Civil Rights Tour: Recreation - Pigskin Club, Football, Friendship and Civil Rights
1842 15th Street NW
The Pigskin Club was founded by Dr. Charles B. Fisher on July 30, 1938, as a social organization of men who had participated in or contributed to collegiate football. A similar club, the Touchdown Club, was organized three years earlier for whites-only.
Despite its football-and-friendship mission, the Pigskin Club never shied away from social causes, some controversial. In 1957, for example, the Pigskin Club joined labor groups to picket the National Football League Owners, specifically targeting the owner of the Washington Redskins who refused to hire Black players. Earlier, at the outbreak of World War II, it instituted a program to combat the high rate of venereal diseases among Black draftees; this consisted of a 50-member corps of practical nurses trained by physician members to spread information on prevention and treatment. During the war the club also organized a blood bank, as well as an ambulance unit that provided instruction in first aid.
Club founder Charles Fisher (1890-1945), a Washington native, graduated from the University of Pittsburgh and Howard University Medical School, working his way through school as a Pullman porter. He was a standout quarterback on the Howard University Bisons football team in 1917, 1919, and 1920, and this experience inspired him to form an organization in which former players could enjoy camaraderie and help new generations of athletes.
The Pigskin Club’s first organizational meeting took place at Fisher’s medical office in the basement of his house at 1842 15th Street NW, and included George E.C. Hayes, civil rights attorney; E.B. Henderson, advocate for civil rights in athletics/sports; John R. Pinkett, entrepreneur and real estate broker; and Garnet Wilkinson, former superintendent of DC’s African American schools.
In 1945, the club moved out of 1842 15th Street NW at the death of founder Charles Fisher. Meeting in various other locations, the club continued to grow from 52 to 400 members comprising some of Washington’s most prominent African American men. The Pigskin Club is still going strong in 2019.