Author Tom Shanahan, who grew up in Big Rapids, MI, will return to his hometown to speak at Ferris State on Thursday, Nov. 6, about his recently released book on Michigan State trailblazer Jimmy Raye and Duffy Daugherty, the Spartans’ College Hall of Fame coach who led the integration of college football.
The book includes a chapter on Gideon Smith, who played at Michigan State from 1913 to 1915; his career served as an inspiration for Raye upon learning about Smith’s pioneering role on the East Lansing campus. Raye arrived at Michigan State as a freshman in the fall of 1964 from the segregated southern city of Fayetteville, N.C., to launch his ground-breaking career as a black quarterback in an era when there were no black QBs.
Smith is better known for his football careers at Michigan State and later with the Canton Bulldogs as a teammate of the legendary Jim Thorpe with the Canton Bulldogs in a league that was a forerunner of the NFL.
Smith is in Michigan State’s Hall of Fame as the school’s first black athlete in a career that included him leading the small school then known as Michigan Agricultural College to its first two wins over national power Michigan in 1913 and 1915. Following his playing days, he returned to Hampton to serve as a successful football coach and assistant athletic director.
However, Smith first played at Ferris State from 1910 to 1912. Chapter 5 in “Raye of Light” tells the story of how Smith arrived in Big Rapids in 1910 from from Hampton, Va., through a unique arrangement between school founder Woodbridge Ferris and Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute. The school is now known as Hampton University.
Woodbridge Ferris, inspired by Booker T. Washington’s autobiography, “Up From Slavery,” arranged to have a dozen or so black students from Hampton attend Ferris. They studied College Prep classes and then transferred to schools such as Michigan State and Michigan. Smith was one of those otherwise anonymous students.
Raye first learned about Smith when he saw his portrait in Jenison Fieldhouse. Raye’s playing career was a pioneer black quarterback on Michigan State’s Underground Railroad teams coached by Duffy Daugherty on his mid-1960s teams. But he also went on to blaze a trail for black college and NFL coaches, serving as a mentor for coaches such as Tony Dungy on down.
— 3 to 5 p.m., Ferris FLITE lower lobby, book signing and meet and greet with author.
— 7 p.m., at Business 111, Book discussion, Q&A and book signing with author.