GEORGE GREGORY

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GEORGE GREGORY
basketball, 1928-31

inducted February 18, 2006

Standing 6-foot-4, George Gregory towered over most of his fellow basketball players in the late 1920s. Gregory was distinctive for two other reasons — he was the second African-American ever to play basketball at Columbia and the first anywhere to be voted All-American.

In his first season, he helped the Lions to fourth place in the Eastern League, forerunner of the Ivy League. By his junior year, Columbia had moved into first place in the league.

Columbia basketball took off in 1930-31, Gregory’s senior season. Serving as the Lions’ captain, he led them to 21 wins in 23 games and a second league title. He was named first team All-Eastern League, his third straight honor in four years, finishing with 509 career points, extremely high for the era.

Gregory had attracted national attention, and he was voted first team Helms Foundation All-America, being joined on the team by Purdue guard John Wooden, later to become the legendary UCLA basketball coach.

While still an undergraduate, Gregory began a lifelong career battling juvenile delinquency and defending civil rights. He served as the boys’ director for the largest youth project for African-Americans in the nation, the Harlem Center of the Children’s Aid Society.

He went on to hold administrative positions at settlement houses and youth clubs such as the Harlem Youth Center and the First Neighborhood House. He was a founding member of the NYC Youth Board in 1947.

From 1954 to 1968 Gregory was a commissioner on the Municipal Civil Service Commission, while spending 15 years in the office of the Manhattan Borough President. From 1968 to 1979 he was an assistant administrator of what is now the Department of Environmental Protection.

Gregory passed away in Manhattan on May 11, 1994, at the age of 88.

 

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