A racial pioneer in the Texas football program is back in the news.
As we have noted previously, dozens of Texas student-athletes, including football players, are demanding change at the university. One of those demands is naming a part of Royal-Memorial Stadium in honor of Julius Whittier, the first-ever Black player in University of Texas football history.
Coincidentally or not, the family of Whittier this week filed a lawsuit against NCAA. In the suit, which is seeking damages in excess of a million dollars, the Whittier family is accusing the NCAA of negligence and wrongful death in connection to the pioneer’s passing in September of 2018. Whittier had been battling Alzheimer’s for several years prior to his death.
According to the Houston Chronicle, “[p]ostmortem examination of his brain at Boston University… revealed that he suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease associated with head trauma.” The suit, filed by Whittier’s sister on behalf of her brother’s estate and three surviving children, alleges the Whittier’s death at the age of 68 was the direct result of football-related head trauma.
“Julius Whittier was a pioneer who became a lawyer and a member of the district attorney’s staff in Dallas County, and his life was about justice,” the family’s attorney told the Chronicle. “His family wants to carry on in his name and hope that we can make changes.
“We don’t want to end football. We just want to make it as safe as possible and make sure that everybody is informed about what can happen. That has not been the case historically, and we want to change that.”
The sister, Mildred Whittier, had previously filed a lawsuit against the NCAA on behalf of college players who suffered brain injuries from 1960 to 2014.
In 1970, Whittier became the first black player to letter in football at Texas. He first joined the Longhorns in 1969. At the time, though, the NCAA did not allow freshmen to play. Whittier lettered every year from 1970-72, first as an offensive guard and then as a tight end his senior season.