Visit the African/African-American Historical Museum in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and one of the most unforgettable displays (among many) is dedicated to John Bright. Bright was born in Fort Wayne in 1930, the son of a steel worker. His years playing football at Drake College (now Drake University) in Des Moines, Iowa would be his claim to national recognition. They would also forever link him to a racial incident that brought national disgrace, the John Bright Incident. Despite being the victim of this ugly incident, Bright went on to live his life with grace and resilience.
On October 20, 1951, Drake College’s football team, the Bulldogs, played the Oklahoma A&M Aggies (now the Oklahoma State Cowboys) at Lewis Field in Stillwater, Oklahoma. The star of Drake’s team was the talented young halfback, Johnny Bright, an NCAA All American. At the time, Bright led the nation in yards per game. In 1950, he set the single-season total offense record with 2,400 yards, a record that stood until 1964. That same year, he averaged 266.7 yards a game and scored 18 touchdowns. In 1951, he won the Swede Nelson Award for outstanding sportsmanship and finished fifth in Heisman trophy balloting.