Black and Blue- The Story of Gerald Ford, Willis Ward and the 1934 Michigan-Georgia Tech Football Game
It was one of the most disgraceful incidents in Michigan football history - and ultimately, one of the most inspiring. This film tells the long-forgotten story of the 1934 game between Michigan and Georgia Tech - a story that's never been told on film before. When the Yellow Jackets agreed that season to come to Ann Arbor for a game, they insisted on one condition - Michigan had to sit out the lone African-American player on the team, a talented end from Detroit named Willis Ward. Many of Ward’s teammates were outraged when athletic officials at U-M agreed to the demand. The most outraged Wolverine was Ward’s roommate, a lineman from Grand Rapids named Gerald Ford. Ford threatened to quit the team in response to Ward’s benching - and changed his mind only after Ward convinced him that he had to play. The incident also galvanized the U-M student body and Ann Arbor community, which held loud and vocal protests against the decision to keep Ward out of the game. In the end, the Ward incident helped Michigan turn an important corner in race relations, and made an impact on Gerald Ford that stayed with him all the way to the White House, helping shape his views on civil rights and racial equality. Willis Ward and Gerald Ford also remained close friends for the rest of their days.