South Hampton Roads' Top 50 Athletes: William H. Lewis

Hometown: Norfolk

Sport: Football

Rank: 50 (behind Justin Upton)

Born: 1868

Died: 1949

Claim to fame: College football's first black All-American

William H. Lewis' life was about breaking down barriers. Born in Berkley to freed slaves, Lewis enrolled at Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute (Now Virginia State University) at age 15, before transferring to Amherst College. At Amherst, he captained the football team for two years. Following graduation, he entered Harvard Law School, and under the rules at the time, was allowed to play football. A fierce blocker and tackler despite weighing just 170 pounds, he was named an All-American at center in 1892 and 1893. After law school, he coached at Harvard, wrote one of the earliest books on college football and is credited with devising the concept of the "neutral zone" at the line of scrimmage. Later, he established a successful law practice and was appointed assistant attorney general of the U.S. during the Taft administration, making him the highest-ranking African-American in the federal government.

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