Clemson had no African American students or faculty until after a lengthy legal battle in the early 1960s. It was rare to see any of the school’s African American employees included in any official college publications until the late 1960s (see Behind the Scenes). However, two exceptional men who worked for the Athletic Department were recognized several times in the Taps yearbook, The Tiger student newspaper and football programs in the years before integration.
George “Chappie” Johnson
George “Chappie” Johnson was arguably one of the most famous athletic figures to work at Clemson, and one of the least known today. His arrival in 1940 was marked with an article in the news section of The Tiger.
Learn more about George “Chappie” Johnson’s baseball playing career here.
After his playing career ended, Johnson organized and managed several traveling baseball teams in the U.S. and Canada, including the Dayton Chappies and Chappie Johnson’s Stars. Most of the players on his 1936-37 Canadian team, the Black Panthers, were African American teenagers from the southern United States. Johnson also worked as a trainer for other baseball teams.
Clemson coach Frank Howard hired Johnson as a trainer in 1940. Johnson worked at Clemson until his death in 1949.
Herman McGee, a local resident, began working for the Clemson Athletic Department in 1934 when he was still a teenager. He worked with Chappie Johnson for several years before serving in World War II. McGee succeeded Johnson as trainer for the Athletic Department in 1948. He was profiled in The Tiger in 1950.
From 1957 to 1969, McGee was equipment manager and assistant trainer before returning to just the training room until his death in 1980. In all he worked for the Athletic Department for 46 years.
In an era of strict racial segregation, McGee traveled with Clemson’s football and baseball teams. By the time he retired he had made ten trips to bowl games and four trips to the College World Series. He was the first African American inducted into the Clemson Athletic Hall of Fame (1976), an honorary associate of the Alumni Association (1978) and was honored by the National Training Hall of Fame (1965).
Read more about McGee in the November 4, 1972 football program.