COLUMBUS — State Rep. Mark Romanchuk applauded Gov. John Kasich for signing legislation that designates February 3 as “Charles Follis Day” in honor of the first African American professional football player.
Charles Follis was born on February 3, 1879 in Virginia. While a young child, Follis’ family moved to Wooster in Wayne County and started the Wooster High School football program. Later, he played professionally for the Shelby Blues in Richland County. In recognition of his many accomplishments on the football field, Follis was honored with a placard at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, received a proclamation from the City of Shelby, and was recognized by Wooster High School after they designated their football field as “Follis Field.”
“This tribute to Charles Follis is wonderful for our area,” said Rep. Romanchuk. “I really appreciate the members of Charles Follis’ family and others who took the time to come to Columbus to be a part of this special event.”
Known as the “Black Cyclone” for his tenacity in athletics, Follis overcame many trials and barriers on and off the field. During a time of residual racial tension in America, Follis became a trailblazer in the African American community and a sports legend among fellow football players, historians and enthusiasts alike. Follis died from pneumonia in 1910 and was buried in Wooster Cemetery.
Rep. Romanchuk joint sponsored House Bill 229 with State Representative Scott Wiggam (R-Wooster).