WSU football’s civil rights pioneer, the late Duke Washington, to be honored Saturday in a ‘celebration of life’

In October 1954, WSU fullback Duke Washington made history when he became the first black football player to take the field at Texas Memorial Stadium

When Carl Talmadge “Duke” Washington enrolled at Washington State on a football scholarship in 1952, he was one of five African-American students on the entire campus.

He left in 1954 as the Cougars’ star fullback, team captain and a civil-rights pioneer after earning the distinction of being the first black man to play in a game at Texas Memorial Stadium.

Washington died on Feb. 16 of complications from pneumonia. He was 84.

This Saturday, at 2 p.m. at the Central Area Senior Center in Leschi, Washington’s friends and family will gather for a celebration of his life.

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Washington’s friends and former teammates remember him as a intellectual, insightful man with a great sense of humor who enjoyed art and music and lived a long, full life.

Coming out of college at WSU, Washington was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles but released in training camp. He was drafted into the U.S. Army, where he served two years before returning to the Pacific Northwest where he worked as an academic counselor at the University of Washington before he began his teaching career.

Washington grew up in Stockton, Calif., and Pasco, but spent most of his adult life in Seattle, where he established a career as a high school art teacher and football coach within the Seattle Public School system.

Washington’s family moved to the northwest from Mississippi, and he went to Pasco High, where he became the first black student-athlete to play in the state’s all-star football game. He was the third black athlete to ever play football for WSU, and during his college football career, he amassed more than 1,000 career rushing yards and was named an honorable mention All-American.

His legacy was cemented on Oct. 2, 1954 when the Cougars flew to…

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