Hall of Fame - Inductee Detail

William Lewis

William Lewis


  • Position: Center
  • School: Amherst, Harvard
  • High School: Virginia Normal & Collegiate Institute (Petersburg, VA)
  • Years: 1891, 1892-1893
  • Inducted: 2009
  • Place of Birth: Berkley, VA
  • Date of Birth: Nov 28, 1868
  • Place of Death: Boston, MA
  • Date of Death: Jan 01, 1949
  • Weight: 175

Member Biography

The first ever African-American to earn First Team All- America honors and a selection from the NFF's FBS Veterans Committee, William Lewis helped Harvard compile a daunting 22-2 record during his career with the Crimson. Born in Virginia, Lewis started college when he was 15 at Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute (now Virginia State University), the state's first college for African-Americans. He then transferred to Amherst College where he played three seasons before attending Harvard Law. Named Harvard's first African-American team captain, he became an All- American center even though he weighed only 175 pounds. After his playing career, Lewis coached at Harvard for 12 years. During that time he proposed the "neutral zone" rule that is still used today to lessen the brutality of the game at the line of scrimmage before the snap. Elected to the legislature in 1901 and named assistant U.S. attorney general for Boston in 1903, U.S. President William Howard Taft later appointed him as an assistant U.S. attorney general. He passed away in 1949.