Hall of Fame Slater Football

Iowa football player Frederick “Duke” Slater poses for a photo in 1921. Slater was the NFL’s first African-American lineman, and often the only Black player on the field. After retiring, he broke down more racial barriers to become a judge in Chicago.

CLINTON, IOWA – The LumberKings announced today that official Duke Slater bobbleheads are now on sale and are going to permanently remembering the hall of famer at the high school he took pride in.

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the limited edition bobbleheads will go towards the start of a fund to establish a permanent marker honoring and recognizing Duke Slater at Clinton High School.

Slater, who recently was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, played at Clinton High School, the University of Iowa, and then in the National Football League from 1922-1931. He was inducted in the inaugural College Football Hall of Fame class of 1951.

“Clinton High School was very important to my uncle Duke. He loved that school,” Duke Slater’s niece, Sandra Wilkins, said. “I am so happy to hear they are honoring him, because Clinton meant a lot to him.”

Slater was the NFL’s first African-American lineman, and often the only Black player on the field. After retiring, he broke down more racial barriers to become a Chicago judge.

“The Slater family and I are extremely happy to see this come to fruition,” Duke Slater’s biographer, Neal Rozendaal, stated. “Duke was certainly a proud member of the Clinton community, and I am thrilled to see his legacy celebrated in this way. Using these bobbleheads to raise funds for a permanent recognition of Duke at Clinton High School is a wonderful gesture.”

Slater was born in the south side of Chicago and moved to Clinton when he was 13 years old. He eventually settled down in Chicago after his playing days were over. In 1948, he was elected to the Cook County Municipal Court and received nearly a million votes. Slater was the second African-American judge in Chicago history.

“The Clinton Community School District supports the effort led by Ted Tornow and Neal Rozendaal to highlight and recognize the professional accomplishments of Duke Slater both on and off the football field. Duke broke many barriers on the football gridiron and in the justice system in Chicago,” CCSD Superintendent Gary DeLacy stated.

Slater made his NFL debut in 1922 with the Rock Island Independents and played with them until 1925, then spent his final five seasons the Chicago Cardinals.

He played all 60 minutes in the Cardinals’ annual Thanksgiving Day game against the Bears in 1929, when his blocking helped Nevers score 40 points, a record that still stands.

The only game he missed in his 10 NFL seasons, against the Kansas City Blues, was due to a league agreement preventing Blacks from playing in Missouri.

After Slater retired, the league imposed a ban on Blacks that lasted until 1946. He died in 1966 at age 67, and the collective memory of his trailblazing career faded.

“We couldn’t be happier to share this endeavor with the Clinton Community School District and the Slater family. We wanted to honor a great man who made an impact both on and off the field,” LumberKings General Manager Ted Tornow added.

The bobbleheads are now on sale at the LumberKings Team Store.

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