Dr. Charles Fremont West, 80, a retired Alexandria physician said to have been the first black to play in a Rose Bowl football game, died of cancer Tuesday at Howard University Hospital.
He was an offensive back for the 1921 Washington and Jefferson College "Presidents" who played to a scoreless tie with the University of California in the 1922 Rose Bowl.
Dr. West also was a formidable track man who threw the javelin, competed in the broad jump, and ran the 100 yard dash and the 440. He won national pentathlon championships at the Penn Relays in 1922 and 1923, and was an alternate member of the 1924 U.S. Olympic track team.
"He was a real legend up here," recalled Washington and Jefferson's current athletic director, Paul L. Reardon, in a telephone interview from Washington, Pa. "He was the only black on the team at that time -- a time when integrated football did not really exist," he said.
Reardon said that the football team once traveled to Washington and Lee University in Virginia, only to be told that the Virginia team would not play if Dr. West, a black, was put in the game. Dr. West's teammates showed their support for their star back by refusing to play under those conditions. The game was canceled.
"Pruner" West, as he was known to friends, teammates and fans, started every game (except the first in his freshman year) for the Presidents. He earned "at least honorable mention All-American honors all four years," said Reardon.
Dr. West's success did not end with his athletic career. Following graduation from Washington and Jefferson College, he enrolled in Howard University's medical school. He coached Howard University's varsity football team during those years, including the 1926 team that went undefeated. fHe graduated from medical school in 1928.
He maintained a general medical practice in Alexandria for more than 50 years before retiring earlier this year.
His awards include a 1978 Howard University Medical Alumni Association citation for his years of practice, and a 1973 award for community service from the Alexandria Urban League.
Dr. West was a native of Washington, Pa. It was said he was born about a block from Washington and Jefferson College, which named him a "distinguished alumnus" in 1978. He was inducted into the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame a year later.
He was a resident of the District.
Survivors include his wife, LaVerne G., of the District; a son, Charles N., of Philadephia; a daughter, Linda W. Nickens of Alexandria, and three grandchildren.
The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the Charles Fremont West Memorial Athletic Fund at Howard University.