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Big Ten’s Kevin Warren announces George and Viola Taliaferro Fellowship

INDIANAPOLIS — During his opening press conference, Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren announced the creation of the George and Viola Taliaferro Fellowship, which will promote diversity and inclusion in the Big Ten. Taliaferro starred at Indiana in the 1940s and became the first Black player to be drafted into the NFL in 1949.

The Taliaferros’ four daughters were at Big Ten Media Days on Thursday and Warren expressed his gratitude to them and their parents when announcing the fellowship.

“I just want to tell you from the bottom of my heart, I’m so grateful,” Warren said. “I am so honored. I am so humbled to be able to name the commissioner’s fellowship after your parents, for what they have stood for what they have meant for this conference. I keep your dad’s trophy on my credenza because I said, I always want George to have my back. And one of my proudest moments last year was when I got to go to Indiana University and I had the opportunity to go touch that statue. And whether it’s rain, snow, sleet or sun, he has always stood proud.”

The full release from the Big Ten follows.

ROSEMONT, Ill. – During his opening address at 2021 Big Ten Football Media Days, Big Ten Conference Commissioner Kevin Warren announced the creation of the George and Viola Taliaferro Fellowship.

The George and Viola Taliaferro Fellowship will provide individuals who have not historically had access to collegiate conference office leadership positions with an opportunity to work in the Office of the Commissioner and gain valuable experience in both the sports and business sectors.

“George and Viola Taliaferro had an incredibly profound impact on the United States Justice System, the State of Indiana, Indiana University, and all of college football. We are elated to have a fellowship position in the office of the commissioner that honors the legacies of both George and Viola, and it is our intention to hire qualified individuals who embody hard work, dedication, integrity, and perseverance.”

George Taliaferro was the leading rusher on Indiana’s 1945 Big Ten championship team that went 9-0-1, the only undefeated team in school history. During his four years in Bloomington, the three-time All-American led the Hoosiers in rushing twice and passing once. George was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1981.

George became the first Black player drafted into the National Football League in 1949 when George Halas and the Chicago Bears drafted George in the 13th round. He was the first Black athlete to play quarterback in the NFL and the only man to play seven positions. George played for the New York Yanks from 1950-51, the Dallas Texans in 1952, the Baltimore Colts from 1953-54, and the Philadelphia Eagles in 1955, earning Pro Bowl honors in 1951 through 1953.

George later earned a master’s degree at Howard University, taught at the University of Maryland and served as Dean of Students at Morgan State University. At Indiana, George also spent two decades serving his alma mater in a number of capacities, including as a special assistant to the president, IUPUI chancellor and Dean of the School of Social Work. He was also active in helping the Children’s Organ Transplant Association.

Judge Viola “Vi” Taliaferro had already built a successful career in academia, social work, and administration before moving to Indiana and enrolling in law school, graduating in 1977. After practicing law for 12 years, Vi became the first African American to serve as magistrate and then judge in the Circuit Court of Monroe County, Indiana. She handled all county juvenile, paternity, probate, and mental health commitment cases.

Vi served as a consultant to U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno and was on the National Research Council on Juvenile Crime. She was elected to the prestigious American Law Institute and has participated in various professional organizations. As a retired judge, she continues to do special projects for the Indiana Supreme Court.


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