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This lot is closed for bidding. Bidding ended on 8/27/2023

William Clarence Matthews was an African American trailblazer in a multitude of avenues – sports, law, politics – overcoming odds and circumstances that would have stifled most. But Matthews was not like most. Born into poverty in Selma, Alabama in 1877, the ambitious black teenager, who went by Clarence, was accepted into the Tuskegee Institute at the age of 16 where he was taken under the wing of the school’s esteemed founder/principal, author and Civil Rights leader, Booker T. Washington. Matthews graduated second in his class while also excelling in baseball as well as organizing and coaching Tuskegee’s first football team. Booker T. Washington arranged for Matthews to continue his education at Phillips Academy in Andover, MA, where Clarence was the lone African American student. He was voted captain of the baseball team and played left end on the football squad.

These newly-discovered Phillips Academy baseball (three) and football (one) programs (four total) date to Matthews’ time at the college prep school. As Phillips-Andovers' biggest sports star, Matthews is pictured several times either individually or in a team shot (we count seven) and mentioned more than that in print. The programs shows a wide range of wear and aging with creases from being folded. The cover of one baseball program has been torn in half. However, all things considered, the programs remain very clean with striking print colors and photo quality and no overt fading, likely due to being properly stored in an enclosed space for the past 120 years. A few have scorecards in the pages within for matchups against archrivals Phillips Exeter Academy (PEA) in Exeter, NH.

In 1901 William Clarence Matthews left Phillips-Andover and enrolled at Harvard University where he made the varsity baseball team as a freshman. He led his Ivy League team in batting for three consecutive seasons, and after graduating in 1905, he joined the Burlington team of the Northern League. Matthews was the only African American to play in a White league at this time. His reputation was such that there were rumors of his being sought by the Boston Beaneaters of the National League. Matthews went on to study law at Boston University, joining the Bar Association in 1908. He became the first African American to be appointed an Assistant U.S. Attorney. Matthews became involved in Republican Party politics and helped elect Calvin Coolidge in 1924, and later became head of the Colored Division of the Republican National Committee. He was appointed an Assistant Attorney General by Coolidge but unexpectedly died in 1928 from a perforated ulcer at just 51 years of age.

This incredibly rare lot of programs is a small tribute to a pioneer for minorities in any career endeavor more than a half century before the Civil Rights movement would even begin. His accomplishments helped blaze the trails for non-white athletic heroes such as Jim Thorpe, Jesse Owens and Jackie Robinson years later. When Martin Luther King Jr. and future Congressman John Lewis led the courageous Selma, AL march across the Edmond Pettus Bridge in March of 1965, Clarence Mattews was surely there with them in spirit. An important museum-worthy group of African American history.

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