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Black and Blue: The story of Gerald Ford and Willis Ward


DATE: 4-6 p.m. Jan. 23, 2013

EVENT: A free, public panel discussion and film screening of "Black and Blue: The Story of Gerald Ford, Willis Ward, and the 1934 Michigan-Georgia Tech Football Game" in conjunction with Martin Luther King Day events.

The panel will feature actor Steven Ford, son of the late president and chair of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation, and Samuel "Buzz" Thomas, Willis Ward's grandson who served 14 years in the Michigan legislature.

The film chronicles the close friendship of President Ford and Ward, a three-time collegiate All-American in track and field and a three-year letterman in football in the early 1930s. On Oct. 20, 1934, the Georgia Tech football team refused to play U-M if Ward suited up for the game.

Unfortunately, Ward was benched—the only time in school history that a football player was benched solely because of his race. Ford—Ward's teammate—threatened to quit the team over the incident, but changed his mind after Ward, who handled his benching with grace and class, asked him to stay.

After graduation, Ward decided to forego the 1936 Olympics in track and field—he had previously beaten Jesse Owens—rather than risk persecution by Adolf Hitler. He later became the highest-ranking African American employee at Ford Motor Co., served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Army during World War II, and eventually became a lawyer and the first African-American probate court judge in Detroit. He died in 1983.

PLACE: Annenberg Auditorium, 1120 Weill Hall, Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy,
735 S. State Street, Ann Arbor

SPONSOR: The Ford School's Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy and its Center for Public Policy and Diverse Societies

INFORMATION: (734) 647-4091,