From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Lexington Bluejackets, Semi-Professional, Integrated, Football Team

(start date: 1947  -  end date: 1948) 

The first name considered for the Lexington Bluejackets football team may have been the "Lexington Panthers." This is the name given in an article in the Lexington Leader newspaper. The continued plans for organizing an all African American, semi-pro team were finalized in the fall of 1947. The proposed "Lexington Panthers" team members included Jerry Green, who was also the coach; Clell Peters from Ashland; Leland Lawson; and Castile Richardson. The team was to play the Paris All-Stars on Sunday, November 16, 1947, at the Blue Grass Athletic Club Field in Lexington. Source: Sunday debut carded by Lexington Panthers," The Lexington Leader, 11/15/1947, p. 3.

The name of the team that was consistently mentioned in the newspapers was Lexington Bluejackets. This was a short-lived semi-professional football team that was established in 1947. The team may have been one of the first integrated professional football teams in Kentucky (and before the integrated Carlisle High School football team in Nicholas County, KY). There were no newspaper articles that opposed the integrated team. Though, the Bluejackets team was mistakenly referred to as the "Bluebirds" in a few issues of the Lexington newspapers. The team was one of many independent football teams in Kentucky. In 1947, the Bluejackets played two games: a 7-0 loss to the Covington Rockets, and a scoreless tie against the Danville All-Stars.

The following year, tryouts for the Bluejackets team were held at the Dunbar High School football field starting on July 8, 1948. Many of the men at the tryouts were military veterans. The Bluejackets team reorganized with the following members:

1. Calvin C. Archie. (1927-1997). Played high school football at Dunbar in Lexington. Navy veteran.
2. Willard Carter. (b.1923). Played college football at Kentucky State in Frankfort. 
3. Virgil M. Covington, Sr. (1923-1993). Played college football at Kentucky State. Singer with the Ruby King Celestial Harmonizers, and the Stanley Smith Community Male Chorus. Army veteran.
4. Lewis Obed Givens, Sr. (1923-1990). Baseball player with Lexington Hustlers in the Negro League. Track and field medalist in Lexington City-wide Track Meets. Winning boxer in Lexington Hash Meet Tournament. Navy veteran.
5. Russell G. Hill. (1928-1974). Played college football at Kentucky State. Army veteran. 
6. Leland Lawson, Sr. (1920-1998). Played college football at Clark [Atlanta] University, and Kentucky State College under Henry A. King. Inducted into the Roots and Heritage Hall of Fame in 1991. Army veteran.
7. T. C. Lewis. Played college football at Wilberforce University. All Mid-Western Conference End. 
8. Robert James Miller, "Bob". (b.1923). Played high school football at Dunbar.
9. Joe Mooney. Played high school football at Dunbar.
10. James Walker Morris. (1921-1963). Played high school football at Dunbar. Army veteran.
11. Castile Richardson. (1923-1999). Golden Gloves welterweight boxer. Tennis Player in Lexington City-Wide Tournament. Played college football at Louisville Municipal College. Army veteran.
12. Hobart Burton Thomas, "Hobey". (1925-1988). White. Played college football at University of Kentucky. Navy veteran.
13. Bell Wallace. White. Played college football at University of Kentucky.
14. Bert O. Williams. (1924-1997). Played high school football at Dunbar. Navy veteran.


Nathan Pashmore and W. S. Dodson were the team coaches; they were former football players at Kentucky State College. Jerry Lee Green also coached the team and was the contact person for scheduling games. Jerry Lee Green (1921-1997) was a U.S. Army veteran. He had planned to be a player-coach for the Lexington Panther football team.

Green was not listed as a player for the Bluejackets who played their home games at Bluegrass Athletic Park on Newtown Pike in Lexington. The Bluejackets opponents included the Louisville Red Raiders, Versailles All-Stars, Danville All-Stars, Covington Rockets, Dayton Bombers (OH), and Indianapolis (IN). Other independent football teams in Kentucky were the Harrodsburg Tomcats, Lexington Bluegrass Mules, and Lancaster Independents.

The 1948 season opener for the Bluejackets was held Tuesday, October 19th. The game had been postponed from the previous Sunday due to heavy rains. The Bluejackets defeated the Louisville Red Raiders 27-0. Virgil Covington recovered a Rockets' fumble in the end zone. William Carter scored two touchdowns, and James Walker and Joe Mooney each scored a touchdown. Leland Lawson kicked for the extra points. Walker, Covington, and Miller played well on defense. Lawson, Williams, and Mooney were recognized on the offense. The Bluejackets went on to win their game against the Dayton Bombers. The next scheduled game against Indiana was cancelled.

November 7, 1948, the Bluejackets lost to the Covington Rockets who were coached by George Redding, Negro All-American and former player at Wilberforce College. The Rockets had a 6-1 record when they left Lexington. The Bluejackets won their next game against the Danville All-Stars. It was the first win against the Danville team. In the two previous meetings the games had ended in a tie.

The Bluejackets next faced the Covington Rockets in Ohio on Thanksgiving Day and was defeated again. A game highlight for the Bluejackets was when Lewis O. Givens caught an interception and ran 98 yards for a touchdown. On November 28, 1948, the Bluejackets defeated the Versailles All-Stars, 7-0. It was the first time the two teams had played against each other. At the end of November, the Lexington Bluejackets had a record of 4 wins, 2 losses, 1 tie. The team standouts were Joe Mooney and Hobey Thomas. The team closed out the season with another game against the Versailles All-Stars on Sunday, December 5, 1948.

Nothing more about the Lexington Bluejackets was mentioned in the local newspapers until September 18, 1950. Former team members and those interested in joining the team were asked to attend a very important meeting at the Charles Young Community Center on Wednesday, September 20, 1950. There is no mention in the newspapers about any games played during 1950. The following year, another attempt was made to re-establish the Lexington Bluejackets team. A meeting was called by the Blue Grass High School Officials Association on September 15, 1951, at Douglas Park. The meeting was open to all persons interested in playing on a semi-pro football team. The names of those who had already shown interest were Jodie Wilson, John Merritt, Pat Bland, Russell Hill, Charles Lee, Alvin Hanley, Russell King, Robert Allen, Jerry Green, Calvin Archie, Robert Mooney, Joe Mooney, Edward Martin, James Walker Morris, William Carter, R. B. Mitchell, Leland Lawson, Virgil Covington, and Robert Miller. Source: "Colored Notes: the Blue Grass High School Officials Association ...," Sunday Herald-Leader, 09/16/1951, p.20.

There was a notice in the Colored Notes section of the newspaper in October of 1951, announcing that a semi-pro football team would be practicing at the Community Center on Monday, October 15. There is no mention in the local newspapers of any African American semi-pro football teams playing in Lexington. Nor was there any mention of games played by the Lexington Bluejackets in 1951 or any later years. Source: "The semi-pro football team," Sunday Herald-Leader, 10/14/1951, p.19.

Entry Sources: "Colored Notes: Boys who would like to try out ...," The Lexington Leader, 07/07/1948, p.12; "Lexington pro grid team to play Sunday," Sunday Herald-Leader, 10/10/1948, p.6; "Bluejackets open with Red Raiders," The Lexington Leader, 10/15/1948, p.8; "Bluejacket game Tuesday night," The Lexington Leader, 10/18/1948, p.11; "Pro grid tilt billed here tonight at 7:30," The Lexington Herald, 10/19/1948, p.9; "Bluejackets look to Dayton Sunday for second win," The Lexington Leader, 10/20/1948, p.6; "Bluejackets to meet Bombers in local semi-pro tilt today," Sunday Herald-Leader, 10/24/1948, p.14; "Bluejackets game off," Sunday Herald-Leader, 10/31/1948, p.11; "Bluejackets meet Covington Sunday," The Lexington Leader, 11/06/1948, p.2; "Bluejackets seek to avenge lone '47 loss in tilt today," Sunday Herald-Leader, 11/07/1948, p.16; "Local grid teams lose," The Lexington Leader, 11/08/1948, p.7; "Bluejackets triumph over All-Stars, 12-6," The Lexington Herald, 11/22/1948, p.7; "Bluejackets to travel in quest of revenge," The Lexington Leader, 11/22/1948, p.7; "Bluejackets to play at Versailles today," Sunday Herald-Leader, 11/28/1948, p.17; "Bluejackets, Versailles clash here Sunday, The Lexington Leader, 12/03/1948, p.9; "Bluejackets will play host to Versailles," Sunday Herald-Leader, 12/05/1948, p.17.

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Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Lexington Bluejackets, Semi-Professional, Integrated, Football Team,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed June 23, 2024, https://nkaa.uky.edu/nkaa/items/show/300004888.

Last modified: 2023-11-29 21:54:39