ANNAPOLIS- Claude “Buddy” Young was part of a trio who became the first African-Americans to play for the Baltimore Colts.
Young was also a football and track star at the University of Illinois.
“He was one of the first heroes I had,” said Bill Gildea, author of the book, “When the Colts Belonged to Baltimore.”
“I remember him vividly,” said Gildea. “Shirt out, chin strap dangling; he didn’t like anything tight-fitting.”
Young finished his playing career in 1955 and moved into the Colts’ front office, Gildea said. He also worked as an executive in the NFL office, becoming one of the first black executives.
Buddy Young died in a car accident in 1983. His grandson, Claude Young III said he was 12 or 13 when it happened.
“He was a really down to earth guy, always looking out for someone else,” Young III, a 41-year-old Montgomery County high school math teacher said.
Young III said he is most impressed that his grandfather didn’t seem hardened by the negative racial experiences he endured.
“It makes me truly proud that he was able to show that kind of stamina and fortitude,” Young III said.
He said his grandmother, Geraldine Young, shared some of the hardships her husband encountered.
“She said he was bitten at the bottom of piles, called names and worse,” Young III said.
Instead of becoming distrustful and bitter, Young dedicated his post-playing career to fighting for those less fortunate.
“Buddy was a great humanitarian,” said his wife, Geraldine Young in a recent interview. “He was always interested in people being treated fairly.”
Young even got the Colts to make tickets available in the black community, she said.
Geraldine Young has carried on her husband’s work by becoming involved in several charitable organizations. The 86-year-old is a lifetime member on the board of the YMCA of Central Maryland and has a facility named in her honor, the Geraldine Young Family Life Center.
“It wasn’t a plan,” Geraldine Young said of continuing her husband’s philanthropy.
“Buddy never liked any publicity,” she said. “Buddy just always gave. When high schools asked him to talk, he never took any money.”
She was quoted once by the Baltimore Sun summing up her husband’s importance to the NFL.
“He really made a greater mark in the business world after he retired,” she said. “Buddy played a major role in getting Negroes recognized and accepted for their worth.”