*George Jewett Jr. was born on this date in 1870.  He was a Black doctor, businessman, and one of the first Black collegiate football lettermen.  

George Jewett Jr. grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan; his father was George Jewett, a blacksmith born in Kentucky, and his mother, Letty Jewett, was born in Michigan. He had an older sister, Mary, born in approximately 1868. Jewett attended Ann Arbor High School, where he was the class valedictorian in 1889. He was the captain of the debate, football, and baseball teams. He won the Amateur Athletic Union 100-yard dash competition as the fastest sprinter in the Midwest and was fluent in German, Italian, and French. 

Jewett attended the University of Michigan from 1890 to 1893.  In 1890, He was the starting fullback for the Michigan team that went 4-1 and outscored opponents 129-36.  In 1892, Jewett was the starting halfback on a Michigan team that beat Amos Alonzo Stagg's University of Chicago team, went 7-5, and scored 298 points.  At Michigan, he was the leading rusher, scorer, and kicker.  He became the first Black in the school to letter in football. He was regarded as "one of the greatest stars" in Michigan football in the pre-Fielding H. Yost era.  In addition to playing fullback and halfback, Jewett was also the team's field goal kicker and has been called "the Afro-American phenomenon of the University of Michigan." Oberlin College coach John Heisman described Jewett as a "superior athlete," University of Chicago coach Amos Alonzo Stagg referred to him as "a very tough opponent." 

Jewett studied medicine at Michigan but reportedly left abruptly after a run-in with the dean of medicine. He transferred to Northwestern University in 1893, receiving his medical degree and becoming the first Black to play for the Northwestern Wildcats football team.  Jewett was also the first Black athlete to compete in football for any Big Ten Conference school.  He went on to practice medicine in Chicago.  Jewett returned to Ann Arbor in 1899; he opened a dry-cleaning business called The Valet on State Street, between the Congregational Church and Newberry Hall; Jewett delivered finished work by horse and carriage.  

On November 4, 1901, Jewett married Lillian Zebbs. They had two children, George and Richard.  George Jewett Jr. died suddenly on August 12, 1908, at the age of 38, leaving his wife, Lillian, and two sons; his son Richard was eight days old when his father died.  He is buried at Forest Hill Cemetery in Ann Arbor. He was inducted into the Pioneer High School Hall of Fame in March 2004.   His youngest son Richard was the father of Coleman Jewett, well known Ann Arbor athlete, educator, and craftsman, and grandfather of Michael Jewett, the host of 89.1 Jazz heard on weekday afternoons on WEMU radio.  

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