top of page

Gamma Legends

Fred "Duke" Slater

Frederick Wayman "Duke" Slater (December 9, 1898 – August 14, 1966) was an American football player and one of the great black players of his era. Slater played for the University of Iowa in college and played professionally for ten years. He is enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame.


Fred Slater was born in Illinois in 1898, the son of George Slater, a Methodist minister. Fred Slater had four sisters and a brother, and their mother died when Slater was 11 years old; Fred's father remarried two years later. As a boy, Fred Slater somehow picked up the name of the family dog, Duke, as a personal nickname.


When Slater arrived at Iowa in 1918, eligibility rules had been suspended due to World War I. Therefore, Slater was able to play and letter at Iowa as a freshman. He was selected to the all-Iowa team as a freshman by the Des Moines Register. As a sophomore in 1919, Slater was a unanimous first team All-Big Ten selection and a second team All-American.


After graduating from Iowa, he played ten years of professional football. Slater played two games with the Milwaukee Badgers in 1922 and had a four-year career with the Rock Island Independents. Slater played 43 games for Rock Island from 1922-1926, seeing action for all 60 minutes of every game played by the team in these years. Slater then signed a contract with the Chicago Cardinals of the National Football League, becoming one of five black players in the league.


He had gone back to Iowa in the off-seasons and earned his law degree in 1928. Slater practiced law while playing his final few years of professional football. After termination of his football career, he moved to Chicago and became an assistant district attorney. In 1948, Slater became the second African-American elected as a judge in Chicago when he won election to the city's Municipal Court. In 1960 Slater became the first black member of the Chicago Superior Court, then the highest court in the city.


Slater was one of just five football players inducted into the Iowa Sports Hall of Fame in the Hall's inaugural year in 1951. The University of Iowa named a residence hall after Duke. Slater Hall in Iowa City bears Duke's name; it is the only residence hall at Iowa named after a former athlete.


Philip G. Hubbard

Philip G. Hubbard, (March 4, 1921 - January 10, 2002) was a university professor and administrator who was the first African-American faculty member at the University of Iowa, the first African-American administrator at any of Iowa's state universities and the first African-American vice president at a Big 10 university. In August 2012 Hubbard was inducted into the Iowa African American Hall of Fame.


Hubbard was born in Macon, Missouri. His mother taught school in Missouri's segregated school system. Wanting a better education for her children, she relocated the family to Iowa when Philip was four years old. Iowa schools were integrated at that time. His mother, however, could not get a teaching job and found employment as an elevator operator in Des Moines, Iowa.


Hubbard was appointed as research engineer in July 1947, making him the first black faculty member at the University of Iowa. He subsequently obtained a Master's degree in 1949 and a doctorate in 1954, both from the University of Iowa. From 1954 to his retirement in 1991 he was a professor of mechanical engineering;

In 1966, Prof. Hubbard was appointed Dean of Academic Affairs. He was the first black administrator at any of the Iowa's universities. In 1971 he was named Vice President of Student Services, becoming the first black vice-president at a Big Ten university. He served in this position until December 31,1990, when he retired from the University of Iowa.


As a memorial to him, the field next to the Student Union on the University of Iowa campus was renamed Hubbard Park on December 6, 1991.


In June 1999, he published the book: My Iowa Journey: The Life Story of the University of Iowa's First Tenured African American Professor. Hubbard died on January 10, 2002, at the age of 80.


S. Joe Brown

Born in Keosauqua, Iowa, 10 years after the Civil War, S. Joe Brown was determined to succeed despite the odds he faced as an African-American Iowan. Brown was the youngest of six children. His parents, Lewis and Elizabeth Henderson Brown, were descendants of slaves.


One of his teachers then helped Brown find a hotel job in Iowa City-and a tuition scholarship to the University of Iowa. In 1898 Brown became the first African-American graduate from the college of liberal arts and the first chosen for membership in Phi Beta Kappa, a society honoring high scholastic achievement.


Brown also earned his bachelor of law degree, but set aside his ambition to practice law. He spent one year as principal of a school in a southern Iowa coal mining town. It was the only public school in Iowa where African-Americans could teach. He later moved to Texas and taught at Bishop College.


But Brown still wanted to be a lawyer. He followed his heart back to Iowa City, became custodian at a fraternity house, and earned an advanced law degree. Brown practiced law in Des Moines for 48 years, working to uphold and expand civil rights. He and five other Iowa lawyers formed the Negro Bar Association in 1902 when they were refused membership in the Iowa Bar Association. With his wife, Sue M. Brown he helped organize the first Iowa branch of the National Association of Colored People (NAACP). The NAACP worked to end housing segregation, to secure every citizen's right to vote, to end discrimination in the armed forces and to ensure equal job and educational opportunities. Brown served as the first president of the Iowa NAACP from 1915-1917. By the time he died in 1950, he had indeed succeeded against the odds.



bottom of page