In 1948, Herman Murray began playing for the freshman football squad at Purdue. According to the student newspaper, Murray stood out as a player in a game between the “frosh” team and the “B eleven,” when he pounced on a fumble and helped turn the tide in favor of his team (Exponent November 13, 1948). Murray joined Purdue’s “B Team” (similar to a junior varsity squad) as a tackle in 1949. Jim Smith, writing for the student newspaper, pointed out the significance of Murray’s place on the team: “Here’s hoping that the plucky Murray can help the varsity and here’s also hat’s off to the athletic department for helping to break down racial prejudice at Purdue” (Exponent, February 23, 1949).
Murray’s athletic skills were not lost on Purdue coaches or students. The following year he became the first African American student to play in an official varsity football game when he played in the November 11, 1950 game against Northwestern at Ross-Ade Stadium (Exponent, November 14, 1950). Students in the crowd enthusiastically chanted his name from the stands. The student newspaper pointed out the hard work and persistence on Murray’s part that led to this important moment in Purdue history, writing that although Murray “played but a few minutes he deserves mention for his long road up. Big Herman Murray finally got his chance to appear in a ball game and he has really worked for that chance. Herm has been plugging away for the past two years serving as bait for the varsity and doing his bit in the “B” games. A good example of what determination can do.” (Exponent, November 14, 1950).
Murray was born in Indianapolis on January 2, 1930. He graduated from the Crispus Attucks High School in Indianapolis (1948), where he served as captain of his football squad and was named most valuable player. Murray entered Purdue University in 1948, graduating in 1952 with a BS degree in Science. For at least some of his years at Purdue he lived in the International House on Salisbury Street.
Following graduation, Murray served for over twenty years with the U.S. Navy as a doctor of dentistry. He also worked for Arco Durethene Plastics and Arco Chemicals. Following retirement, Murray drove a school bus for special needs children in Long Beach, California. He passed away on August 2, 2017 (Source: Obituary, Serenity Funeral Services, 2017).
The archives staff recently learned of Murray’s passing and we wish to respectfully express our condolences to his family.