First black football player at UofL dies in weekend fire

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by Bryan Baker

WHAS11.com

Posted on February 19, 2013 at 12:19 AM

Updated Tuesday, Feb 19 at 6:02 AM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- Laurence Simmons, who played in one game in 1952 becoming the first black football player at the University of Louisville, died Saturday morning after a fire in his basement apartment. He was 79 years old.

Simmons played tackle in just one game, a victory over Wayne State, before a knee injury derailed his career. But he stayed to get a teaching degree and also was the Pastor of a Louisville church. He starred at Central High School, where he was co-captain during his senior year.

The fire started because of an electrical short in a space heater in Simmons's bedroom. Firefighters say the batteries in three of four smoke detectors either were not working or were not connected.

Simmons' brother Norman talked to WHAS11 about his life in those controversial times, two years before Brown v. Board of Education made segregation in public schools illegal.
 

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