Hall of Fame - Inductee Detail

Paul "Robey" Robeson

Paul "Robey" Robeson


  • Position: End
  • School: Rutgers
  • High School: Somerville, NJ (Somerville HS)
  • Years: 1915-1918
  • Inducted: 1995
  • Place of Birth: Princeton, NJ
  • Date of Birth: Apr 09, 1898
  • Place of Death: Philadelphia, PA
  • Date of Death: Jan 23, 1976
  • Height: 6-3
  • Weight: 210

Member Biography

Paul Robeson played four years for the famous coach, G. Foster Sanford. Rutgers had a 22-6-3 record in that time. In 31 games Rutgers scored 941 points to opponents' 191. Robeson was a powerful contributor to that record. In 1915 against Rensselaer he recovered an opponent's fumble and set up a touchdown. In 1917 he scored on 40-yard and 37-yard pass plays against Fort Wadsworth. Against Syracuse the same year he caught passes on two key plays and, on defense, intercepted a pass. Also in 1917 against Newport Naval Reserve, he caught one touchdown pass, and was outstanding on defense. This game was played Nov. 24. Newport was undefeated and heavily favored because it had an all-star line- up of former college stars. Rutgers won 14-0. Robeson was a two-time All-America end. Frank Menke named him All- America in 1917 and 1918. Walter Camp picked him in 1918. (Camp did not name an All-America team in 1917.) Following college, Robeson played three years as a pro--1920 with Hammond, 1921 with Akron, and 1922 with Milwaukee- -in the American Professional Football League. Robeson was reported to make as much as $500 a game, and he used his money to pay his way through law school at Columbia University. He obtained his law degree in 1923. At Rutgers, Robeson was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, was valedictorian of the class in 1919. He won the college oratorical contest four straight years and gave the commencement address at graduation. Robeson won 12 letters in four sports--four in football, three each in basketball and baseball, and two in track. He stood 6-3 in height, and his weight was listed at 191 in early years, at 210 his senior season. This man of many talents became an actor, singer, and lecturer. He was on Broadway and in the movies. His rich basso made his signature song "Ol' Man River" a classic. He starred in plays-- "the Emperor Jones", "Othello', Showboat" and others--in the U.S., Europe, and Africa. In 1925 he made a recording that sold 55,000 copies in four months. In 1972, he received the Whitney Young Memorial Award. Ebony Magazine called him "one of the ten most important black men in American history." Rutgers named three buildings for him--a library on the Camden campus, student center on the Newark campus, and the Paul Robeson Cultural Center on the New Brunswick campus. A play, "Paul Robeson," was staged in 1982 with a Rutgers professor, Avery Brooks, in the title role. A biography "Paul Robeson," by Martin Duberman was published in 1989. Paul Robeson was born April 9, 1898, in Princeton, NJ. His father, Rev. William Robeson, had escaped slavery in 1860 in North Carolina at age 15. His mother, Maria Bustill, was a teacher. When Paul was a high school senior, he won the statewide academic test and received a scholarship to Rutgers. In 1915, he was the third black to enter Rutgers and the first to play football. He died Jan. 23, 1976. He was named to the Rutgers Sports Hall of Fame in 1988.