Sherman “Jocko” Maxwell was an African American athlete, soldier, and activist who was born on February 9, 1910, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and died on November 3, 2001, in St. Louis, Missouri. He is best known for his success as a football player in the 1930s and his later activism in the civil rights movement.
Maxwell attended Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri, where he played football as a fullback and was known for his speed and agility. He was one of the few African Americans to play college football at the time. In 1932, he was named to the All-American football team, becoming the first African American to receive that honor.
After college, Maxwell played professional football for the Frankford Yellow Jackets and the Philadelphia Eagles in the National Football League (NFL). He was one of the first African Americans to play in the NFL and played for six seasons before retiring from football in 1938.
Maxwell later joined the U.S. Army during World War II and served as a first lieutenant in the Army’s 92nd Infantry Division, which was composed of predominantly African American soldiers. He was wounded in action during the Italian campaign and received a Purple Heart for his service.
After the war, Maxwell became involved in the civil rights movement and worked with organizations such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). He also became a professor of physical education and coach at Harris-Stowe State University in St. Louis.
Maxwell’s legacy as an athlete, soldier, and civil rights activist has been recognized in a variety of ways. In 1999, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, and in 2006, he was inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame. In addition, a park in St. Louis was named in his honor, and he has been the subject of several books and documentaries.