Lacy, Sam(uel Harold) 1903-2003

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LACY, Sam(uel Harold) 1903-2003

OBITUARY NOTICE—See index for CA sketch: Born October 23, 1903, in Mystic, CT; died of heart and kidney failure May 8, 2003, in Washington, DC. Journalist and author. Lacy was a sports writer who became famous for his work in convincing sports teams to hire African-Americans players. An African American himself, Lacy knew prejudice from an early age, growing up in Washington, D.C., where he watched the Washington Senators play while sitting in the blacks-only stands. A big fan of the team, he would run errands for the players and retrieved balls in the outfield before games. One of his first jobs was selling popcorn and peanuts at the stadium. Other early work included carrying the bag for golfers such as "Long Jim" Barnes. Studying physical education—he intended to become a coach—at Howard University, he wrote part-time for the Washington Tribune as a way to earn extra money. After finishing his degree in 1923, he played semi-professional baseball for the Washington Black Sox, but his part-time writing job turned into full-time work for the Washington Tribune, where he was promoted to sports and managing editor in 1934. In 1940 he moved to the Chicago Defender, and then to the Baltimore Afro-American in 1943. He remained with the Afro-American as its sports editor for the remainder of his life, even after suffering a stroke in 2000. In addition to his newspaper work, Lacy was a sports commentator for WBAL-TV in Baltimore from 1968 to 1978. During his career Lacy wrote often about the prejudices African Americans were subjected to, and he is credited for helping baseball legend Jackie Robinson break the color barrier. Lacy frequently experienced prejudice as a black journalist: he was often snubbed by his white colleagues and was sometimes banned from entering the press box, or even from entering whites-only ballparks. He wrote regularly about the prejudice that existed in the sports industry and gradually began to shame owners into integrating their baseball and football teams. For his role in helping African Americans enter professional sports, Lacy was honored many times, receiving such honors as the Sports Illustrated Lifetime Achievement Award in 1989, the 1991 Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Association of Black Americans, the 1997 Red Smith Award from the Associated Press Sports Editors, and induction into the writers' wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998. In 2003 he was also presented the Frederick Douglass Award from the University System of Maryland; he was scheduled to be honored at the 2003 Maryland Athletic Hall of Fame ceremonies, but died just days before they were scheduled. Lacy completed his autobiography, Fighting for Fairness: The Life Story of Hall-of-Fame Sportswriter Sam Lacy in 1998.



Chicago Tribune, May 11, 2003, section 3, pp. 1, 14.

Los Angeles Times, May 10, 2003, p. B23.

New York Times, May 12, 2003, p. A25.

Washington Post, May 10, 2003, p. B7.